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Equipment & Tools
December 2012 Tech Tip

Equipment Maintenance

Best practices to keeping equipment in good working condition.

December 05, 2012
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What does it take to properly maintain all of your cleaning and restoration equipment? Mainly time.

A few minutes a day is all it takes to keep your equipment in good working order. The problem is that many companies don’t spend those few minutes… and then they pay later for neglect.

Don’t let that happen to you and your valuable choices of equipment, from portable to truckmounted extractors to air movers and dehumidifiers and more.

The following are some practical guidelines to keeping everything in perfect working order.

The basics: Engine oil and filters

The most effective way to extend the life of your equipment is to change the engine oil (when applicable) and any filters — on a regular basis. “This is the foundation of any preventative maintenance program,” according to Greg Barnett, the Bridgepoint Systems service manager and a member of the company research and development team.

How often the engine oil and appropriate filters should be changed depends on many factors, Barnett said. Looking carefully at manufacturer recommendations is the starting point. This being said, Barnett recommends the following guidelines:

  • Do not mix petroleum based and synthetic based oils.
  • Do not mix different brands or different grades of oils.
  • Do not use oil additives.

Kyle Anderson, the service manager for Dri-Eaz Products, knows that cleaners and restorers have heard all this before: Clean your filters! “The single most common reason dehumidifiers end up in a service department is poor filter maintenance,” Anderson said. “Clogged filters reduce dehumidifier efficiency and, if neglected long enough, can cause your unit to fail.”

To maximize efficiently of your high air flow (HAF) filters and dehumidifiers, Anderson recommends:

  1. Vacuum HAF filters regularly and do not wash as that can damage the electrostatic charge.
  2. Vacuum and reuse up to three times before replacing.
  3. Replace HAF filters after each use when used in contaminated environments.

And while you are at it, Anderson said, clean the dehumidifier coils, using a product designed specifically for coil cleaning.

Descale for better performance

The build-up of scale in any carpet cleaning machine has a negative impact on performance, according to Scott Warrington, a technical support specialist with Bridgepoint Systems and Interlink Supply.

“Scale is a combination of minerals from hard water and products used in your system. High heat and other conditions can cause some of the ingredients of your cleaning agent to come out of solution.”

Some rinse agents and other chemicals contain ingredients to help control corrosion and scale build-up, Warrington added. Acid side rinse products running through hoses helps to remove scale and prevents accumulation. Build-up can also be controlled by periodic descaling done using a mild non-acid product.

Without regular maintenance, build-up scale can get too heavy for mild solutions. Removal of heavy scale requires stronger acid solutions, Warrington said. “These increase the potential of corrosion damage to water system components. Acid solutions may be considered toxic or hazardous and require special handling and disposal procedures.”

The required frequency of periodic descaling is determined by water hardness, hours of truckmount use, chemicals used and more, Warrington said. “There are many different machines. Consult the operator’s manual for your machine or contact your distributor for information on descaling solutions and the descaling procedures for your particular machine.”

Today’s truckmounts produce plenty of heat… most of the time. But sometimes there are issues and Dennis Russell, a HydraMaster technical support specialist, recommends paying close attention to any indication of loss of heat.

“Loss of heat? It could be a clogged up heat exchanger,” Russell said. “Rather than replacing the unit, you can often restore performance with a simple trick. Run a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water through the heat exchanger a few times. This will break down the scaling and ‘spotting’ that hard water and chemicals leave behind. Over time, they build up and can prevent water flow through the heater, meaning that the water never gets heated. It’s good to do this every month on a maintenance basis, so your heat will always be best as it can be.”

The winter season

Jerry McKillip, the national service and training manager for Prochem and Century 400, said the coolant system must be inspected and all appropriate equipment has the proper mix or dilution.

“The coolant strength can be easily checked using an engine coolant tester,” McKillip said. “Also, have the battery load tested, as starting the engine in cold weather will put additional strain on the battery. If the battery shows any sign of weakness, replace it.”

Winter can also bring surprises, McKillip added. If the truck or van should break down in freezing weather, the truckmount or other pieces of equipment utilizing water could freeze in a short period of time, and cause costly damage. “Be prepared. Have two gallons of automotive antifreeze and a loop hose. The machine can be quickly winterized and you can avoid freeze damage.”

Jon Simmons, the customer relations manager with Sapphire Scientific, knows how important it is to anticipate cold temperatures and to be ready for them. He cites the following best practices for winter preparedness:

Coolant: The right coolant mixture will help protect from freezing, provide proper internal lubrication and cooling.

Fan belt: Check and tension the fan belt appropriately.

Radiator fins: Keep them clean. Reduced airflow equals reduced cooling efficiency.

Top off the oil: These small engines also have small oil capacity, so oil filled to the “full” mark is critical.

If you need winter oil: Make sure you use the proper weight oil for the temperatures you are operating in.

Ensure adequate air flow: Make sure your accessories and equipment don’t block airflow around your truckmount.

Russell reminds cleaners and restorers that it is important to keep the doors open in winter weather, despite inclinations to contain heat in working vehicles.

“Operators who have slide-in machines must still have the doors open when operating — running them with the doors closed will cause the engine to overheat and damage the engine,” among other safety concerns, he said. Also, “don’t procrastinate when cleaning during freezing weather, because if there is no water flow through the solution hoses, they can freeze in a short period of time.”

The inevitable overflow

Your recovery tank on your truckmount or high performance portable should have a float trigger that shuts down the machine when the waste tank is full. But it may not always trigger appropriately.

“If the recovery tank over-fills due to the upper float not triggering, it might be a good idea to check the exhaust heat exchanger for debris at the time of repair,” Russell said. What should you do? “Run hot water through it from the opposite side of the blockage potential, whether it seems blocked or not. The sooner you can get the debris from the tank out of the exchanger, the easier it is to clean it out. Once the debris hardens, it’s a lot more difficult to clean.”

Power supply

Some cleaners and restorers take their power cords for granted, but that can be dangerous thinking.

“Some give power cords very little thought, but so much can be gained by proper maintenance,” said Steve Williams, vice president of research and development of Xaact Products.

“Consider the habit of technicians to use the ‘give it a yank’ method of plug removal from outlets. This weakens the connection of the wire to the crimped prongs in the molded plug. Poor connections equal increased resistance and additional heat in the motors and other components within the units, leading to faster failure rates.”

Williams said his company always uses hospital-grade plugs on its equipment, as this creates a more “robust connection which lowers the failure rate of other components.”

Proper maintenance pays

Some think they don't have time to perform proper equipment maintenance on a daily basis. This is dangerous thinking. Spend some time each day making sure your equipment investments pay off in the long run.

Jeff Cross is the senior editor of Cleanfax magazine and is an industry trainer and consultant, and offers carpet cleaning and disaster restoration marketing seminars and classes through Totally Booked University (www.TotallyBookedUniversity.com). He also offers IICRC technical training for carpet and furniture cleaning, spot and stain removal and carpet color repair. Contact him at JCross@NTPMedia.com.