Shopping for Used HDD Tooling? Here Are Some Tips to Keep in Mind

New HDD tooling can get expensive. For this reason, many will search to find used tooling that will work for their drill rig and the bore they need to complete.


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When looking for used tooling there are several factors to consider. For drill head setups, reamers and hole openers a contractor needs to select the correct diameter, shaft, thread size and style for the specific ground conditions of their job.

22-in. paddle reamer

A 22-in. paddle reamer.

Finding the right used piece that ticks all these boxes can be challenging. Many contractors settle for used tooling that isn’t the right size or is overly worn and should be discarded. Here are a few tips that can help find the right used downhole tooling.

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Reamers and Drill Heads

Oftentimes, a used reamer or drill head will have an adapter at the front of the reamer or at the tail of the housing. This allows you to change the threads over to use that tool on a variety of drill setups. Many times, used tooling has an adapter that has been welded in place and this can be costly and time-consuming to remove and re-weld if needed. If the threads are in poor condition, proceed with caution. While trying to save money on buying used tooling, overly-worn threads can easily lead to breaking off underground and it can be costly in the long run.

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Vermeer D20x22 drill head

A Vermeer D20x22 drill head.

Some pullback reamers have built-in swivels. It’s important to make sure the swivel is tight because a loose swivel will eventually come apart and lead to a frustrating day. These built-in swivels can be welded in place if done correctly. Some of the carbide teeth on a used reamer may be broken off or worn away but this is not necessarily a deal-breaker.

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The teeth can be easily replaced if only a few are needing to be changed out.

When examining a used drill head to purchase, you might see that the threads between the housing and starter rod are worn. On the starter rod, look for wear around the collar area, as well. If there is an excessive amount of wear in this particular area, purchasing this piece of used equipment should be avoided.

Rock Tooling

Rock tooling can be especially challenging to buy on the used market. The roller cones on the reamer or bit should feel very tight when turning; they should not roll freely. Look for side to side movement, as this will indicate the amount of wear in the bearings. If there is a lot of side to side play, the bearings quite likely are broken. It can be very costly and time-consuming to replace these cones. Keep in mind that when one cone is needing to be replaced, it is usually a sign that the other cones will also need to be replaced soon. As with other used tooling pieces, check the threads to make sure there is not an excessive amount of wear. On roller cones, examine the buttons to ensure there is plenty of carbide left. Welds on the sides of a roller cone are a good indicator that the reamer may be getting close to the end of its usable life. Additionally, heat from these welds can damage the seals and bearings.

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8-in. fluted-style reamer

The top of an 8-in. fluted-style reamer.

Drill Pipe

When buying used drill pipe there are some specific points to keep in mind. It’s valuable to spend the time to learn how the thread pattern and profile looked when new. This will help you to visually gauge the amount of thread wear on the used stem.

The body of the rod may appear to be in great shape, even showing the original black paint in certain spots. This does not necessarily mean the threads are in good condition. To check the body of the rod you can use a caliper and compare your measurements with the manufacturer’s specifications, to see how much of the metal has worn away. A slightly bent pipe can be easily fixed by a professional. A good test is if the pipe can roll freely on the ground without being stopped by the bend. In that instance the pipe is generally salvageable.

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One of the more important things is to determine the original manufacturer of that pipe. Not all drill stem is manufactured at the same level of quality. Low-quality pipe can lead to headaches even when purchased new. Be discerning and ask questions. Does the person you’re buying the rod from know the original manufacturer of the rod and can they tell you where they bought it from? Is the person selling the pipe because of a bad experience? Or maybe they have sold their drill rig after a job and have excess pipe they are now getting rid of? Being discerning will help you avoid inheriting someone else’s headache.

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With all that in mind, there is good used downhole tooling out there to be had. Finding it can equate to a substantial amount of money saved, and what driller can’t use some extra cash in their pocket? Keep these tips in mind and your chances of success will increase. Happy hunting!

Bill Hendricks is HDD Specialist at MTI Equipment.

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