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
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
- 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
- Nuts and bolts. Inspect all accessible nuts and
bolts. Ensure they are tight, and replace any that appear rusted or are
- 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
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
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.