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Preventive Maintenance for Sweepers

How to Get the Best Use From Your Warranties

by Bobby Vaughn Bobby Vaughn

Many owners find their sweeper warranty to be complex and somewhat hard to understand. The main reason is that most sweeper warranties are made up of three separate documents, one each for the chassis, sweeper body and auxiliary engine. In my position as warranty manager at Schwarze Industries, I am continually amazed at how few people realize that fact or have even actually read these documents. Whatever type of sweeper you operate, whether you are a small contractor or a large municipality, you will benefit by a thorough understanding of both your individual warranties and the warranty process in general.

Unless it is of a unibody design, your sweeper chassis is covered under the warranty of whatever truck your sweeper is mounted onto. That's why it's important to become familiar with who the truck dealer is for that brand in your area. If you are purchasing a truck type that you have not had before, it is a good idea to do some investigation before you decide on the chassis for your new sweeper. You should know, for example, that if it is a cabover GMC unit, you can't take it to a GMC dealership that only sells conventional chassis trucks. That's a mistake a surprising number of people make.

The sweeper itself is covered under the manufacturer's warranty, and owners owe it to themselves to become aware of what is and isn't covered under that warranty. Again, before purchase is the best time to do this. Drive belts, for example, are generally considered to be a wear item, not a warranty item. This is because the belts must be kept under proper tension or they will wear rapidly. If someone doesn't adjust their drive belt after it first runs up to temperature, for example, the belt can be ruined in as few as two nights of sweeping.

You should also know how shipping will normally take place, who pays for it, and whether parts and labor -- or just parts -- are covered.

Schwarze sweepers, like those of all the major manufacturers, are finely built pieces of equipment. They are also major purchases. As such, they deserve to be treated well, and will last for a long time when they are. I think the biggest step someone can take to ensure their sweeper lasts as well as it should is to thoroughly read and understand the information in their manual.

In spite of that fact, I'd estimate that 80% of the questions I'm asked on the phone concern situations that are spelled out in the manual, but the customer doesn't know it. This is especially sad when it is a contractor who has only one sweeper and is staking his entire livelihood on having it last. An incredible number of the failures we see are due to normal maintenance and repairs either not being done, or being done incorrectly. Both situations are virtually eliminated when people read their manuals.

Of all the sweeper warranties, that of the auxiliary engine is typically the least understood. Most manufacturers require you to take the auxiliary engine to an authorized dealer for all repairs when it's under warranty. Further, they want to see that routine scheduled maintenance was performed when it was called for and that it was done correctly.

To make certain they don't, in any way, violate their auxiliary engine warranty, I recommend that customers use original equipment oil filters when they change their oil. Sure, it might cost a few dollars more, but what it won't do is provide a loophole in the event there is a failure. By using genuine purchase parts in your maintenance, there is never a doubt in the dealer's mind when he has to make a decision about whether your failure might have been caused by inadequate parts.

In fact, I tell customers that if at all possible they should invest the extra ten or fifteen dollars it costs to have the dealer change the oil and air filters while the engine is under warranty. That way, there is no denying the record of when and how the regularly scheduled maintenance was performed.

If you do perform your maintenance in-house, make sure you know what you're doing. Again, any maintenance should be preceded by a thorough reading of the procedure in the service manual that comes with the unit. For example, make very certain that whoever changes out your air filters understands that when the old air filter is taken out, a damp cloth should be used to wipe all the dust out of the air canister. Otherwise they will be inserting a pile of dirt into the engine as they place the new air filter into the housing.

They also need to know they shouldn't change the air filter until after the warning button pops up, no matter how dusty the jobsite. Too much maintenance is as bad as not enough, and both instances can cause trouble when you have a failure on a warranted part.

If you perform your own oil changes, or any other maintenance, be sure to keep a written service record in the shop. The first question the dealer will ask is how often you serviced your engine, and they will want to see a written record that includes a date and a signature.

Another question is, "When did this first start to go wrong with the engine?" If there is any doubt in your mind about how it is performing, have it looked at. There's also an advantage in using the same person to do all the work, someone who can become really familiar with the whole machine.

Don't wait for a breakdown in the middle of the night before learning what standard replacement items to stock.

Another piece of advice I would offer is not to wait until something breaks before you learn how to fix it. Because of the nature of the industry, failures will most likely be away from the shop, and often will take place in the middle of the night. Know in advance what the most common wear item failures are, what parts you should be keeping in stock at all times and how to repair them. Don't be afraid to ask your manufacturer's advice about what you can do to get through the night if such and such breaks.

Especially smaller contractors, who are counting on their sweeper to make a living, should know their manual inside and out; have it practically memorized. If you read it so much that it gets worn out, don't worry, you can get another one! If you don't understand something, call the manufacturer and ask.

The three letters 'PRE' are ones that should be posted in large size in every organization. In the long run, being PREpared for whatever might happen to the sweeper will save any owner a lot of downtime, money and confusion. A good PREventive maintenance program will do the same. It's one of those common sense ideas that unfortunately isn't in common usage.

Finally, whenever you call your sweeper manufacturer, know the identification number of your vehicle, your sweeper and your auxiliary engine. Also know your date of invoice and serial number. That's one of the best ways to ensure that you'll get the right advice and the right part, every time.

This article is reprinted from American Sweeper magazine, v5n1.

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