Amied at: Professionals and keen amatuer engineers and car buffs.
Pros: Easy to use and effective solution to locked on nuts and bolts.
In the past, when I have had to struggle with loosening bolts and nuts that had corroded fast I had only a very few strategies. The usual ones were first to try a longer spanner, then the application of a hammer on the end of the spanner, then a patient sit down while hopefully the WD40 or similar worked, and finally perhaps, using a gas blowtorch to heat the nut to see if the differential expansion would loosen it.
The last option was rarely used because most often I was working on a car and I was scared of starting a fire or causing further damage. The solution in many cases involved a broken bolt, skinned knuckles and a lot of bad language. The Sykes Pickavant Induction Heater is the professionals’ solution to a locked-on bolt where incidental damage to a client’s vehicle is not an option.
The Induction Heater Plus is apparently the redesign, upgrade and replacement for the Sykes Pickavant Miniductor II that will make it more efficient and easier to use.
If, like me, you had never used an induction heater before, it is time for a bit of science. Although the ultimate effect of using the induction heater is an intense and focused heat, the heat itself is flameless, an important safety factor in motor and engineering trades.
What actually creates the very focused heat is the use of high frequency magnetic fields created by passing a strong electric current through a conductor. Remember making your first electromagnet in Year 8 Science? Remember how it used to get hot if you kept it on too long – well I guess it is the same principle.
What is different about the Induction Heater Plus is that the magnetic fields created around the nut or bolt heats them up in seconds, thus minimizing danger and localizing the heat to where it is most needed.
Hopefully, the first application of heat will be enough to expand the ferrous metal bolt and therefore release it enough for it to be unscrewed using a spanner.
Most readers are probably wondering what an Induction Heater Plus might actually look like. Imagine a black plastic hexagonal tube about 38cm long. About half of the hexagonal tube is slim enough for an average sized hand to hold it securely. There is a black push button switch in the middle of the tube that has ridges around it to prevent accidental switching. There is no need for a “lock on” switch because the induction heater is so efficient that a few seconds of current is often enough to do the job required.
The other half of the tube is a couple of centimetres thicker. At the “thick” end there are two plastic ended wingnuts and a grille-like heat shield. The wing nuts are used to secure the ends of the choice of coils that are fed through two holes in the grid so that the electric current can pass through them.
The Induction Heater Plus that was sent for review had about three metres of cable and a standard 110v site plug, although a 230v version is also available.
It is clear that Sykes Pickavant has decided to make this device as versatile and useful as possible and accordingly has provided three heating coils with the basic machine.
The coils each have two strong and rigid uninsulated ends that are pushed through the heat grill into the holes that will provide the current. In the comprehensive instructions it is made clear that the ends of the coils need to be firmly fixed in place with the wingnuts so that good electrical contact can be made and maintained during use.
In the instructions there are also a few pictures of what happens if the coils are used incorrectly or overheated, so there is no real excuse to get it wrong.
The rest of the coils are covered in a silver coloured, finely braided material that clearly has a great resistance to heat.
The first coil I picked out is coiled into a circular shape rather like those “travelling kettle” heating elements you can buy to make tea in hostel rooms!
When in position on the heater, this sticks out ready to be placed over a nut or bolt head up to about 20mm in size. The instructions recommend only a few seconds of heating before using a spanner to release the nut. Further similar applications of heat can be done if it doesn’t release the first time. I hadn’t noticed it before, but a nice bright LED worklight on the end of the tool shines straight onto the working area – no doubt very handy wherever you are working.
Next up was a U-shaped loop that can be custom formed to fit nuts larger than 20mm. Sykes Pickavant recommend that the coil should be formed around the socket size needed for the nut concerned and also reminds us that more coils means more heat – just like putting more windings on your school electromagnet – you get a more powerful magnet, but a lot more heat too!
Lastly in this kit, there is a “free form” coil that can be shaped by the user to a sort of “P” and this can be used to “pop” soft dents in metal. It needs careful handling because the heat can very quickly burn paintwork. I am very glad I tried this function out on a scrap piece of mild steel into which I had hammered a couple of dents. Let’s say I need a bit more experience in using this method before I try it on a real car!
Readers might also like to know that there is an optional heated “mat” that can be used to remove decals, bonded parts and graphics etc. Similar safety and effectiveness rules apply.
Clearly aimed at professionals and enthusiasts, the Sykes Pickavant Induction Heater Plus comes with a Year’s Warranty. It is packed into a custom plastic case with enough room for cable and coils to be packed safely away. It worked very well for me on a set of rusted wheelbarrow nuts and no doubt will be even more useful for professionals where safety and efficiency are crucial.
For information about Sykes Pickavant, please visit www.sykes-pickavant.com