Careful Equipment Operation a Part of Preventive Maintenance

Along with diligently keeping up with your preventive maintenance plan, the way you and your team operate landscaping and lawn equipment can have a big impact on your bottom line as it relates to maintenance costs. Operator malfunction often leads to a large, unnecessary expense.

"I would highly recommend reviewing proper operating procedures with your employees as often as possible," says Jay Gaskins of STI-Turf Care Equipment, with outlets in North and South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee. "Quarterly would be a good start for most companies, and perhaps more often where turnover rates are high. Additionally, if you have employees who return after a long layoff, be sure to review safe and efficient operating procedures before the season starts."

Common procedures to cover

Handheld equipment. Ensure that guards are in tact and in place on string trimmers. By removing guards, you cause the engine, shaft and gear boxes to carry a larger load than they are designed to, which causes premature wear and damage to clutches, shafts, engines and gear boxes.

For stick edgers, be sure to clean out any buildup that accrues within the edger blade guards. This will keep the blade turning stress-free, creating greater performance and efficiency while prolonging the life of the gear box, shaft and engine.

When operating chainsaws, be certain not to allow the chain to cut into the dirt. Dirt will cause chains, guide bars and sprockets to wear out or dull prematurely.

When training your team to trim hedges, be certain that they don't try to prune hedges that are larger than the capacity of the hedge clipper. Along with hitting fences and the ground, pruning a larger-diameter limb than capable produces premature gear box failure and blade dullness or damage.

Mowers. Mowing over large objects such as limbs, rocks and other debris is not only unsafe, but also reduces belt, blade, blade spindle and clutch life. Additionally, with larger impacts, spindles, blades and belts can all become damaged, if not completely break.

Be sure to engage and disengage blades on mowers at half throttle. By doing so, you will prolong the life of electric PTO clutches as well as belt and engine life.

When going over curbs or loading mowers on trailers, be certain to go slow enough that you won't cause damage. Most manufacturers recommend backing over curbs rather than facing them head on. Whatever you do—slow down.

Transport. Ensure that equipment is strapped down properly during transport. Shut gas off on all equipment with shut-off valves, because bouncing around on trailers can cause gas to flood the crankcase and produce unnecessary downtime. Properly secure handheld equipment such as trimmers and blowers.