Fleet Management Information for Sweeping Professionals
Engine Upkeep: Tips to Keep Power Sweeper Engines Operating Efficiently
As most in the sweeping business know, a good equipment maintenance program is crucial to the longevity and performance quality of any machine. While the concept is clearly understood, unfortunately maintenance programs often fall by the wayside as a result of busy schedules, looming deadlines and the constant pressure to do more with less.
by Brad Murphy, COO and Executive Vice-President, Subaru Industrial Power Products
posted June 2012
Power sweepers, like any other piece of equipment, need routine upkeep to ensure they'll be at their best on every jobsite. Besides keeping them clean and following typical daily and monthly maintenance, it's especially important to pay close attention to a machine's power plant – the engine. Recognizing signs of trouble and understanding engine maintenance, whether it's preventative or a quick fix, will help operators avoid downtime, stay efficient and prevent productivity-draining repairs.
The following are some basic engine maintenance tips and a few troubleshooting tricks that will help in creating a sufficient preventative maintenance program.
Although it is often the most overlooked step, daily maintenance is usually the easiest and quickest to perform.
An engine should never be started without first checking the oil, yet many operators neglect this simple step. Oil is one of the keys to the service life of an engine, so always check daily. Prior to the daily oil check, be sure to wipe off the dipstick to prevent harmful dust, dirt or paint residue from entering the engine.
Checking the condition of the air filter is another important daily maintenance practice that can prevent significant damage. A clogged, wet or damaged air filter can lead to a loss in efficiency and power, or it might cause an engine to not run altogether, resulting in wasted time due to troubleshooting.
Even worse, a neglected filter may shorten the life of an engine by allowing dirt, paint or water into sensitive areas. It only takes about five minutes to check the oil and air filter, but a damaged engine could take up to ten hours to overhaul.
Another of the most basic daily maintenance steps is cleaning the engine. Not only does it get rid of potentially harmful dirt and paint residue, but it also gives the operator a chance to check the engine for leaks, loose parts and damaged components. Replace anything that is damaged, and tighten loose parts that could vibrate and potentially harm nearby components.
Prior to cleaning the engine, always be sure to shut it off and let it cool down. Spray it with a non-petroleum-based degreaser, wait for the solvent to start breaking down the dirt, then wipe it clean with a cloth or soft brush. Though it may seem convenient, never clean an engine with a pressure washer.
The sheer power of the washer is enough to break through the engine seals and cause water to enter the engine. However, warm water at a low pressure can be used to rinse the engine. Dry the outside immediately afterward, then run the engine for a few minutes to help dry any parts that could not be easily dried with a cloth.
Once the equipment is clean, pay particular attention to any signs of fuel leakage. If a fuel leak is detected, tighten the parts causing the leak or replace them immediately. Failing to fix the leak is not only wasteful and inefficient but also potentially dangerous.
Though keeping up with daily checks is a good starting point of a maintenance program, it's just one step. Engines also require of variety of maintenance on a less frequent basis throughout the year to retain performance and maximize the life of the equipment.
One item that not only needs to be addressed on a daily basis, but also bimonthly, is the engine oil. In addition to checking the level and quality of oil daily, change it at least every 100 hours to remove potentially harmful sludge. Also, after using a new engine for 20 hours, change the oil to remove assembly lube and the metallic particles created during initial break-in.
The air filter also needs daily and bimonthly attention. Regardless of how dirty the air filter is, clean it every 100 hours and change it monthly. Along with oil, the air filter is one of the most important factors in promoting peak performance and long service life.
Most manufacturers recommend cleaning foam air filters with soapy water or a mixture of three parts kerosene and one part engine oil. After cleaning with soapy water, rinse the filter thoroughly, squeeze out excess water and blot dry with a paper towel or shop rag. Work a small amount of engine oil into the filter and blot away any excess before reinstalling it. If unsure of the proper cleaning method, consult the owner's manual.
Editor's Note: If your engine's air filter system is equipped with a 'pop-out button' designed to alert you to when the air filter needs changing, wait until the button pops out to check/change your filter. Some engines in the power sweeping industry have this type of system; they are designed to keep you from over-servicing your filter. If in doubt, check your engine manufacturer's Owner's Manual!
Clean a paper filter by removing it and tapping it on a hard surface to knock off any excess dirt or paint residue. Do not use compressed air to clean the filter elements as it may cause tears in the paper. Most manufacturers typically recommend replacing paper filters after about 50 hours of use. Checking the filter regularly ensures that a replacement is made when it is actually needed.
An operator also should inspect the spark plugs every 50 hours for damage, dirt and excessive carbon build-up. Dirty spark plugs can cause a decrease in power and poor starting performance. Clean spark plugs with a wire brush or spark plug cleaner, and immediately replace any with cracked porcelain.
Additionally, it is important to clean and inspect the fuel strainer and fuel filter every month. If there is sediment on the fuel strainer, shut off the fuel line valve before any maintenance or cleaning. Then, remove, empty and clean the sediment bowl and clean the filter screen.
If sediment has gone into the tank, all the fuel will need to be removed. Clean the residue from the sediment reservoir, which is the lowest point in the tank. Use a clean rag to wipe sediment from the filter element and the sides of the tank before refilling the tank with clean fuel.
On an annual basis, inspect the engine for dirty, broken and misaligned parts. Such parts can cause a variety of engine problems, and thoroughly inspecting the engine gives the most comprehensive view of what needs to be cleaned and repaired. Furthermore, check the fuel hose each year, and replace it if there are cracks.
In relation to the amount of time and money lost when a power sweeper – or any piece of equipment for that matter – goes down, a few minutes spent on engine maintenance is a small investment to make. Outlining and sticking to a maintenance plan will ready the sweeper for a typical day on the job, and preserve the power and performance of the machine for years to come.
Subaru Industrial Power Products may be reached via email sent to email@example.com. You may also reach the company by calling 847.540.7300. The company's website is located at http://www.subarupower.com.
To reach the author of this article, Brad Murphy, COO and Executive VP of Subaru Power, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also call 847.540.7300.
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