voltage meter propped up

Five Must-Have Tools Unique to Working on Electric Vehicles

There’s no doubt that electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming an important part of the automotive industry’s future, with OEMs committing significant resources to this growing sector.

According to Car and Driver, after a decade of slow but steady sales growth, EV registrations in the U.S. increased 60% in the first quarter of 2022, even as overall new car registrations dropped 18%.

This brought the overall market share of EVs — which also include battery electric vehicles (BEV), hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) — to a historic 4.6% in the U.S. Bloomberg projects that a quarter of new car sales could be electric by the end of 2025.

While EVs are projected to grow in sales volume — and servicing them is sure to add to your shop’s bottom line — it’s important to have the right tools for the job. The following items will ensure your technicians remain safe while providing expert service for your customers’ EVs.

Insulated Tools

When servicing an EV, using safe tools is crucial for working around live electrical currents. Look for insulated versions of essential tools — pliers, ratchets, screwdrivers, sockets and spanners — which must be marked with an official 1,000-volt rating symbol and the year they were insulated. These specialized tools are either made from a non-conductive material, such as plastic, or may be coated to insulate from electricity.

Personal Protective Equipment

High-voltage vehicles require added safety, primarily rubber insulating gloves (class 0 high voltage gloves rated to 1,000 volts). Other EV PPE can include arc flash face shields, coveralls and an apron made from insulating material, or a protective body suit to be worn when dealing with leaking electrolyte chemicals.

HV Digital Volt Ohm Meter

A high voltage digital volt ohm meter (DVOM) is designed for EV applications and typically can handle up to 1,000 volts. A standard DVOM cannot be used on an EV system, as it will likely be destroyed and carries the risk of deadly electrocution. Working with EV systems requires a CAT III or CAT IV meter rated for at least 600V input. Keep in mind that any accessory kits, such as back probes or alligator clips, should also be rated appropriately for the voltage they will be used to measure.

Milliohm Meter

In EV systems, even the smallest resistance in the wiring or components will cause issues due to the high amount of volts and amps. Being able to accurately identify and read these small amounts of resistance is imperative and is something a standard DVOM cannot do. A milliohm meter measures very small amounts of electrical resistance — a milliohm is 1/1,000th of an ohm — using two probes that each have two terminals. One of the terminals on each probe provides an electrical charge of typically one amp. The other terminal on each probe reads voltage. This allows the tool to quickly and accurately determine the resistance in ohms.

OE Scan Tool

A generic OBD-II scan tool can access a certain amount of scan data from a car’s engine control module, but might have trouble accessing modules specific to EVs. Aftermarket scan tools might not always accurately show data parameters when connected to EVs, unless they are enhanced for particular vehicles of that kind. OEM scan tools typically have the most updated and optimized coverage and data, as they often are used by dealerships to diagnose issues.

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