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Coin-Op 101: Keep Machines Turning with Parts on Hand, Repair Ability

Diagnosing issues and making light fixes keeps profits high

LOS ANGELES — Think for a minute about making the leap from renter to homeowner. So much upside. Your own little piece of the world; it’s all yours … free and clear … after a number of years of payments, of course. It’s awesome … until you encounter your first repair issue.

When that toilet starts leaking or the garage door opener isn’t working, they aren’t the superintendent’s or someone else’s problem. Nope, these are all you. It’s sink or swim time. You either dig in and figure it out with a little help from the web or you grit your teeth, open the pocketbook and call a professional. The latter can be pricey.

Bottom line is that homeowners either get used to shelling out for professionals to come and make repairs or they learn to identify the small repairs they can tackle and which ones require a bit more expertise.

The same holds true in the vended laundry world. Owners switch on the “Open” sign and from that point on, they can either learn to make repairs and swap out wearable parts or get used to devoting a portion of revenues to visits from service personnel.

Some stores see as many as 20 turns per day. With that kind of volume, parts will quickly wear and owners will encounter their share of user-created issues. Being able to diagnose issues and make light repairs will keep the profits high, as will knowing when a repair is over your head and a call to a service professional is the best course of action.


I’d be remiss in a column about service if I didn’t stress the importance of performing regularly scheduled maintenance. On the drying side, alone, I’d say 20% of service calls are a direct result of a lack of maintenance. De-linting and checking venting on a regular basis (every six months) will help avoid service calls.

Second, before even putting that cordless driver up to the machine to remove a panel, always make sure to cut power to the machine. Remember, this business has plenty of water around and it’s easy to get shocked.


I recommend owners of busy laundries have a variety of parts on hand and be able to make simple repairs. Machines that are down are not making money. This is something all owners should seek to avoid.

A solid on-hand parts inventory should include belts, hoses, pumps, drain valves and water inlet valves. I think it’s important that replacement parts also be genuine factory replacement. From my seat, it removes any uncertainty about the quality, as it is the same standard as the stock one already in the unit. On the tool side, a cordless driver with Phillips head will leave you in good position to remove most panels along with sockets (5/16 is pretty widely used) and crescent wrenches.

Being able to swap out these parts if there’s a failure or issue is the second half of the equation. Replacing a belt is roughly a 10-minute fix. Though I have heard of owners who encounter an issue with the basket not turning and go through a variety of other repairs before realizing the belt broke. So the point of the story is not just being able to make the repair, it’s being able to do some basic troubleshooting to zero in on the root cause.

For instance, the water inlet valve failure is a pretty simple one. If you hear water trickling into the washer when it’s off, it’s quite likely that the diaphragm is torn and the valve needs replacing. Other signs might include lower water pressure or if sections of the soap box are not getting fully rinsed out. This is a roughly 20- to 25-minute repair and something most owners can tackle.

Drain valves are similarly easy to key in on. If you notice fill times are getting longer or you hear water draining out while in a fill, the drain valve has either failed or there is an obstruction (such as a bra wire or credit card) keeping it from fully closing. If the part has failed, again, it’s about a 25-minute repair.

I recommend owners switch out hoses every year. This is a low-dollar insurance policy that will save them a call from the attendant or a customer that their store has become a pond.

The nice thing about some of today’s modern equipment is troubleshooting is made infinitely easier, as the machine control can alert staff and owners to issues. Still, it’s important that attendants be educated on what signs to look for, so issues can be caught before they result in lost resources (leaking water) or significant downtime.


Equipment is constantly changing, so it never hurts to brush up on your knowledge and increase the number of repairs you can make. For example, at PWS, we offer service schools four times a year where owners can learn about service tasks such as changing out a coin drop.

Such schools are an excellent way to stay current and expand your troubleshooting and repairs knowledge base. Likewise, there is a wealth of experience and technical knowledge on coin laundry forums. However, if you find yourself out of your element, always lean on your authorized distributor’s technical service personnel to ensure the repair is made quickly and downtime reduced.


Owners who have a solid understanding of their laundry’s machines and can perform troubleshooting/make simple repairs can help keep their business running at maximum revenue potential. But they also need to know when they are in over their head and it’s time to call a professional.

It’s a simple cost/benefit analysis. If you can make the repair quickly and efficiently, do so. However, if the issue involves extended downtime and you can’t get to it immediately, calling a professional will get you back online faster. Your time is often better served managing and marketing the business than being chief service officer. Be handy, but thoughtful in the repairs you take on.

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(Image: © iStockphoto/DoroO)

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected] .