Truckmount Maintenance: The ICS Q&A
For many carpet cleaning professionals, few investments have the potential to have the impact – either good or bad – on the bottom line like a truckmount. Buying a unit can run in the tens of thousands of dollars, but also have the potential to help their owner make that back twenty times over. It’s curious, then, why something as simple and obvious as maintenance is so often overlooked, pushed aside or even ignored completely.
To try and get a better understanding of why this phenomenon occurs – and how to avoid it – ICS asked three experts in the field – HydraMaster’s Dennis Russell, Prochem/Century 400’s Jerry Mckillip and Interlink Supply’s Rick McDonald – about maintenance, troubleshooting, what constitutes a red flag and more.
Dennis Russell: Following the recommended oil change service intervals on the engine, blower and high pressure pump; keeping accurate service records if customer is doing their own service, and rinsing out tanks and maintaining filters and filter baskets in recovery tanks to protect the blower and any downstream heat exchangers from sludge and debris.
Jerry Mckillip: The most common problem I see is also the easiest to prevent. Make sure all fluids are maintained at the proper levels and changed when recommended by the truckmount manufacture. Checking the fluid levels only takes a couple of minutes but is often over looked. There are three major components, engine, water pump, and blower that need the lubrication checked, at least weekly, most manufacturers recommended daily. I will be the first to admit I do not raise the hood of my truck and check the oil every morning before going to work; however, I do normally check all my fluid levels on the weekend, it only takes a few minutes. For more information on how to check fluid level and how lubrications should be changed refer to the truckmount operator’s manual for recommendations.
Rick McDonald: Most breakdowns, lower water pressure, lower water temperature, low vacuum pressure and equipment failures are caused by lack of or improper performed maintenance. For example, low/dirty engine oil causing breakdowns, damage and reduced engine life; low/dirty/or lack of lubrication for the blower causing seizing and damage to the blower, coupler, belts and engine. Low or dirty oil in the high pressure water pump can cause low pressure, breakdowns and damage. Dirty filters (engine air filter, waste tank filters, water system filters etc.) cause breakdowns, damage and premature failure of expensive components. Water systems full of hard water deposits causing plugged heat exchangers, diminished water pressure, low water temperature and premature system damage. And cracked or stretched belts are always causing breakdowns.
ICS: To borrow from the phrase “an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure,” how important is it for operators to follow a regular maintenance schedule?
RM: To protect the significant investment and provide maximum dependable life; proper, timely maintenance is critical. All the equipment a cleaner uses needs some form of maintenance; truckmounts expecially need daily maintenance performed by the owner/operator and required hourly maintenance performed by trained and experienced professional service technicians. Following the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule can help extend a truckmount’s usable/dependable life by as much as 2 to 3 times beyond those truckmounts receiving inadequate maintenance, and can save potentially thousands of dollars in fuel costs plus help prevent the loss of income and clients caused by on the job breakdowns.
DR: In setting up the customer for success, the end user needs to have a hands-on training session when he takes delivery of the new machine. There needs to be education provided for the required service and service intervals; and following the schedule and documenting these intervals as required by the manufacturer is the “ounce of prevention” that is critical.
JM: Early detection is the key, following a well planned maintenance schedule is essential to keeping the unit in good operating condition. To borrow another phrase “schedule your maintenance or it will schedule you!” Think about it: balance the cost of being down with the cost of preventing down time. Smart businessmen schedule maintenance as they do customer appointments.
ICS: What’s the easiest problem or issue for operators to avoid when it comes to maintaining their truckmount?
JM: Know the truckmount you are operating. All of us may not be mechanics and have the desire to work on truckmounts, however, when you operate the same truckmount each day you get familiar with how that truckmount works and also know how to check the fluids. I think in many cases maintenance items are overlooked simply because the operator does not know how or what to do. Even if you are not going to perform the maintenance on the truckmount you need to know the basics, how to check the truckmount for fluid levels and what to do if they are not correct. I often get calls from operators, that don’t know what to do if they see a coolant overflow bottle empty, or know how long it has been empty. It’s OK if you don’t want to change oil in your truckmount but you need to know when something is wrong, start with reading the owner’s manual and if you have questions check with your local dealer.
DR: Read the owner’s manual! Ask questions and take ownership of service on this new piece of equipment. Finally, follow all recommended service requirements, don’t skip or skimp.
RM: Equipment breakdowns on the job – poor dependability. Performance and efficiency issues – a properly maintained truckmount will perform all the tasks it was built for at peak performance and efficiency, which result in cleaner/dryer carpets and surfaces and happier home and business owners. High fuel costs: A properly maintained truckmount will burn as much as 25% less fuel compared to a under-maintained truckmount.
Ensure maintenance is done consistently and done right – daily inspection and maintenance is critical, plus it’s extremely important to provide routine maintenance at the proper hour intervals, i.e. 100 hours, 200 hours etc. Hourly maintenances should be performed by professionals who are trained and experienced with truckmounts.
ICS: What’s the biggest misconception cleaners have when it comes to truckmount maintenance, e.g. “It’s going to cost me an arm and a leg” “Another couple hundred hours won’t hurt anything” “Just throw a little duct tape on it, it’ll be fine”?
RM: “I own a ‘SUPER TRUCKMOUNT,’ it’ll be OK if my equipment gets maintenance when I can get around to it. My truckmount will be fine even if I sometimes or regularly miss the daily maintenance or skip the proper hourly maintenance.” On the contrary, truckmounts run at nearly maximum load capacity under adverse conditions – extreme heat or cold, limited air flow, dirty/dusty conditions etc., proper and timely maintenance is critical.
There are some who believe that changing the truckmount engine oil and filter constitutes “proper maintenance.” Truckmounts are complex machines with many components and assemblies all requiring proper and timely maintenance. Then there’s “professionals charge too much for equipment maintenance.” The opposite applies, maintenance costs are a fraction of the costs of major component repair or replacement.
DR: “The pain of a poorly maintained machine far outweighs the joy of not maintaining it regularly by the book”. Cutting corners in servicing a piece of equipment will cost you more in the end. The old sayings hold true: “pay me now or pay me later” and “penny wise, pound foolish.” You are making your livelihood on this machine, why skimp?
JM: I once heard “you can pay now or you can pay later.” I will admit the old duct tape may get you through the job but you had better take care of the problem or it will shut you down next time. Many times the problem starts out small a little leaking oil maybe a small water leak, if taken care of it may not be too costly, let it go and it will only get worse.
Take a blower with a small oil leak, it may start out small and the operator just keeps adding oil and maybe put a little extra oil just in case. That’s all well a good until, you forget to top the oil off and it runs dry or that little extra oil that is added may overfill the crankcase. When a crankcase is overfilled the oil will foam and will lose the lubrication quality and before you know it your blower has to be replaced because of a small oil leak. It is far too costly to ignore or band aid the small problems.
ICS: What’s the one thing an operator should never ignore when it comes to maintenance signs/signals/indicators?
DR: Daily maintenance. Checking oil levels and coolant levels on all components, and dumping the water from and cleaning the waste tank. Any smells, unusual odors or noises coming from the truckmount, or leaking fluids, oils, coolants, waste water? Get that looked at ASAP.
JM: If the truckmount has warning lights don’t ignore them, problems don’t fix themselves. This also goes back to knowing your equipment, if you hear a new noise or the engine is not running properly shut it down and get it checked out, the longer it runs the more damage can happen.
RM: First, NEVER start the truckmount until the pre-startup maintenance checks have been completed! Then look and listen for any unusual performance. For instance, is it hard to start? Does it run different or sound different? Is there unexpected water pressure, water temperature, suction, chemical flow, etc.? Are there fluid leaks? Is it smoking, or is there an unusual smell?
For more information:
HydraMaster – www.hydramaster.com
Prochem/Century 400 – www.karcherna.com
Interlink Supply – www.interlinksupply.com