One user manual for a laser level contains the phrase, “this product is not a toy.” It’s a really good point to make. A laser level is a high-end tool with great capabilities. As such, it should be treated with care. Handling a laser level wisely will extend its life and put off the necessity of repairs.
There’s a lot to not only handling the unit carefully but also to trouble-shooting and overcoming problems rather than having to pay for costly repairs or replace your laser level. We’ll walk you through this subtle art.
Using the Level Wisely
The first line of defense in keeping your laser level is taking various precautions when using the level, thus preventing damage.
Also, it’s important to be sure that whomever operates the instrument is trained and experienced, and generally qualified to handle such a complex machine. A savvy operator will understand ways of arranging the machine that will prevent rough operating.
Beyond the operator and into the actual operation of the machine, one great thing you can always do is mount the level on a tripod or other firm surface. This is important because it reduces vibrations. Vibrations cause the unit to heat up, which is to be avoided.
The base of whatever it is you mount the tripod on must be wide enough, because otherwise tripods (particularly on windy days) can wobble and possibly fall over.
Further, keeping it lubricated with corrosion ointment is key.
Another is the calibration of the laser level. User manuals generally give the right calibration, and much of the time, it’s not hard to keep the level at the right calibration. It’s just important to make adjustments as needed, particularly whenever the unit has been bumped, or (and we hope this never happens) dropped. If you need to, you can contact a local seller or a repair shop who will be able to calibrate the machine for you. This is similar to the inflation of your tires, the tightness of various belts, and other elements of you car—keeping them to proper specifications will save you money and headaches in the future by putting years on the life of your unit, and by making its older years as successful as possible.
Cleaning the Level
Now, construction tools take on a certain character when caked with dirt, but that’s not much of an option for a laser level. First off is the lens itself, with obvious importance. It’s crucial to keep this little gem constantly wiped with a soft cloth. You can go dry, or, if a bit more cleaning is needed, use a drop or two of glass cleaner.
As for the unit itself, light soap and water will work, and needs to be done only when it is spotted with grime of any sort. It’s just important to not use any harsh solvents or chemicals, and to not fully immerse the unit.
This is an easy thing to do, just a hard one to remember and to keep up on. Set yourself a reminder every few weeks or after each use, and just be sure to get it done. These great tools are too pricey to neglect.
Elements and Temperature
While laser levels are absolutely fit for outdoor and indoor use, you have to be careful about extremes in weather and other dangerous elements. These can really shorten the life of the laser.
The first dangerous element is water. Now, you can buy water-resistant laser levels, but don’t get into a false sense of security and go crazy here. You still aren’t going to use the level in a heavy downpour, and if it does get a bit wet, be sure to dry it afterward.
Next comes dirt, as mentioned above. Yes, a laser level can be easily wiped of a bit of dirt, dust, grease, etc., but that doesn’t mean you’re going to have it out in the gravel pit with big sheets of blowing dirt. When you are in a particularly dusty or dirty area, you may need to clean the unit during use and certainly right after, following the guidelines above.
Extreme hot or cold can also be dangerous, so be sure not to use the unit for long in either of these conditions. But the bigger issue is storage. You’ll want to avoid a shed or garage in zero-degree weather all February—find someplace in the house.
Sometimes you accidentally store a tool near something that emits heat, or where heat periodically seeps through. Therefore, with sensitive equipment like a laser level, just be sure to be conscientious about the environment. High heat can, in a worst-case scenario, warp the plastic of a level. It can certainly shorten the battery life as well.
Transporting the Level
Let’s face it, just like your tools will take on a rugged quality before long, it’s also part of the whole experience to have a dangerous bundle of tools rattling around in the back of your truck, this is another thing that doesn’t apply to laser levels.
Let the level ride shotgun with you in the ruck, safe in a box with packing material. If you have someone with you with a car or something that rides without vibrations, that’s ideal. You don’t want it to get dinged by any of your other tools—this is precious cargo.
The battery of your laser level is its own issue, with its own specifications for care. The main theme we’ve been hitting all along is that the idea behind all the guidelines is to ensure your level will last as long as possible by taking simple preventive measures.
One thing to consider is how to charge the battery. A lot of the best and newest levels use lithium ion (li-ion) batteries. These are the best rechargeable batteries to use (usually your item will come with a battery pack and then a re-charge pack) because they are designed for small items like laptop computers and pack a wallop. With these, there’s no reason not to keep them charged. Years ago, laser levels used nickel cadmium (ni-cad) batteries. These needed to run down the charge all the way and then be charged back up. It’s important to realize that newer batteries don’t work this way, so risking having the battery life run out in the middle of a project just isn’t necessary.
Now, if your battery is nickel metal hydride (ni-mh), you do need to discharge it all the way. Otherwise it will start working poorly, and just get worse and worse. Some people believe that this is a sort of “memory” the batteries develop, thinking that they have only the life in them that you allowed before prematurely charging them. Whatever the cause, loss of performance is well-documented.
Whatever type of battery you go with, be sure to take them out of the unit when not charging or using. Otherwise, you run the risk of the battery leaking, which can damage the unit.
While we’re talking about charging, another precaution to take is to be sure to use the correct charger. Chargers may have circuitry built into them, which means that use with the wrong unit could cause some serious damage. The description of the laser level and any accompanying materials will tell you which type of charger to use. Otherwise, you should be able to go to the manufacturer’s website and search their knowledge database, making a customer service inquiry as necessary.
Finally, if moisture gets into the batteries, be sure to take them out of their compartment to thoroughly dry before returning.
Without question, a laser level gives you great advantages in your construction. But with benefits come costs. You’re not going to get a great piece of equipment that creates near-miracles without the accompanying need for maintenance.
A laser level can’t be trusted to any user. It can’t be used haphazardly. It can’t be stored haphazardly. And the battery has to be charged, removed, stored, and used with just a bit of thought. It’s all about saving a bit of space in your brain to recall just a few periodical maintenance tasks.