Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Tune-up time

September 19, 2010

Though it’s still relatively cold and wet, don’t let the warmer months and the outdoor maintenance duties that accompany them sneak up on you.

Soon enough, those mowers and weed whackers will be moved from storage and onto the fields and lawns. Wouldn’t it be nice if they were raring to go?

Here are some tips to get your grounds equipment in top shape for spring.

The engine
Undoubtedly, the engine is the heart of your outdoor equipment. It is responsible for dispersing power to all the equipment''s running parts.

Always make sure the engine and its surrounding area are clean and free of debris before that first time you start it up. This will keep the engine running at a lower temperature, lengthening the life of your equipment.

Because grounds maintenance equipment often operates in tough conditions, it''s a good idea to check the oil before you take the equipment out of storage. After that, check oil daily.

Be sure not to over- or under-fill; doing so can reduce power and cause fuel pump and breather problems.

During operation, warning signs to look for include the presence of any contaminants or a burnt smell, indicating overheating.

Coolant
A milky appearance or sludge in the filter may indicate a coolant leak. After checking the oil, start and then idle the engine for a minute or two to make sure that everything is properly lubricated before rolling out your machine after a long winter’s slumber.

If your machine has a liquid-cooled engine, check your operator''s manual to be sure you''re using the correct antifreeze and flushing the radiator at proper intervals.

If you have an air-cooled engine, check the pre-screen and cooling fins to make sure they are free of debris and dirt.

Taking these steps will keep things running smoothly and will maintain the integrity of the whole machine.

Electrical
The electrical system is another area that needs close attention before you swing into full operating mode in the warmer months.

Upon inspection, make sure the wiring is neither worn nor frayed, as exposed wires are prone to shorts and other electrical component problems.

Next, check the spark plugs to make sure that the electrodes have brown or gray/tan deposits on them.

Darker deposits indicate the engine has used more oil during its last use than necessary, while lighter deposits show an air fuel mixture that has been too lean.

A weekly check of the battery is also recommended once you’ve gotten back into a regular schedule of operation. If charging is needed, be sure not to overcharge — it will cause overflow.

Finally, make sure that the solenoids and starter drives are clean and free of debris to ensure easy starting.

Air system
Keeping the air system running smoothly can be a bit of a tightrope walk.

While it is important to keep the filter clean, opening the system too often can allow dirt and grime to invade the engine.

The rule of thumb is to check the air filter as often as your operator''s manual recommends or to watch the air restriction indicator.

When it is time to open the system, make sure to wipe down the area around the intake hose and filter canister to prevent contaminants from entering the system.

If the filter appears dirty, the best bet for system integrity is to replace the filter rather than cleaning it.

This inexpensive part can add longevity to your equipment.

Fuel
Your fuel system can be kept in good shape by always using new, clean fuel.

Keep in mind that fuel begins to break down in about a month, so stay on top of this.

Be careful to install your fuel filter correctly after checking it. An improper installation can cause contaminants to be washed into the carburetor — a potentially sticky situation.

It is further recommended that you use the specific oil that the manual recommends, as these are generally designed with your machine''s specific needs in mind.

Lubricants
The lubricants in your drive train are also vital. Always be sure they are at the levels the operator''s manual indicates before you roll your machines out of storage.

Since lubricants also act as cleaners, they serve an important function in the maintenance of your equipment.

If a squeaking noise is detected during the first few days or weeks of operation, parts are not lubricated properly and immediate attention is needed.

Also, check that belts are neither worn nor frayed before you start up. If belts are in disrepair, they should be changed and further inspection should be done to check for rubbing or pulleys that are out of alignment.

Unusual vibration of your machine may indicate a worn PTO clutch or drive shaft.

Finally, after a long winter’s hibernation, always be on the lookout for leaks that may develop in the first few days of operation. And, make it a habit to check on a regular basis for leaks during normal operation as they may be easily overlooked without day-to-day inspection.

If, for some reason, you can’t give your equipment its due and perform a complete preseason checkup, your equipment dealer will most likely have inspection and repair programs to get the job done for you.

Dealers can also help with more advanced services and offer useful information on the efficient maintenance of your particular equipment.


Source: Mike Koppen, senior product manager, Market Development, John Deere Turf Care Inc.