Truckmounts: The Importance of Maintenance

Judging from the number of posts I see on the ICS Online Bulletin Board concerning new equipment purchases, and the number of cleaners seeking feedback from those who have already bought and have experience with that equipment, it is obvious that many cleaners do some level of research before making buying decisions.

If as much attention is paid to equipment maintenance as it is to pre-purchase research, almost any purchase will perform well for an acceptable period of time. Any tool or piece of equipment, if properly serviced, will keep on making money for you. It is sometimes interesting to "life cycle" the cost of an asset such as a truckmount. The better care you take of it, the better care it will take of you.

Several years ago a very good friend of mine purchased a new truckmount for $7,400. Being a bit on the frugal side, he decided to make the machine last. The first step was to build a table on wheels to remove the machine from his truck every 30 days for a maintenance schedule that included, among other things: An oil change each month, filter change every two months, lubing the moving parts, including the blower, each month and replacing belts, hoses and the air filter every 120 days. The engine lasted 7,400 hours, while the original pump and blower are still performing well. That equates to $1 per hour, not counting the cost of oil or belts and hoses. Not bad for a machine capable of generating $100 per hour.

Most manufacturers recommend oil and oil filter changes every 50 to 200 hours and belt and hose replacements about twice a year. The real benefit of this conscientious maintenance is that you dramatically lower your chance of unexpected breakdowns in the middle of a job. Keep in mind that it costs a lot to put a job on hold for a trip to the supplier/service center to get the unit back up and running, not to mention the customer's reaction as he waits for you to come back to finish the job. If you make an investment in a top-notch piece of equipment, protect that investment by following a strict maintenance schedule. There is a great deal of truth in the adage that "maintenance doesn't cost, it pays!"

While remembering the common things like oil and filter changes, don't forget the not-so-common parts such as filter screens in the high- and low-pressure water systems. A periodic de-scale of the high-pressure system will keep pumps and heaters operating at maximum capacity. If you are running a heat-exchange system, don't neglect the filters that service the heat exchangers or you'll sacrifice water temperature. It will be to your advantage to periodically check nuts and bolts for tightness and to visually inspect all wiring on a regular basis. Take the time to determine what oil types and weights are recommended for each application. If water leaks develop, be sure to address them promptly before rust sets in. Remember, rust never sleeps. Rust will destroy your truck and machine just as surely as a fire; rust simply takes longer and is much more subtle about it.

You tell your cleaning customers to protect their assets (carpet) through a regular maintenance schedule. You should practice what you preach when it comes to equipment maintenance. While purchasing new equipment may seem like a large investment, it may not be so daunting when amortized over several years of use. The better the maintenance, the more dependable the machine, and the longer it will continue to bring in that $100 per hour. Take care of your equipment and it will take care of you. 'Til next month, see ya!

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