CHICAGO — Old sayings are a part of life. Everyone probably has a favorite old saying. “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” is a popular saying in the coin laundry industry.
While it may be a favorite among laundry owners, is it really advantageous advice to follow? Probably not.
Most equipment manufacturers have designed their equipment to be as maintenance-free as possible. The equipment manufacturers discovered that when they formulated a maintenance schedule, no one followed it. Sound familiar?
The secret to having equipment that runs properly is to perform some simple, preventive maintenance. I know what you’re going to say, “A lot of storeowners are not very mechanically inclined and should know their limits.” If you’re one of these owners, you need to rely on your distributor for help.
I know that American Coin-Op has a maintenance columnist, but I thought it would be beneficial to look at some preventive maintenance that anyone can perform. I will highlight a few things that can help you make your equipment last longer, and, hopefully, run more efficiently. First things first: please, before you start any maintenance, make sure the power to the machine is turned off.
Dryers are always a good place to start when it comes to preventive maintenance. The key to efficient and well-performing dryers is cleanliness. Older, single-pocket dryer lint screens should be cleaned two to three times a week, depending on volume. Stack dryers should be cleaned much more often. Most busy laundries will clean the lint screens on a stack dryer at least once a day, sometimes more.
The wiping of the lint from the filter should be done regularly. However, at least once a month, you need to remove the screen and clean and vacuum the area that the screen covers. Taking a damp cloth and wiping the entire area will keep any lint from building up in the corners. One of the biggest problems in good drying is lint. Lint stops airflow, and in order to dry efficiently, you need heat and, just as important, good airflow.
Most storeowners ignore the back of the dryers. The truth is that if you keep the back of the dryers clean and lint free, the dryer motors will run cooler, and therefore last longer. The back space should be vacuumed, cleaned and swept out at least twice a year.
For those of you mechanically inclined, the airflow switch should be tested for proper operation at least yearly. This is a safety issue. If the airflow switch is not properly adjusted, it can cause a dryer fire. Some owners tape their airflow switches shut to make them operational instead of dealing with the root cause, which is lint buildup in the vent system. The vent system should be cleaned thoroughly at least every five years. I have found that chimney-sweep companies do a good job with that type of work.
Since we are talking about lint, now is a good time to make sure that your hot-water heaters are clean. Keeping the heater room clean will stop the water heaters from sucking up dirt and lint.
All of this sounds simple, but surprisingly not many owners tackle these procedures. But when these same owners get their gas bills, they will be the loudest complainers. In my mind, the easiest thing an owner can do to reduce energy costs is to have the dryers and water heater operating at peak performance.
Washer maintenance is a bit more complex. I’ll try to outline some procedures that a person with some mechanical skills might be able to perform.
Top loaders normally are the biggest concern when it comes to failures. This is the easiest machine to overload, and most failures happen because of that. A little preventive maintenance might help stop some of those breakdowns.
Most brands (top loaders and front loaders) are positive-fill, which means the timer will not advance until the water is filled to the proper level. Cleaning the screens in the mixing valve will allow the machine to move through the cycle faster. If your screens are still in the valve, remove them and replace them with the ones that fit in the water hoses. That makes them easier to clean in the future. Clean water valves will be less likely to leak into the washers without you knowing it. Such leaks mean your washers will be using much more water.
The other major benefit is that washers will move through the cycle faster, enabling you to do more laundry during peak periods. You should clean your front-load washer drain valves thoroughly, at least every six months. To do this, disconnect the drain hoses from the drain valve and make sure it is clear of debris. Also make sure that the ball on the valve is seated properly and tight fitting. Losing water from a dump valve is very costly.
Tightening your anchor bolts at least every six months, or when you notice excessive vibration, will lengthen your bearing life. You should also remove the cover from the top of your front loaders and check all your electrical connections. Make sure all the terminals are tight to their connectors. After a few years of operation with very minor vibration, terminals will come loose. Keeping them tight will keep your motors running cooler and lasting longer.
MAKE THAT EFFORT
Maintaining store cleanliness is a major factor when it comes to the amount of business you do and how long your equipment lasts. Try to look at the overall condition of your store through the eyes of your customers, and honestly answer a key question: Is this a place of business that my family would use? If your answer is “yes,” then you are doing a good job of taking care of your customers’ needs.