The world's best measuring instruments are all but worthless if they can't be relied on to provide accurate, reliable results. One key to ensuring that measuring instruments, such as micrometers, calipers and dial gauges, maintain a high level of reliability and accuracy is by taking proper care of them. Below is what you should know about the care and maintenance of these special precision tools.
Lubricate Instruments Appropriately to Prevent Corrosion
Proper lubrication of measuring instruments will prevent damage due to corrosion and oxidation. Precision measuring instruments should be lightly oiled after each use, and any excess oil should be removed from metal surfaces with a clean, dry cloth. A visibly "wet" instrument can attract and hold minute particles that can cause internal wear of precisely fabricated parts, especially those that move against one another.
In addition, do not use penetrating oils or other compounds designed for purposes other than light lubrication. For example, avoid spraying your instruments with WD-40, as it may leave a film that can alter the calibration of the instrument. Even the thinnest layer of a foreign substance can throw off the accuracy of some measuring instruments, such as calipers and micrometers.
Store Instruments in an Appropriate Environment
Whenever you place an instrument in its storage location, be sure the location is well-protected from destructive elements. Do not store precision instruments where they can jostle against one another in a drawer; instead, separate instruments from one another using dividers or place them in padded cases. Avoid stacking instruments on top of each other, unless they are well-protected in cases.
If your work is in an environment where vibration is a problem, keep measuring instruments stored in an area as far away as possible from vibration and movement. Over time, these forces can slowly cause your instruments to fall out of calibration.
In addition, if the storage location is subject to dampness, be sure to use moisture-removal methods that can help lower the humidity. Silica gel packets placed in drawers or keeping a storage room air conditioned can also greatly lessen ambient moisture. If air conditioning isn't possible, then consider investing in a dehumidifier that can dry the air to appropriate levels.
Know How to Properly Handle Instruments During Use
Once you have a precise measuring instrument in your hand, it becomes that much more important to protect that tool from harm or providing false readings. There are a few things you should do that will help prevent damage or miscalibration during use, including avoiding sudden shocks or rough treatment. Do not drop, throw, or bang measuring instruments against hard surfaces.
If you use precision instruments often at a workbench, then consider investing in a rubber mat that can rest on the floor beneath the edge of the bench. This will help protect your instruments from damage should they be dropped. In addition, it should go without saying to never use a measuring instrument to pry or hammer another object.
In addition, keep instruments from experiencing temperature extremes. If you are handling a measuring instrument, it is important to avoid permitting it to either heat up or cool down. Expansion and contraction can alter the calibration of the instrument, and that is why you should endeavor to keep it within a normal room temperature range. Avoid holding instruments in your hands for an extended period of time, for example, and don't rest them on surfaces that are either too hot or cold.
Obtain Professional Recalibration Assistance
Some measuring instruments require occasional recalibration to ensure they continue to function as designed, and that is why it is important to have a professional relationship with a precision instrument manufacturer or supplier. They can keep your instruments in top-notch condition so they'll provide years of reliable service.