Above and Beyond Basic Truckmount Maintenance
Think back to the time when you first decided to go into business.
You might have chosen to clean carpet with a portable extractor, or perhaps you decided to try out an absorbent pad system. Maybe you were intrigued with encapsulation cleaning.
Or, like many, you decided to analyze the truckmount market, see what was available and hear what people had to say about the various machines. Should you go with a slide-in, direct-drive, kerosene- or propane-fired or heat exchange? Little machine, big machine, really big machine? There were lots of questions.
But you eventually decided on a brand and model and you made your purchase. You were given a crash course in proper truckmount maintenance and a manual to take with you, with repeated instructions from the mechanic about the importance of regular truckmount maintenance. The mechanic who trained you might have wagged his finger your way a few times when he felt you weren’t paying attention. You heard instructions so repeatedly that an unwanted chant was created in your head: “Change the oil, change the filter, lube what moves, top the fluids…”
If you are the conscientious owner of a single truckmount or an entire fleet, you no doubt go above and beyond manufacturer- recommended truckmount maintenance tasks.
Cleanfax asked veteran users what they do beyond typical truckmount maintenance (changing the oil, lubing moving parts) with their machines to maximize both life and performance.
There are not many situations worse than being in the middle of a cleaning job when something breaks and you have to explain to the customer the need to reschedule. The look you get from that customer isn’t something you wish to experience twice.
So be prepared for what may happen but you hope never will. Have on hand a small toolkit with the necessary tools to do repairs you can handle on the job and replacement parts for things that commonly fail. If you aren’t sure what those are, ask your truckmount mechanic for some advice and a list of items.
Feeding the machine
Just as a healthy diet can help keep us in better physical condition, what goes into your truckmount can make or break your machine — eventually.
“We filter the water, and it keeps a lot of stuff out of the pump, screens, check valves, heat exchanger, bypass valves, etc.,” says Scott Smith, owner of C&S Cleaning Services in Meadville, PA. “The filter we use is a whole house GE filter, and it filters down to five microns.” That way, Smith explains, it catches virtually everything that may be in the water you are using to clean with and helps keep particles from damaging anything in the flow system of your truckmount.
Besides filtering, Smith knows the value of water softeners, especially in areas with high mineral content. But, even if you do use a softener, Smith says, “Descale one or two times a year. [Softeners] don’t remove all the minerals but a lot of them. And as the resin ages, it becomes less effective, so change your resin every three to five years, depending upon usage.”
Using water softeners offers big protection for truckmounts, and it helps your detergents work better as well. Joseph Rogers with Quest Floor Care in Christiansburg, VA, uses a water softener system and values the protection it provides. Yet, some currently are taking or are planning to take their water treatment issues a step further. Rogers is considering a reverse osmosis and deionized water system setup.
“I’d really like to have some control over the quality of water I use to clean, and you can’t get that hooking up to customer’s water,” Rogers explains. In Blacksburg and Christiansburg, VA, two of the areas he covers, he says the water is “decent,” but the farther away from those cities he works, the worse the water quality gets.
So he has done his homework. He adds, “Having an RO/DI setup will allow me to clean with water that has had pretty much all the contaminants associated with hard water removed. And having control over water quality like that will be another way to differentiate myself.”
Keep it clean
This may seem simplistic, but not keeping a truckmount clean is something that can sneak up on you. At the end of the day, you are tired, or your techs want to get home, and you figure you will clean things up at the end of the next day. The cycle happens again… pretty soon, you are getting used to seeing a dirty machine.
Ades Gros with Carpet Magic in Wilson, NC, says this is one of his priorities when it comes to keeping his truckmount in good shape. “Keeping it clean” is extremely important, he adds, including “keeping the fan on air-cooled motors clean.” Dirty fans obviously hinder air flow, something Gros knows can reduce engine life.
Larry McQueen of Carpet Care Plus in O’Fallon, IL, is a true believer in clean machines. “I am a fanatic about pulling everything — hoses, wands and all removable items — from the truck on a monthly basis. We then clean everything because half the battle in maintenance deals with cleanliness,” he says. “Don’t get me started on the waste tank! Every day we flush it and spray disinfectant into the tank.”
Jim Martin with Beyond Clean in Tucson, AZ, believes in setting aside one day each month to take the time to service and work on your equipment, keeping it clean and in good condition.
“I always wipe everything down and make sure there is nothing in my trucks that will obstruct any type of airflow that is needed to keep it running as cool as possible,” Martin stresses.
And don’t forget the truck itself, Martin adds. “Make sure that all the regular truckmount maintenance is completed on it as well. I have a machine that is coming up on 3,200 hours, which may not seem like a lot, but if you actually keep track of how many hours your machine runs during a normal day of cleaning, that is a lot of cleanings, and that 3,200 hours has pretty much paid for that machine many times over.”
Make it a practice to end your busy workday with just a few more minutes of cleanup time. You will find the start of the next day to be more enjoyable, and if your truckmount could talk, it might just say, “Thanks!”
The forgotten details
James Tole with Harold William Company in Windsor, ON, believes it is important to pay attention to the speed of your machine.
“The most overlooked, in my opinion, is the rpm of the drive system and the max point of the vacuum.” Tole says. He feels truckmount operators see reduced efficiency for recovery if the rpm is low as well as the vacuum relief opening too early.
Lastly, Tole adds some truckmount operators don’t pay enough attention to a failing seal on the waste tank lid, which results in a loss of vacuum performance.
An additional “forgotten detail” many suffer from is what they rarely (if ever) see… the inside of the waste tank. Al – though your machine may seem to be working fine, buildup of dirt, hair, grease and other familiar “nasties” on the walls of your waste tank will take its toll on the performance of your machine. Take some time regularly to scrape off and clean up all surfaces inside your waste tanks. And don’t forget those filters can plug up fast, even on just one job.
Your truckmount will give you years of high performance… if you take good care of it.
Jeff Cross is the executive editor of Cleanfax and is an industry trainer and consultant. He can be reached via email at [email protected].