Group

Router Maintenance and Troubleshooting

ATTENTION: UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD THE ROUTER BODY BE REMOVED OR ELECTRICAL WORK CARRIED OUT OTHER THAN BY A QUALIFIED PERSON. THE CONTENT THIS SECTION IS FOR INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY

A router is a precision machine that is usually made to work extremely hard in adverse conditions, so it makes sense to try and prolong its life with a routine of regular preventative maintenance. Little and often is the key to keeping the router in good shape.

The main enemy is dust and debris and this then often gets mixed with resin deposits from the timber to form a hard deposit that sticks to columns, casings, screw threads and moving parts.

If you ignore it, the router becomes stiff and jerky to operate, the switch gradually seizes up, the cutters start jamming in the collet and all enjoyment in its use is lost.  Basic maintenance is not difficult and there is no need to dismantle the machine.

All you have to do is give it all a thorough cleaning on a regular basis. However, repairs are best left to a qualified service engineer particularly if the router is still under guarantee.

Cleaning

When cleaning the router don’t be tempted to blast it with a high pressure air line, as this just tends to force more debris deeper into the machine and could damage the windings and other electrical components as well as embedding dust into the grease packed bearings. Even with the use of extraction, dust is pulled into the router by the cooling fan so try and suck it back out through the ventilation slots with a vacuum cleaner. 

Do the same on the outside components of the router having first loosened it all with a small stiff brush. If the resin deposits are severe use white spirit or a proprietary resin remover to break them down, but keep these solvents well away from the internal motor parts and the plastic casings. Here is a checklist for more specific cleaning and maintenance.


Plunge columns

It is essential that the router plunges freely and without jerking, so make sure there are no sticky deposits on the plunge columns, scraping them off with a plastic scraper or a piece of stiff card. Never use wire wool or abrasive paper on these columns as this will leave scratches that actually aggravate the problem. Once clean, apply a coat of thin oil or preferably a dry lubricating spray (PTFE) to keep them sliding smoothly. Regularly check for side play in the plunge columns, any excessive play can only be cured by replacing the plunge bushes. Also make sure that the plunge lock operates smoothly and is not marking or burring the face of the columns.

Bearings

The top and bottom bearings are packed with grease and sealed for life, so do not try and lubricate them in any way or you will do more harm than good. Potential bearing problems are usually first detected with your ears. Any change in speed and motor noise when it is free running, particularly intermittent noise, should immediately arouse suspicion. Then check for unusual vibration whilst cutting. Modern bearings are actually very reliable, but they have to work particularly hard on a router, so if you have any doubts have them changed immediately by a qualified service engineer, or you will end up with expensive damage to both the spindle and armature.

Tip

Physically check the spindle for play by trying to waggle it with a long cutter in place and feel for any rough spots as you turn it by hand. Make sure the router is unplugged!


Motor brushes

Excessive sparking from the area around the brushes may indicate damage or wear, so they must be replaced before the commutator on the motor spindle is damaged. Changing or inspecting the brushes is a simple process and only requires you to remove the brush caps or the top motor casing. Check the manufacturer’s manual. Make sure that when you replace the brushes the springs are not damaged or trapped so that the brush can slide freely in its housing. There may be some initial sparking from new brushes as they ‘bed in’ and loose carbon dust breaks away, but this will soon disappear as the brush assumes the shape of the commutator.

Switch

The switch is one area particularly susceptible to dust build-up and it should be given a thorough cleaning with a vacuum cleaner in the same way as the motor housing. Slide switches can suffer from intermittent operation if dust accumulates on the grease of the contacts. These are usually easy enough to dismantle and clean but get it properly serviced if you don’t feel confident doing it yourself.

 

 

 

Clamp screws

All the clamping screws for the fence rods and depth stop should be fitted with anti-vibration springs to ensure that they don’t work loose whilst the router is running, particularly if you are not using the fence. The danger is that they gradually unscrew and then drop into the revolving cutter, so make sure the springs are in place and replace any that are missing.

 

 

 

 


Baseplate facing

The plastic facing on the router base is designed to ensure that it doesn’t mark the surface of the timber as you run the router over it. However it can quickly wear or become contaminated with resin. Any severe scratches can be flatted off with very fine abrasive paper wrapped over a flat block and resin deposits removed with a suitable solvent. Then spray the base with PTFE spray to help it slide freely over the workpiece.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Collets

We have already seen just how important the collet is for smooth and accurate running of the router and poor collet maintenance has been shown to be one of the most common causes of cutter damage and breakage. Regular inspection and cleaning of the slits of the collet is essential and you can now buy inexpensive kits that contain the necessary resin remover and corrosion inhibitor, as well as purpose made brass brushes for each collet size. This will remove any resin deposits or sawdust that could prevent the collet closing down evenly and gripping properly. Warning signs are brown markings on the cutter shanks, shank slippage, bit or collet seizures and in extreme cases, shank breakage. Check that there are no burrs or scratches on the tapered faces and that the internal spindle taper and locknut thread are clean and undamaged, as these are all factors that can affect the security of the cutter in the collet. If either the collet or locknut is found to be faulty they must be changed as soon as possible. Do not use cutters with damaged shanks, particularly in new collets as this just transfers the problem. 

Power cable

Constant movement of power tools can lead to fatigue and damage to the mains lead, particularly in the area where it enters the motor or plug. Like switch problems, this is often characterised by intermittent starting and running. Examine the cable and strain relief area carefully and replace if necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tip

Remember that the continual heating up and cooling down from using blunt cutters can eventually affect the temper of the spring steel in the collet and reduce its elasticity. If you find that your collet is starting to need excessive tightening before it will grip, it is time to replace it.

ATTENTION: UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD THE ROUTER BODY BE REMOVED OR ELECTRICAL WORK CARRIED OUT OTHER THAN BY A QUALIFIED PERSON. THE CONTENT THIS SECTION IS FOR INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY


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