Practical Truckmount Maintenance

August 16, 2010
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Two years ago I wrote an article titled “The Art of Truckmount Maintenance,” for ICS. It covered a lot of ground, including a number of items that can help carpet cleaning technicians keep their machines running longer, more effectively, and with fewer problems. I included discussions such as how everything from the environment where the machine is used to the type of power cord attached to the machine can impact how well it performs (or if it performs at all).

However, were I to write that article today, I would change one thing: the title. Truckmount maintenance is not really an art, nor is it a science. Proper truckmount maintenance requires simply following a number of practical steps from checking the fluid levels to reading the operator’s manual. Troubleshooting basic issues can also often be accomplished by simply following some commonsense steps.

That’s why “Practical Truckmount Maintenance” seems to me a better fit, with the goal of providing sensible, no-nonsense ways to keep machines operating properly and minimize downtime. I hope this will eliminate some of the stress that occurs when any extractor-truckmount or portable-fails to perform as expected, especially on the job.

Operator's Manual and Maintenance Logs

Those of us around at the time remember that about 20 or more years ago computer software programs typically included an operator’s manual the size of a college textbook and about as difficult to follow. Today, the most commonly used software programs have no manual whatsoever. Software manufacturers believe their programs can be learned intuitively, and if there are problems, a “help” link is readily available.

Well, truckmounts are not like computer software, and virtually all systems come with an owner’s or operator’s manual. Although most machines today are more dependable than those manufactured even a few years ago, truckmount carpet extractors are complicated machines with scores of parts and components. Understanding how to operate the machine and the roles the parts play can prove crucial.

Whether purchasing a new machine or getting reacquainted with your current truckmount, read through the owner’s manual and get familiar with it. At the very least, should there be a problem, you will likely remember that the manual referenced the issue, which can help you get it corrected sooner so you and the machine can get back to work.

Another practical step that many carpet cleaning technicians fail to take is to keep a truckmount maintenance log. Just as with a car, the owners manual will likely have some sort of maintenance checklist, suggesting what items should be checked, serviced, or replaced and when. Based on the maintenance checklist, a maintenance log can be created.

Some items, especially preventive maintenance measures, should be checked and the activity logged in on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Some technicians that do keep a log will base their inspections on the machine’s running hours, allowing for the frequency of service intervals to change accordingly.

This is fine as long as it is ongoing and the running times are closely monitored. However, some technicians lose track of running time, and the result can be deferred maintenance. It may be best to base the maintenance log on a daily/weekly/monthly routine as mentioned earlier.

The General Inspection

The maintenance log should include a general inspection of the machine on a set schedule. This is a practical and sensible step that often gets shoved aside, especially during busy times of the year. Some of the key items that should be included in the general inspection include these:
  • Recovery tank filters. Daily clean recovery tank inlet screen or bag and the inlet filter to the blower in the recovery tank.
  • Wiring. Check the condition of the machine’s wiring and wiring looms where accessible. A wiring loom is the cable tubing that helps organize the extractor’s wires and cables. Secure any loose wiring, replace any chafed wiring or wiring looms, and make sure all connections are tight.
  • Nuts and bolts. Inspect all accessible nuts and bolts. Ensure they are tight, and replace any that appear rusted or are damaged.
  • Garden hose screen. Remove the garden hose connector and the garden hose screen. Clean out any debris and then replace.
  • Chemical system. This may get a little complicated, at least initially, and the procedure can vary with different extractors. To clean and maintain the chemical jug, ensure that the chemical filter screen is clear. The chemical jug can be cleaned by inserting a clear plastic hose to a one liter bottle of vinegar. Connect the truckmount to fresh water. Turn the ignition on, but do not start the machine. With the chemical flow meter set to maximum, open the truckmount’s mix tank drain valve and flush the system with the vinegar; then repeat the process by flushing with water.
There will be a few other basic items to check as well; consult your machine’s owner’s manual for specifics. It should be noted that not all items apply to all types of truckmount extractors. For instance, vehicle-powered or clutch drive truckmount systems (CDS) that use the truck’s or van’s motor to power the extractor will have far fewer components to check, which also means far fewer items that may need servicing. These include such things as batteries, engine oil and filters, air filters, cooling systems, and spark plugs, which should be inspected with slide-in and conventional truckmounts but not necessarily with vehicle-powered or clutch drive systems.

However, a couple of the items that should be checked for wear and tear with a CDS or vehicle-powered unit are the belts and pulleys. This check typically will require removing the driver’s seat. Should the belts have a slick or glazed look, this likely means they are slipping. Check the belt tension, and correct if necessary. Also check that the belts are properly aligned. 

Final Steps

Another practical step in maintaining truckmount extractors is testing the equipment. Some tests include fail-safe items that help prevent major equipment problems. As an example, cut off the fresh water to the machine and open the mix tank drain. The machine should stop before the mix tank is completely empty to protect the extractor and its components. Or for another example, open the vacuum tanks and lift the high-water shutoff float. The extractor should shut off immediately.

And the last job of every day: lubricating the truckmount blower. With a full vacuum load on the machine, spray recommended lubricant into the lube cup on the machine dash for about five to seven seconds.  Allow the machine to run an additional two to five minutes under load and then follow proper machine shut down procedures.

And an ongoing step involves keeping the truckmount equipment clean. Not only does cleaning the equipment help keep it running properly, it can be a marketing tool as well. Studies have indicated that customers begin evaluating all types of service providers as soon as the truck pulls into the driveway.

This often goes a step further with carpet cleaning technicians. A clean-appearing extractor reassures clients that they have hired a well-trained professional. Wash the cleanable surfaces with warm, soapy water, and dry with a soft cloth. As an added touch, apply car polish to painted surfaces and buff them to a high shine.

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