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How Car Stuff Works

How the Jaws of Life Work

About the ‘Jaws of Life’:
In this section before understanding how Jaws of Life work, lets first look at what the terms 'Jaws of Life' means. Jaws of Life are a set of tools used by Emergency workers at auto accident sites to retrieve accident victims trapped inside their automobiles. The Jaws of Life tools were originally manufactured 30 years ago by Hurst Performance Inc. and were initially used on the racetracks to extricate race drivers trapped inside their cars after accidents. The Hurst Jaws of Life brand is now owned by Hale Products (a unit of IDEX Corporation).

Putting the Jaws of Life to work:
These Jaws of Life tools are a set of instruments or tools including spreaders, cutters, rams, and power units. Emergency crew cut, pull and spread out sections of automobiles for rescuing accident victims using the Jaws of Life tools. The Jaws of Life are light, powerful, easy to carry, hydraulics-based tools and are designed to quickly rescue trapped passengers. These devices reduce the time to extricate the trapped passengers inside the automobile compared to traditional cutters and spreaders. By using the Jaws of Life, time is saved during the crucial period immediately following an accident. This time saved may several times significantly increase the survival chances of the accident victims. The Jaws of Life are also put to work for other emergencies like earth quakes, building collapses among others where people are trapped under steel and concrete. The Jaws of Life tools have worked so well over the years that they are not only used by firefighters but also by the military and other emergency responders.

Using the cutter tool:
As the name suggests the cutters are used to cut through the metal in cars to reach inside. The cutter is like a scissor with an edge that opens and closes to cut through metal. The cutters are powerful and can cut through the body, roof or doors of a car in seconds. This piston rod powered hydraulics tool with its unique shape speedily cuts through the metal and saves valuable time compared to the traditionally devices that are often cumbersome and difficult to operate at emergency areas. When the trapped passengers in an auto accident cannot be reached due to the position of the car or because the doors are jammed, the Jaws of Life cutters are put to work by firefighters at crash sites to cut open sections of vehicle and retrieve those trapped inside.

Using the spreader tool:
The spreaders are used to spread out the structures of an accident vehicle. The spreaders are also hydraulically powered and provide abundant power to quickly and easily rip off or pullout sections of the car. The cutters and spreaders are provided with power units that supply a powerful hydraulic pressure that is at the heart of Jaws of Life system. Currently, combination tools are also available that combine the functions of cutters and spreaders.

The spreader tool is pincer type equipment and is available in several sizes. The edges of the spreaders arms are made of special steel to resist heat and also to provide maximum strength for tearing apart a vehicle. The body of the spreader is connected to a portable engine that pumps oil through hoses into the body of the spreader. A valve switch is used for making the oil flow and is used to close or open the spreader arms. These tools are powerful and typically provide upwards of 12,000 pounds of spreading or pulling force and can create opening distance over 30 inches. The exact power and opening distance depend on the model of the tool being used.

To use the spreader, it is inserted with closed spreader arms into an opening in the automobile and then the spreaders are made to expand out. Alternatively, the spreader can also be used to crush any materials between its arms.

Using the rams:
The rams are hydraulic equipment used to push apart sections of the car or other crushed structures. In a ram, the piston rods visible on the outside are pushed in or out by piston heads inside the body cylinder. There is fluid on either side of the piston head that is fed by different hoses. If there is more pressure on one side off the piston head it moves the piston rods in one direction and vice versa. The rams are put to work at emergency situations to push apart sections of the accident vehicle for example to push outwards a dashboard that has collapsed inwards after an accident.

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