GLENDALE, Ariz. — Wouldn’t it be great if your equipment never broke down? That it always worked perfectly? Yes!

Now let’s wake up from that fantasy and agree that the most we can do is to keep things nicely humming along as best as possible.

The biggest factor behind equipment failure, I believe, is owner neglect. Some owners will simply do nothing until there is a problem, figuring that if a couple machines go down, they have others the customers can use. But when a customer walks into a busy mat and all the machines are taken, the last thing a customer wants to see are machines they could have used if they were working.

Out-of-order machines are bad visuals. If customers see too many “Out of Order” signs, they will watch their own machines more closely and then tend to complain more about minor things.

Ideally, you want all your equipment up and running well when it gets busy.

So, let’s look at solutions:

KEEP A LOGBOOK FOR REPAIRS

Each piece of equipment is given its own page. This will help you identify performance patterns or parts failures. It also helps with tracking warranty dates and stocking the proper parts.

Don’t forget to do the same for your boiler, HVAC, etc.

By the way, you can easily keep a dynamic logbook on your smartphone nowadays for quick, easy reference.

USE EQUIPMENT MANUAL’S MAINTENANCE RECOMMENDATIONS AS A GUIDE

Equipment makers sometimes ask for more routine checks and maintenance than you may like to perform, so balance that with your own reality of time available.

KEEP A NICE INVENTORY OF EXTRA PARTS

This inventory should include parts that fail often and especially those for crucial equipment such as change machines or VTMs (value transfer machines) that can affect your operation. It seems that equipment often fails when you need it most, like on a weekend. It’s nice to have that extra part on hand.

USE GOOD-QUALITY PARTS

The better quality of the part, the less often your equipment will fail. It’s that simple.

ASK YOUR DISTRIBUTOR WHICH PARTS TO STOCK

They can certainly help you with that. A distributor may recommend some things you never thought of, such as cables for your electronic parts.

USE COMMON SENSE

If you find that you are getting drain line backups every year, then have your drains snaked every nine months. Sluggish drains put an unnecessarily heavy load on washer motors during extraction.

EQUIPMENT AGE AND KNOWING WHEN TO REPLACE IT

This is a personal choice, of course, and has somewhat to do with the quality of the brand, and the number of turns in your mat.

You should be prepared to have to replace your most troublesome machines, the ones that are giving you unacceptable amounts of failures and/or requiring high-priced repairs such as tub bearing jobs. You can use your repair logbook to help you see the performance trends and track the money spent for each group of machines.

There are other factors that can influence your decision to replace old, worn-out machines such as unusual failures that require hard-to-find parts, and the higher costs of these repairs.

Also consider that most new equipment comes with at least a three-year warranty on all parts (some brands offer up to 10 years for certain parts such as frames, tub bearings and shafts). The distributors will usually give you a couple of months of on-site service as well, or maybe more in certain circumstances.

The new equipment will potentially lower your utility bills substantially (if you replacing really old equipment). Axial airflow dryers are generally more efficient, for example. Washers now use inverters to lower electric bills. And new washers now offer easier ways to program water levels and number of baths.

And there’s the real biggie: If you program the new machines correctly, you can charge more per wash than your old equipment and draw lots of new customers, all the while saving on your utilities! Plus, you just increased the value of your mat if you plan to sell it in the near future.

WEIGH EQUIPMENT COMPLEXITY AGAINST SERVICE NEEDS

I’m a believer in K.I.S.S. aka “Keep it simple, stupid.” Do you really need to incorporate all the bells and whistles in your equipment? The more active and working components your equipment has, the more things that will eventually fail, thereby increasing your service calls. It’s a mathematical certainty! So always consider if a new machine function is worth it in the long run.

ANTICIPATE UTILITIES ISSUES

Power fluctuations can play havoc with any equipment that is computerized, and Laundromats have lots of computerized equipment. Something as simple as a poor ground can play havoc with your TVs all the way to your high-priced ATMs, VTMs, HVACs and change machines.

Sometimes your utility will have problems delivering consistent, quality power, in the form of surges and fluctuations. This can happen in a couple of ways: a lightning strike anywhere near your mat (no, a good ground wire will not be enough), or a tree knocks down power lines coming into your building.

Ask your distributor if your mat can benefit from a surge protection device, or SPD, at your main panel, usually installed by a licensed electrician, to protect your entire mat.

Keep in mind that SPDs can’t protect your equipment from brownouts.

CONTROL WATER TEMPERATURE

While you want your customers to be satisfied that your water is hot enough to clean their laundry well, water that is too hot can cause problems.

Unless your local codes force you to do otherwise, I would keep the hot water where it enters the washers at no more than 125 F.

Water hotter than this will cause premature failures of your hot water intake valves and hoses. Simply put, the hotter the water, the sooner your valves and hoses will fail.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion!