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Tools to Love: Porta-Power

Sometimes brute force is best.

Verne SimonsAuthor, Photography

Tools and their use are two of the things that set humans apart from other animals. Sure, some other animals use tools to do what they do, but our large brains and opposable thumbs give us a huge advantage over other animals, enabling us to make tools from pointy sticks to high-end computers and everything in between. To many an off-road enthusiast (like those of us at FourWheeler.com), tools are a great way to make a job less expensive, easy to duplicate, and generally easier. We love tools. No, not like that you know what we mean. We collect them and keep the ones that we can't live without. Course, not all tools are useful for everyday use, and others are simply cost prohibitive in that buying and using said tool (or misusing said tool) will never pay for the tool itself.

We thought it would be good to start an online series on the tools we have that we love, those we can't live without, or those that we didn't realize were nearly as useful as they are. Sometimes that will include a brand recommendation, and other times it will be aimed at the general tool that fits the bill and could be made and sold by several different companies. At the end of the day, these are tools we'd recommend for what we do. They may or may not be useful to you, but if you do what we do, these are tools you should probably get. Best thing is, if you never end up using these tools, they should stay nice and you can sell or trade them for other tools, parts, or whatever.

Porta Power

A porta power is a compact modular hydraulic tool that can be used to apply brute force to very specific areas of a 4x4, trailer, or other vehicle. It's best used to straighten out a dent or push a rocker guard back into place. Something that requires lots of force in a relatively controlled manner. It has several parts, not all of which we are certain we know how to use, but the main parts are straightforward. There is a pump that has a bleeder valve kind of like a hydraulic jack. It has a hose that you attach to other components in the kit and other components available separately. You attach the line to the other part you want to use, close the bleeder valve, and pump the handle to make the other part move. They move a short distance with great force.

The Parts That We Use the Most

  • Small hydraulic ram that has several different feet and lengths of tub to extend its reach. It's mostly good for placing between two items of a given distance to force them apart, moving (ideally) just one of them. The different lengths of tube can be used to move the parts farther apart or to span wider gaps. The different feet in the kit help you push against a flat surface or grab a tab or bracket
  • Alligator jaw thingy. We don't know what to call it, but you apply hydraulic force with the pump, and the jaws open with authority. It's great for pushing two things that are close together farther apart.
  • Pulling attachment. This thing didn't come with the kit but was an add-on that we use. It does the opposite of the small hydraulic ram and pulls the two hook ends together. We've used it a couple times to pull metal back into place when we couldn't work out a good way to push it back into place.

Brand and Durability

We have no brand loyalty to the tool we own and assume that many porta powers are built at the same factory overseas and then rebranded. We're guessing that the price of this tool determines its durability, but having said that, ours wasn't exactly expensive, and other than a few small drips of hydraulic fluid we have no complaints. Ours came from Harbor Freight Tools and has lasted for several years. We did drill some drain holes in the case because we left it outside and it promptly (and mysteriously) filled up with rainwater between the blown mold halves of the top and bottom. The rainwater got in passively but would not come out (much like a cheap watch). The lesson is don't leave your tools in the rain, but if you do, drill some drains in the case.