GLENDALE, Ariz. — Unless you are a real hands-on operator, a lot of your equipment failures will come from one simple source: lack of maintenance. This month, I’m offering some repair and maintenance tips that cost little or nothing. Always remember to follow the manufacturer’s maintenance guidelines and take care not to do anything that could void the warranty.

Lint

The most common maintenance mistake is not cleaning out lint!

Lint is the enemy of Laundromats, clogging up dryer ducts and drain lines, as well as the stoves that heat up the dryers by changing the air/gas ratio. A lint buildup in your dryers can cause the airflow switch to not switch on the flames. This is an important safety issue to prevent a fire! The airflow switch is telling you that the air is slowing down to the point that a fire could erupt, so don’t disable it!

A layer of lint can insulate computer boards and cause them to overheat. Lint can cause havoc with any computer board, and nowadays, mats have lots of computer boards!

When I first started out in the business, I learned the danger of lint the hard way. I allowed a quarter-inch layer of lint to build up behind a row of dryers. A motor created a spark that ignited the lint. The fire took down half the mat. The feeling of standing inside your mat and seeing the sky is something one doesn’t forget!

So, make up a regular schedule for deep cleaning to remove lint.

Cost: Only your labor

Clogged AC Condensers

Have a problem with dryer exhaust lint clogging up your HVAC units on the roof? Wrap the condenser with a layer of a fine mesh screen designed to catch gnats. It’s fine enough to block lint (a regular window screen’s mesh is too porous) but air still flows through the coils. When lint starts to collect on the screen, just wipe or hose it off.

Cost: $20-40 for a roll

Drain Lines

Another common lint-related maintenance fail is not having a regular schedule to have your drain lines snaked (some call it rodded) out. This is especially true with cast iron drain lines. When you do have a line cleaned, make sure a double-sided scraper blade is used to scrape encrusted buildup off the pipes. Do this while running as much water through the drain as possible to wash down the crud.

If you did this once a year, I’d say you could eliminate as much as 90% of emergency water backups. You’ll get a better service price if it’s not an emergency situation.

Cost: The price of hiring a drain mechanic, or buying your own drain machine

Logbook

Keep a maintenance logbook that records every repair that requires a part. You can then spot trends, which helps you maintain a more efficient parts inventory of your parts. You can use a spiral notebook, or a note app on your smartphone.

Use a marker to write directly on the part the date it was installed and where you bought it. Do this in your logbook, too. Different parts suppliers offer different versions of the same part, some better than others. Keeping track of the source will help you identify who sold you a bad part.

Cost: None, or less than the price of one double-load wash

Swap Out Parts

If you’re not sure that a certain part is the cause of the issue you’re having, a common trick is to “swap it out” with the same part from a working machine. If the issue follows the part, then you nailed it.

Cost: Only your labor

Reduce Drain Blockages

Want to know how to dramatically cut down on clogs and obstructions in your drain lines? Very simple. Armed with a good flashlight, open the washer door and peer inside. Look down at the holes in the basket while pointing the light downward at the area where the tub drains the water. You’ll be able to see past the holes in the basket, similar to looking through a window screen. Many drain obstructions will hover over this tub drain opening for a couple of days, so inspect all your washers twice a week. Each look inside each drum takes only a couple of seconds.

Cost: Price of a flashlight and batteries

Check back Thursday for Part 2, including tips about water levels, temperature checks and more!