Just like your trucks, your mowers and your tools, sprayers and spreaders need regular maintenance. Without it, your applications can get sloppy, or even deadly for lawns. Hoppers and hoses need to be flushed to prevent corrosion, oil and filters need to be changed and parts need to be replaced.
To make sure your crews have equipment that’s functioning at its best, maintenance and repairs are part of the equation.
Make it a routine.
The best way to make sure you don’t run into unwanted surprises is to prevent problems before they pop up. “Every day, we flush out the systems to make sure we’re not leaving anything overnight,” says Mark Roth, owner of Roth Lawn Care in Colmar, New Jersey.
Every week, his crews take apart their nozzles and make sure nothing has gotten stuck inside. Everything is flushed out and then put back together. At Sanders Brothers Landscaping in Davie, Florida, this is done twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Maintenance also helps prevent issues like over or under application on customers’ lawns. Low tire pressure, creaking diaphragms and clogged hoses or nozzles mean equipment isn’t making an even application. That can lead to costly callbacks and wasted product.
“We replace nozzles every year,” says Allen Sanders, operations manager at Sanders Brothers. “We keep spares around just in case, but we make it a point to put new ones on at the beginning of every season just so we don’t have to worry about it and we know we’re doing it right from the get-go. We don’t want new customers to have a bad experience at the first visit.”
“It’s easy to miss things when you’re trying to get to the next job or go home at the end of the day.” Allen Sanders, Sanders Brothers Landscaping
Train your crews.
At Roth Lawn Care, crew members are responsible for checking their own equipment at the end of the day and reporting any issues to their foreman. After equipment makes it back to the garage, it’s up to the individual employees to give everything a once-over before they head home for the day.
“We try to get them into the mindset that it’s part of their routine,” Roth says. “It’s not time to go home until everything is checked out and cleaned up.”
At Sanders Brothers, crews fill out a form when something is broken or needs to be replaced. Crew members hand them in at the end of the day and equipment is serviced the following morning before roll out. He keeps extra parts for all of his equipment, not just spreaders and sprayers, so that there’s no time wasted waiting for an order to come in or heading out to pick up missing pieces.
“I don’t want guys wasting time running errands,” Sanders says. “What should be a five-minute run to grab something ends up turning into a guy being gone for a half-hour most of the time.”
End of the year.
Before you stow your spreaders and sprayers, make sure you’re setting them up for success the next year. Step one is to empty your sprayer or spreader of all product and dispose of the chemicals properly, according to the label.
Then, be sure to rinse the sprayer or spreader thoroughly to make sure no chemical materials are left in the hoses or the tank. Sanders recommends adding a cleaning solution like a detergent to the tank and shaking it to remove any trace of chemicals.
“You don’t want any of that left over the winter,” Roth says. “You want it completely clean and dry so you don’t have any surprises when you go to use it again.”
Be sure to check the manufacturer’s recommendations or talk to your dealer about the best ways to clean, Sanders says. You’ll also want to make sure that equipment is completely dry to prevent rusting.
Then be sure to check for cracked or leaking hoses or loose seals. “We do check throughout the year too, but it’s always good to give a once-over at the end of the year,” Sanders says. “It’s easy to miss things when you’re trying to get to the next job or go home at the end of the day.”