Can You Bring Tools On A Plane? (The TSA Rules For Power Tools & Hand Tools)

Last Updated on March 21, 2021

So you are planning on flying with tools and unsure what you can pack and where. This is the post for you!

Hand tools can be packed in carry-on and checked luggage, but there are size limits for hand luggage and restrictions on anything with blades.

And if you want to travel with power tools you’ll probably end up paying baggage fees.

Let’s take a look at the rules about bringing tools on planes.

TSA Tools Regulations

The Transportation Security Administration is responsible for aviation safety. If you want to bring your tool on a plane you’ll need to get it past their security checkpoint at the airport.

TSA prohibited tools are those items that the TSA views as a potential threat to passenger safety.

TSA approved tools are those items that the TSA doesn’t see as a threat.

Here’s what they say on their website.

Bringing Tools In Checked Luggage

You can pack almost all tools in checked bags. If you are bringing power tools any spare or loose lithium-ion batteries cannot be packed in checked baggage and much be packed in carry-on bags.

If a power tool has an installed lithium-ion battery you can pack that in checked luggage. It”s only uninstalled batteries that are prohibited.

If your tools have any sharp edges then make sure they are securely wrapped to avoid injury to baggage handlers.

Gas powered tools can be packed in checked bags too. However, if they contain any residue or vapors of gas/oil, they would be considered a hazardous material & prohibited from being transported on the airplane. Even brand new tools can have residues because they are tested before sale. Check with your airline about bringing any gas powered tool in hold luggage.

Bringing Tools In Carry-on Luggage

You cannot bring power tools in carry-on luggage. Fans of the horror movie genre will understand why. Power tools can be used as weapons and that’s why they are not allowed in carry-on bags.

You also can’t bring any sharp objects or blades into the airplane cabin.

Regular hand tools must be shorter than 7 inches. This is because longer heavier tools could be used to knock someone over the head. Hammers or knives of any size are not allowed in hand luggage.

The final decision of whether an item is allowed or not is always taken by the security screening officer at the checkpoint. Regardless of what the rules say.

Still Unsure? Ask The TSA

You can use the @AskTSA service on Twitter to ask questions about specific hand tools or power tools.

Send them a photo and they’ll get back to you with packing instructions.

Sean wanted to bring a mallet and the TSA told him that hammers can only be packed in checked bags.

This passenger wanted to bring a wrench set in carry-on luggage. The TSA replied that any wrench that is longer than 7 inches can only be packed in checked baggage.

This traveler wanted to bring a multi tip screwdriver in checked luggage. The body was under 7 inches but when fully assembled it would be over 7 inches meaning that strictly speaking it shouldn’t be packed in hand luggage.

You can only bring screwdrivers that are less than 7 inches in length when assembled.

This guy thought he’d be able to bring a 6.8 inch rechargable electric screwdriver in hand luggage. The TSA replied that because it’s a power tool it’s banned from the cabin. All power tools are prohibited regardless of size.

Even though they are a little bit dangerous the TSA allows small screwdrivers that are less than 7 inches long. However the final decision is always taken by the security officer that inspects your belongings.

When flying with cordless drills they must be packed in checked bags. You can check it with the battery installed, but any loose or spare batteries must be packed in carry on baggage.

Kevin wanted to bring fishing pliers that had a small knife blade in each handle.

Pliers that are less than 7 inches are permitted on planes and allowed in carry on baggage. But any tool with a knife is not permitted in hand luggage so Kevin would need to pack his fishing tool in checked luggage.

There’s always a quirk to the rules somewhere. A tape measure is a tool and it’s longer than 7 inches when fully extended. Thankfully the TSA are sensible enough to let you pack a tape measure in your carry on bag.

Dixie wanted to bring a large metal clamp on to the plane. The TSA said that the 7 inches rule applied. Large heavy clamps must be packed in your checked bags because you could use them as a bludgeon.

Sometimes you can’t get a straight answer. Max asked about packing pruning shears, the TSA said that while they were not banned they recommended packing them in checked luggage because the final decision rests with the TSA officer on the ground.

Katy wanted to pack a nail gun in carry-on luggage. Nail guns must be packed in checked bags.

Also, as Alan discovered, you can’t bring a shovel in carry-on baggage. If you want to find out why watch the film Psycho 2 🙂

Charles thought he might bring a friggin’ chainsaw on a flight!

These types of power tools can only be packed in checked bags. They must be free of fuel or traces of fuel.

Shirley wanted to bring sewing tools in her hand luggage. Needles are good to go in carry-on bags. With scissors it’s all about the length of the blade. The blade can’t be longer than 4 inches from the pivot point.

You can bring an empty toolbox in hand luggage and hold luggage. The TSA doesn’t see the tool box as the danger. Just sometimes specific tools inside. Make sure any large toolbox complies with your airine size limits.

The Verdict

When packing tools for travel it all comes down to whether the tool is a potential weapon or not.

Anything with a blade or anything heavy that you can swing won’t be allowed to be brought on to the plane.

Power tools like a drill can’t be packed in hand luggage too. This way passengers can’t use an angle grinder to make extra legroom for themselves.

Most tools can be packed in checked bags but remember not to pack any spare batteries for power tools in checked bags because of the fire hazard.

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