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.

Magnetize Your Screwdrivers

For those times when you’re working on equipment and handling screws, having a screwdriver with a magnetized tip can be a big help. Acquire a rare earth magnet and slide the screwdriver tip over it. Turn it around and slide the other side over the magnet. The screwdriver tip is now magnetized. The effect lasts six months to a year until you’ll need to do it again.

Cost: $10-15

Hose Screens

Rather than clean them one at a time, buy a box of new hose screens and just swap them out. You can save the old ones to clean, or just chuck ’em out.

I got so fed up with the debris New York City was pumping in our water supply, clogging up my screens all the time, I stopped using them. Yep! I decided I would try no screens to see what would happen. After a year, I had one water valve diaphragm (out of hundreds) that was chocked open by a chunk of iron. My crew simply shut off the washer until I got there. Another thing that happened: I never had to clean a hose screen again.

Cost: $20 for 100 SS hose screens, or nothing if you can remove them with no issues

Clearing a Top Load Tub Clog

If you have top loaders that have socks going over the side and clogging up the drain outlet, you can pull it out from the inside fairly easily.

Buy a small triple point fishhook and some line. Make sure you attach a small weight to the hook. Drop the fishhook over the basket, let it drop to the bottom of the tub, and then swing it around in a circle until you hook the sock.

Cost: Less than $5

Water Levels in Washers

Examine each washer’s water level, both high and low, because they go out of adjustment after a couple of years and you’ll see they have strayed from the original water levels you set. Some may be too high, wasting water, and some may be too low, causing customer complaints.

You can have your crew inspect the levels and mark them on the glass door with tape. Then you come to check them out and correct any machines that are off. Sometimes it’s just a loose air pressure hose.

Cost: None

Temperature Checks

Not sure of your dryer temperatures? Your water temperatures? Air conditioner, boiler or heaters? Get an infrared laser thermometer.

I’m not talking about the forehead body thermometer that’s flooding the market these days. Get one that’s rated “Not for Human.” Their only downside is they are not accurate on shiny, reflective surfaces. Two fixes for that is to either point the laser at a dark surface, or stick a piece of black tape on a shiny surface and wait a couple minutes for it to heat up.

Cost: Around $30

Diagnosing Electrical Issues

To accurately and safely diagnose electrical issues—and a lot of them come up in a mat—if you don’t have one in your toolbox, I highly recommend getting a multimeter and learning how to use it (there are how-to videos online). I’ve had a few over the years, and I like the clamp-on multimeters, but they are pricey.

Cost: As little as $12 for a decent regular multimeter

Voltage Detector Pen

To help you safely identify which circuits are live or not, consider a non-contact AC voltage-detector pen. It only detects if AC voltage is present, but the easy portability of having a pen handy to verify if a circuit is hot or not can save you some serious shocks. It’s very simple, it beeps and lights up when you place the tip close to a “hot” wire.

Cost: $15-$25

Computer Boards

These boards rely on micro voltages that can become disrupted because the voltage is too weak to push past slightly corroded terminals like line voltage can. Before you start swapping boards out, try removing the board’s electrical connectors to clean their terminals with a good electrical contact cleaner. Get one that doesn’t affect plastic. Always make sure you shut down the power before plugging or unplugging the connectors to avoid damaging the circuits.

Cost: Around $10

Check back Tuesday for the conclusion!

Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.