Preventive Maintenance for Sweepers
A Close Look at Preventive Maintenance for Sweepersby Costas Cordonis
Many sweeper owners haven't yet learned that a good prevention program is perhaps the best cost-benefit value going. It is no coincidence that virtually every large sweeping contractor and municipality has a program in place designed to catch any loose parts, misalignments, vibrations, etc. early on. If you don't have such a plan in your own organization, you are paying too much for sweeper repairs and not getting the useful life you deserve from your sweeper fleet.
When it leaves the factory, every sweeper should have a manual which covers both the sweeper unit and the chassis. Since minor points of maintenance change from model to model (and sometimes even on the same model later in its series), it is important to go through the manuals when you take delivery of your new unit.
When I have visited owners who are having performance problems, I have often found that they have allowed their fan and intake seals to dry out. Drying and shrinking, through loss of lubrication, creates air leaks.
Another common oversight is not keeping the sweeping head adjusted properly, even though this is the most important adjustment on the sweeper. If the front and back springs both have the correct tension, the head will 'float' instead of dragging along on the ground. To maximize your performance, and yet minimize your wear, flaps should just touch the ground all the way around. The rear flap should seal clear to the ground. Correct alignment affects more than pickup ability and flap wear. It also keeps your skids from wearing out early and/or marking up the pavement.
Skid rotation is another key element of upkeep that many people forget. Our warranty department gets a surprising number of skids returned which are worn completely out - but just on one end. Skid manufacturers typically won't give warranty credit in this situation. For proper skid life, and to assure replacement under warranty, skids must be rotated so that wear on them is relatively even.
Excessive vibration is another common complaint I troubleshoot in the field. Often the cause is a loose belt. This is also an especially critical area of maintenance, in that tightening needs to be done according to the instructions in the manual. Otherwise, bolts can loosen or the belt can become misaligned and wear quickly. A loose belt can also ruin a bearing.
Engine bolts vibrate loose fairly often, which is another leading cause of vibration. If one or more of these comes loose, the result can easily be a broken engine leg, a crack in the engine tray or a torn up bearing. Drag arm bolts are also notorious for vibrating loose. Unfortunately, if they come completely out the head can develop so much play that you can eventually run over it. This is not a pretty sight!
If any of these has happened to your sweeper, take it as a signal that you need to start a serious preventive maintenance program on your sweepers. Involve your employees in the concept. If you make certain that drivers know the cost of the equipment they are running, they will no doubt be a little more conscientious. If there is anything in any of your manuals that you don't understand, call the manufacturer and get it explained. You will find that with a good preventive maintenance system many sweeper woes can be stopped before they start -- and before they become expensive to fix.
Costas Cordonis travels around the world as a sweeper troubleshooter for sweeper manufacturer Schwarze Industries, Inc.
This article is reprinted from American Sweeper magazine, v3 n1 1992.
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