Spreader-sprayer smarts

February 8, 2019 -  By
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Spreader (Photo: iStock.com/BanksPhotos)

Photo: iStock.com/BanksPhotos

Lawn care operators (LCOs) invest a large part of their budgets into equipment like aerators, spray rigs and spreader-sprayers. According to some experts, they often miss a key component — preventive maintenance — especially over the winter months in colder areas of the country.

“Many LCOs aren’t doing enough preventive maintenance on their equipment,” says George Kinkead, president of turf equipment manufacturer, Turfco. “But they’re starting to catch on that their labor issues are connected to their product issues — they’re starting to say, ‘If I maintain my equipment, I can keep (employees).’”

Kinkead says it’s important for owners and managers to lead by example when training employees on equipment maintenance. The result is employees who take ownership and pride in that equipment.

“It’s kind of like a virtuous cycle,” he says. “We’re trying to push the issue right now in winter when things are down; that’s when to take care of equipment.”

Dan Shiplov, new product sales consultant for PermaGreen, says his No. 1 maintenance tip is to blow off machines rather than spray them down with water.

“When you start getting into the equipment with water, especially from a pressure washer, it starts to activate that fertilizer and starts eating away around the engine and the transmission,” Shiplov says. He also recommends not leaving fertilizer in the hopper overnight.

Though LCOs should refer to equipment operation manuals for product-specific maintenance tasks, Kinkead and Shiplov offer a few tips to keep spreader-sprayers in tiptop condition.

Daily

  • Check engine and transmission oil levels;
  • Clear remaining fertilizer and debris off of the unit with a blower or pressurized air hose, paying close attention to these key areas:
    1. around the axle;
    2. around and under the engine;
    3. inside and under the hopper (be sure to move hopper gate open and closed); and
    4. around the transmission;
  • Clean equipment with water as necessary, particularly during high-humidity days. Ensure all fertilizer is removed from the unit; water mixed with fertilizer sitting on the unit for extended periods of time can erode the equipment. Blow off the unit with air after cleaning with water;
  • Clean spray system with water — be sure to wear proper personal protective equipment. Shiplov recommends a couple gallons of warm soapy water to clean the spray system, ensuring it goes through the lines, including the nozzles. He also notes that some LCOs have reported success with products such as OxiClean, diluting it according to the product directions; and
  • Check springs on the engine — make sure they have good tension and aren’t becoming corroded.

Weekly

  • Grease all grease fittings on the machine;
  • Check and clean engine air filter — if excessively dirty, replace the filter;
  • Clean carb linkage, choke control and governor spring. Blow off the area with air (brake cleaner also works);
  • Check air pressure in tires and inflate to the marked PSI on tire;
  • Check engine and transmission oil levels;
  • Check steering cable tension;
  • Inspect belts for wear;
  • Check all cables for smooth function – use WD-40 in the sleeves of the cables to ensure they’re lubricated;
  • Inspect and clean front wheel bearings;
  • Check filters and strainers to ensure they are clear; and
  • Check that belts aren’t worn.

Off-season winter maintenance

  • Perform all daily and winter maintenance activities;
  • Run RV antifreeze through the spray system. Shiplov recommends 1 to 2
    gallons of a half-water, half-RV antifreeze solution; and
  • Check tires’ air pressure and inflate above PSI on tires before storing.
Abby Hart

About the Author:

Abby Hart is the managing editor of Landscape Management. A native Clevelander, she spent 10 years in Chicago, where she was operations manager of a global hospitality consultancy. She also worked as managing editor of Illumine, a health and wellness magazine; and a marketing specialist for B2B publications. Abby has a degree in journalism from Boston University’s College of Communication.

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