- THE MAGAZINE
One of the most common questions that appear on the industry Bulletin Boards seems to be "Which brand of machine is best?" The next most common is, "Which is better, a portable or a truckmount?"
The reality is, they are just tools, and any determination of which is the "best" often comes down to the knowledge and ambition of the operator. Due to their relative simplicity portables require less maintenance than truckmounts, but none of these tools are self-maintaining. During my time in the military, we were required to keep a maintenance log on each and every piece of equipment assigned to us. You can and should do the same with all equipment in your care. Regardless of the system you select, it is imperative to establish a regular maintenance schedule for it.
The place to start is with the owner's manual. Most will make definite recommendations as to the frequency of lubrication and filter checking, and some will come with a maintenance chart mounted near the control panel of the unit. It's actually quite easy to construct a maintenance log. The primary tasks in truckmount maintenance include lubrication, filter cleaning and keeping the cooling system full. And don't forget to keep the engine fuel tank topped off as well; it can be pretty embarrassing to run out of gas or burner fuel in the middle of a job. Fuel and coolant checking should be done daily.
The lubricating oil in the primary engine must be changed regularly if you want to get the maximum life out of the engine. I have a friend that got about 7,000 hours from a 16-hp Briggs & Stratton engine. In his case, the oil and filter were serviced about every 90 days. He was also in the habit of checking and topping off the oil daily. He also checked and topped off the coolant level on the van engine on a daily basis.
Filters must also be checked at least daily. There will generally be at least two filters in the recovery. One, usually a mesh bag, will be located at the point where the vacuum hose enters the recovery tank. It is designed to catch the gross debris recovered from the carpet being cleaned. Check these filter bags during the workday since, if they get clogged, you may suffer a loss of recovery ability in the machine, which may contribute to slow drying. There will also generally be a fine mesh screen that protects the vacuum pump/blower from smaller particles that may pass through the filter bag. Since these filters may be located deep within the recovery tank, and may therefore be difficult to clean, some cleaners will place a nylon stocking over the screen so cleaning the screen becomes more a matter of removing the stocking for cleaning and replacement.
Some cleaners opt to use an external filter, which fits between two sections of the vacuum hose and may be easier to clean that the filters in the recovery tank. One type of external filter is made of clear plastic, designed to allow the customer to see the soil being removed from the carpet; this can be a pretty powerful sales tool for your customer or their neighbors.
The primary maintenance required in the water-heating system is the de-scaling of the heater to remove hard-water and detergent residues that build up in the heater coil and reduce your heating capability. De-scaling products should be available from your regular supplier. If you are using soft water, you may not find as much scale in your heater.
Twenty years of cleaning in Florida with a truckmount has instilled in me the habit of performing a "lizard check" before connecting the water feed hose, also known as the garden hose, to the unit. This consists of running a couple gallons of water through the hose to dislodge creatures such as lizards and bugs from the hose, especially when using the customer's garden hose. The lizard check prevents the necessity of dismantling the incoming water system to remove debris of any kind.
A simple policy of checking of fluid levels and filter content daily should keep you in hot water (if you are using a hot-water extraction system, that is). Until next month, think clean!