With the short winter season that we are seeing this year, the phones are going to be ringing earlier and your schedule will (hopefully) be filling up quick. With that in mind, it is important to ensure your equipment is in tip top shape to keep you on the road and taking advantage of the steady stream of business while it’s knocking at your door. The best offense is a good defense, right? So, it’d be a good idea to whip out that maintenance interval chart in your machine’s manual, go down the line, and make sure you’re up to date on all of your maintenance.
Engine Oil Change
This should go without saying, but we see it far too often to not mention it: CHANGE YOUR ENGINE OIL. Your engine is the powerhouse of your equipment and if you don’t keep that viscous, petroleum blood fresh then you risk permanently damaging the internal components from overheating due to inadequate lubrication. Overheating can cause a domino effect of not only damage to the moving parts inside the engine, but can also lead to brittle oil seals and gaskets. That can turn into a persistent oil leak that not only makes a mess of things, but also low oil levels that can be even more devastating to the integrity of the engine and can shave years off the longevity of it.
And while we’re on the topic of oil levels, DO NOT overfill your engine with oil… the only thing worse than no oil is too much oil. Your engine is made to take a specific amount of oil and if you put too much in it then an excess of pressure builds within the crankcase and will blow oil seals out left and right. The best thing to do before refilling is to refer back to the engine manual to find the specifications for changing the oil with a new oil filter. This value is fairly specific but we recommend filling a little less (about 1-2 oz) than that amount, running the machine for about five minutes, shutting it down for another five minutes, and then checking the dipstick with the machine/van on a level surface.Top off with additional oil if necessary until at the top mark of the dipstick.
Pump and Blower Maintenance
Aside from the beating heart of your machine (engine), the water pump and vacuum blower are the next in line in terms of importance. These two components are the arms and legs (if you will) that actually get the work done. The oil change frequency and fill requirements are very important to keep track of. As with the engine, the oil inside these components lubricates to avoid overheating. Over the span of an oil change period the oil viscosity breaks down and begins to not lubricate as well as it should, this is why the oil change periods are specified as they are.
In addition to oil changes, there are also important things you must keep an eye. One such thing is the vacuum inlet filters: in most all manuals it instructs the user to clean the collection basket after each job, and to clean the inlet filter screens as frequently as every day. This simple task ensures that there is not excess debris build up that, if left untended to, will put extra stress on the blower, engine, shaft (for direct drive units) couplers ,and drive belts. You’d feel really disappointed in yourself (to put it lightly) if you racked up a $2,000+ bill because of your lack of doing something as simple as cleaning your filters. Also, it is a good idea to check the vacuum relief valve periodically to make sure the pressure doesn’t exceed 12 – 14’ Hg (depending on your machine) and lubricate the relief valve shaft.
Many manuals specify maintenance items that are more preventative in nature. If you would like to continue working uninterrupted without any downtime because of your chemical injection system, it is a good idea to adhere to the supplied maintenance schedule. Typically they will include replacing the diaphragm and check valves in the chemical pump, tightening the packing on the metering and selector valves, and checking for leaks.
A frequently overlooked item is the belts. It’s easy to just think that simply if they look good and if they’re not causing issues then there’s nothing to worry about. But, often times they can be misleading by appearance and break without warning. Many manuals suggest replacing at certain intervals and re-tensioning in between since they do stretch once in use. This can be very important in the case of machines that don’t utilize a tensioner pulley such as a 370ss. Since they are directly attached to the shaft of the engine, all of the torque gets absorbed by the belts. This stretches them fairly quickly and must be re-tensioned every 100 hours in the case of the 370ss. Regardless of the configuration it is wise to follow the maintenance interval chart to avoid an emergency repair.
Although completing full services at the intervals specified by the manual can be costly (depending on the hours on the meter) the investment in maintenance WILL ALWAYS prove to be less costly than emergency repairs. We see it time and time again; customers will opt for the cheapest/most necessary maintenance but neglect the other important maintenance items due to monetary or time constraints. But, in the long-run these required maintenance items will cost less than having an unplanned repair that leaves a job unfinished, schedule pushed back, and a wallet empty. Do yourself a favor, suck it up and make your equipment maintenance a priority.