Professional Carwashing & Detailing

If it's broke, fix it

Maintaining and repairing equipment will keep it running properly and save you money.

May 8, 2012

As a consumer we are influenced to believe when something is no longer operating properly, or is broken, we should just throw it away and purchase a replacement.

In the detail business, that is an okay philosophy with inexpensive items like spray bottles, towels, buffing pads, brushes, etc. However, it can be a financially disastrous approach for equipment such as vacuums, buffers, pressure washers or soil extractors.

With costs as they are today, major purchases are difficult to justify for many detail operations, so the practical approach of maintaining and repairing existing equipment will save money, and, in some cases, keep workers productive as they can make the repairs. As well, you can continue to provide the level of detail service your customers demand.

It is estimated that repairing existing equipment will cost about 50 percent less than buying new equipment; however, fixing broken equipment is not always the best approach.

You must research the cost of repairing and then determine how much more additional life you are going to get versus buying a new one.

In many cases, the cost of repairing old equipment will not justify the expense; it is more practical to buy new.

Hold on to what you can

Talk to any old timer in the detail business and you will hear the phrase, "They just don't make them like they used to."

Okay to toss

Actually, you will probably hear that from any business owner in just about any industry.

There are old pressure washers around that, if you can get the parts, are as good as, if not better than some of today's "low end" models that you can get from the big box stores like Home Depot, Lowe's, Costco or Sam's Club.

Most detail equipment including vacuums, buffers, pressure washers and soil extractors have an expected lifespan, and because not every piece of equipment will last forever, the more expensive items are often better candidates for repair.

The typical life spans of common detail equipment are:

  • Vacuum cleaners: 1-3 years
  • Soil extractors: 3-5 years
  • Buffers: 3-5 years
  • Pressure Washers: 5-8 years

Remember: nothing is indestructible, but if you take care of the equipment and do proper maintenance, it will last well beyond its expected life.

Of course, you have to remember that the opposite is also true.

Now what should you do?

So, you agree it is a wise decision to get a few more years of operation out of your existing equipment, especially with the more expensive items.

Your next thing to determine is who is going to do the repairs?

Okay to repair

While some detail operations have a person who can do repairs, or the owner can do it themselves, many have no one to do it and/or can't do it themselves.

Actually, most detail equipment can be repaired if the owner or one of their more mechanically inclined people will read the instruction manual and call the tech department of the manufacturer.

Factory authorized repair

If you simply cannot or do not want to make repairs yourself, then you have to contact the manufacturer to find a local repair company in your area.

You will find in the long run that having your equipment repaired by qualified personnel provides you with a timely turnaround and documentation that the work was performed properly.

Example: Repairing the soil extractor

Also, professional repair services come with some form of a warranty for the work performed which is a good protection for you.

Getting long life out of equipment

Keep in mind that it will cost less to repair equipment than to replace it. But it is still an operating expense that every detail business owner would more probably like to avoid.

That is easy to do. Just read the manual and follow the manufacturer's recommendations for daily and weekly maintenance.

For example, on vacuums and soil extractors:

  • Turn off and empty recovery tanks when full because overfilling the recovery tank can lead to motor failure.
  • Turn them off when the solution tank is empty because continuing to operate can damage the pump and in-line heater.
  • Always clean out the vacuum and soil extractor recovery tank and store them properly.
  • Always remember to check electrical cords daily to make sure they are in good repair.
  • Wipe your equipment down every day. This not only keeps it looking better, but it also allows you to spot a potential problem.
  • Deal with a problem immediately.
  • And, never, ever operate equipment that has any kind of problem.

Effective strategies that will save you money

If the cost of the piece of equipment you are repairing is 75 percent or less of what it would cost to purchase a new one, then it makes financial sense to repair it.

And here's another thought: If you can get one or two years of trouble free service out of the equipment after the repair, then it is definitely better to repair it.

Every situation is different, of course, and depending on your available funds, you may have the ability to purchase new equipment more frequently than another detail business.