CHICAGO — Offering fully functioning washers and dryers consistently is a key to any successful self-service laundry operation, which means performing regular preventive maintenance (PM) and making swift repairs have to be a priority for the store owner.
For a recent “Equipment Maintenance 101” webinar, the Coin Laundry Association (CLA) invited a panel of three experts to weigh in on the topic of troubleshooting and simple repairs.
Russ Arbuckle is president of distributor Wholesale Commercial Laundry Equipment S.E., based in Southside, Ala. The 32-year industry veteran got his start as a service technician for a small parts and service company servicing primarily household laundry equipment before transitioning to commercial and industrial machines. He owns four laundromats ranging in size from 2,400 to 5,000 square feet.
Ken Barrett owns five Washin’ laundromats in east-central Alabama. Before he joined the laundry industry, the multi-store owner worked in automotive industrial robotics.
Dan Marrazzo is a multi-store owner of several Laundry Depot laundromats in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and has decades of experience in residential and commercial construction. He has owned and managed several residential, commercial and industrial properties, including two 35,000-square-foot shopping centers.
TIPS OR SHORTCUTS
Marrazzo was asked if he could share his favorite PM tips or shortcuts:
Lint screen drawers — “Those screens oughta be on a PM routine because oftentimes the attendant in your store wipes them out with a heavy hand. They’ll tear them. They get ripped from time to time. … When you pull the whole drawer out, sometimes they don’t go all the way back in again. There’s a gap in the front, maybe three-quarters of an inch. Oftentimes it’s a bunch of lint that got driven to the back as you go.
“We carry around a 1-inch, thin metal bar that we bend in the shape of an L. We pull the drawer out, slide that (bar) in and go along the back edge. That pulls all the garbage out that the drawer is hitting instead of closing on.”
Fill valves — “When you have water valves that are trying to fill, oftentimes it’s in a machine that’s in the center of the store, where you have to crawl in the back and try and get the valve out. Oftentimes, if you’ve got something to pop the (washer) top off with, you can get a pair of vice grips that are good for metal … (and) squeeze the hose. You can undo it, flip it over the pipe, change the valve, put the hose back on and take the vice grips off. You’re not going behind machinery, tripping over drains, breaking things. That saves a lot of steps.”
DIY OR CALL FOR ASSISTANCE?
“From a repair standpoint, if they don’t know how to use a multimeter and/or can’t read a wiring diagram or a schematic, I wouldn’t suggest that they get heavily involved in doing a lot of electrical troubleshooting,” Arbuckle says of new laundromat owners. “Most of the mechanical stuff, if they know which end of the screwdriver to hold and they know what a pair of channel locks (pliers) looks like, they’ll probably be fine with most of it.”
But there are owners who prefer to have their distributors do 100% of their maintenance, and it’s the best situation for them, Barrett says. And there are times when a store owner will hire someone as a service technician dedicated to their operation.
“I did all my own maintenance for far too long, up until a couple of years ago,” he says. “Then I finally got a guy who had some decent abilities and really wanted to learn it. He works for me three days a week, comes in Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. If I got nothing for him, I tell him not to come in, and he’s OK with that.”
When not working on equipment, this employee fixes trim, paints, and performs a number of tasks unrelated to equipment that keeps Barrett’s stores fresh and updated.
To learn about vended laundry equipment maintenance and repairs, YouTube offers plenty of how-to videos, and don’t forget to take advantage of your distributor’s service schools when they’re offered.
If an equipment problem develops that has you stumped, contact the manufacturer for technical support.
“If you’re calling in to them, have your multimeter ready and have your earbuds in, because they’re going to start talking you through what to check here and there,” Barrett says. “Every time I’ve called in, they were very helpful. … But you’ve got to be ready to give them the feedback they’re asking for.”
“One of the best things you can do is understand what (the equipment is) supposed to be doing and then figure out what it’s not doing,” Arbuckle says. “If you approach it that way, it points you in the direction of wherever the malfunctioning part is. Understand what the machine should be doing at specific points of the cycle and if it’s not doing that, we can work on trying to figure out why. Don’t just change parts.”
Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.
The Coin Laundry Association frequently offers webinars that cover topics such as marketing, store operations and management, and new investor education. Visit the CLA website to learn more.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected] .