by HydraMaster Technical Support/Customer Care Team
Winter is here. Are you prepared for cold temperatures?
The instructions on how to prepare a new General Motors car for winter are pretty straightforward.
Although they recommend taking the vehicle to an authorized GM mechanic to ensure that the wipers, blades, battery, belts and tires are all in good condition, there are only two crucial concerns mentioned: Make sure the recommended amount of antifreeze is in the radiator and that winter windshield wiper fluid has been installed. If only it could be so easy to winterize a truckmount extractor.
Although the consequences for improperly preparing an automobile and a truckmount for winter are similar—potential risks and serious damage to the motor, pumps, valves, hoses, and just about all engine components, to name just a few — getting a truckmount ready for the colder months is more involved. And there are usually far-reaching consequences for carpet cleaning technicians who depend on their truckmount in their work: Loss of the machine due to freezing temperatures means no money until repairs are made. Every year, we end up having to ship out heat exchangers and other components that were inadvertently allowed to freeze.
There are two basic types of truckmount systems:
- Slide-in systems are powered by their own engines and are bolted into a van or truck. Vehicle-powered or clutch drive truckmount systems (CDS) use the truck’s or van’s motor to power the extractor. Most of the suggestions and steps apply to slide-in systems that have their own motors and pumps.
- Vehicle-powered or clutch drive systems do not have their own motors so, for the most part, their winterizing concerns are tied to properly winterizing the host vehicle.
Prepping the machine for winter
Although each truckmount manufacturer will have specific recommendations for their equipment, the following are general steps that will likely apply to many, though not necessarily all, truckmount machines:
- Get familiar with requirements. Long before cold weather arrives, carpet cleaning technicians should be fully aware of what steps they should take to properly winterize their equipment. Sometimes serious and costly problems may arise if winterizing steps must be taken at the last minute, just hours before a blast of winter arrives.
- Select the proper antifreeze. Before discussing how much antifreeze to use for winterizing the machine, it is necessary to discuss what kind of antifreeze to use. The major differences among the various brands are the “corrosion inhibitors.” Some brands of antifreeze are formulated with very high-quality inhibitors to provide the needed level and types of protection for the truckmount and its components. In contrast, a lesser quality brand may not contain the additives and corrosion inhibitors to thoroughly and properly protect the extractor. Many manufacturers recommend and install 100 percent glycol-based antifreeze and will likely recommend the continued use of this type of antifreeze for the machine.
- Drain any mix tanks, water boxes or containers your truckmount may have. Some machines will have a drain valve to release antifreeze; others will require the pump to be on and water to be released out of the wand. Some machines will automatically switch off when water is drained; others must be manually turned off. It should also be noted that antifreeze can be considered a hazardous material, and most communities have regulations on how it is to be disposed.
- Fill with antifreeze, in the amounts recommended by the manufacturer. With some manufacturers, this may be 100 percent antifreeze, not diluted with water. With other machines, it may be a 50/50mixture of antifreeze and water.
- Either turn the ignition key on or start your machine, depending on the procedure necessary to circulate the antifreeze through the machine. The antifreeze must be moved through the entire system and be completely circulated, as this will allow it to protect all components that are affected by water.
Here is a link to a video we prepared on how to freezeguard your machine: https://youtu.be/bUTvjvTcYM4
For specific directions on how to winterize your HydraMaster Truckmount, contact your local HydraMaster Distributor and refer to your equipment manual.
Other steps to be prepared for winter weather
- Carpet cleaning technicians should carry antifreeze with them during the winter months, in case more must be added.
- Wands and hoses should be stored indoors when not in use; this also applies to virtually all tools and chemicals.
- If at all possible, when not in use, the truck or van should be stored in a garage.
- Always point the exhaust from your machine or van away from homes and buildings. Never park and operate your truckmount in a garage or carport, not matter how cold the temperature is. Unfortunately, carpet cleaning technicians every year are overcome by carbon monoxide emissions coming from improperly placed or parked truckmounts and vans
What should you do if you must store your van and truckmount outside in the elements?
If you do have to store your truckmount and van outdoors, and you are depending on an electric or fuel fired heating system to keep the inside of your van warm, make sure the heating capacity of your heater is strong enough if the temperatures drop into the single digits or even below zero.
Keep in mind if your electricity goes off during an intense storm, that the power has been taken away from your electric heater. Consider purchasing a remote temperature sensor with an alarm that will notify you if the temperature in the van drops below 32 degrees F. These are generally available at your local home improvement store. If you would prefer to purchase on-line, just go on-line and do a search for “remote temperature sensors with freeze alarms.” There are even several more expensive sensors now that can notify your mobile phone if the temperature in your van gets near freezing. If you are not going to use your truckmount for more than a week, freeze guarding with anti-freeze is your best choice.
Here are some suggestions for operating your truckmount in extreme cold temperatures
- Because of the extreme cold the vehicles should be kept running (unless they are equipped with electric engine heaters). Keep the vehicle closed with the heater running until you are ready to clean.
- The first thing you want to do is transport all your wands and tools into the heated home or building. Do NOT put them outside of your vehicle. Do NOT leave them outside on the porch. They can freeze in seconds if the weather is cold enough.
- For most optimal cold weather cleaning, you will want to transport your own water to the job with a fresh water tank. Avoiding the need to hook up to an outside faucet and deal with the potential liability of turning on a potentially frozen outside water source is a great start.
- If you do not have a fresh water tank, and have to hook up to the customer water consider hooking to a bathroom or janitor closet faucet indoors using a faucet adapter kit. Until you get the water flowing from the water source to the truckmount consider starting with warm water for a few minutes. Use warm inlet water to aid in the inlet hose to keep it from freezing. However keep in mind that many solution pump seals are rated at 180ºF so be cautious in using extreme hot water to the water box on your truckmount – don’t overheat the inlet of the pump. If you have to use an outside faucet, the key is to keep the water flowing, even when your truckmount is not demanding more fresh water. One idea is put a Y splitter on the garden hose at the van feed and the run another garden hose off of the Y to the customer’s lawn (keep away from any sidewalks or driveways) and then crack that valve to keep just small stream of water flowing. That will keep the water flowing constantly through your incoming water hose but still keep pressure in it to fill your water box.
- Many cleaners will run a water supply hose and a solution hose inside of a length of 2” vacuum hose. The solution hose helps keep the water supply hose from freezing and the vacuum hose keeps the hoses from lying directly on the frozen ground.
- When ready to clean start the truckmount and make sure you preheat your solution water before connecting any solution hose or starting to flow water. Take your solution (pressure) hoses into the job last. Get them hooked up and water flowing as soon as possible, even if it means leaving a technician at the wand or tool.
- Connect the hoses and start cleaning right away. Avoid stopping for too long. Proper preparation of the areas to be cleaned will minimize breaks during cleaning. Move furniture before starting cleaning when possible.
- The doors of the vehicle still have to be kept open during operation of slide in cleaning equipment for proper operation; direct drive units can be run with the doors closed.
- When you finish cleaning pick up hoses as soon as possible and return them to the vehicle which should be running with the heater on then load your tools into the vehicle. The supply hose will have to be drained and hoses and tools will need to be freeze guarded at the end of the day unless you have heated parking.
- Pull the wand or tool trigger for an extra couple seconds after shutting off the pump to relieve pressure inside the hose & the tool (wand/ upholstery tool/ rotary tool).
- The less water/ fluid in the hose and the wand, the less likely it is to freeze and cause a burst failure
- This is good practice in hot or cold.
- Be more cognizant of where you run your hoses. They will melt snow/ ice while in operation, but after you’re gone they will leave ice for the next unsuspecting person who walks by.
- If you were connected to the customer’s house water supply remember to replace protective covers over the faucets if they were covered and try to minimize water drainage from hoses on walkways
We constantly hear of innovative steps and procedures our snow-belt and Canadian customers devise to keep operating in extremely cold weather. What are your suggestions based upon your experience?
Have questions or need assistance? Contact your local HydraMaster distributor. To find your closest HydraMaster Distributor, follow this link: https://hydramaster.com/HowToBuy/DealerLocator.aspx. Also, feel free to call us at the HydraMaster Technical Support line at 425-775-7272 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was revised and updated by Doyle Bloss in 10/2020.