Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Repairing the soil extractor

May 16, 2012

For many detail operations, the soil extractor seems to be the most complicated equipment they operate, and it is one that does require regular maintenance and, at times, servicing. If one takes the time to understand the functioning of a soil extractor they will find that it is really not all that complicated, especially for anyone who has a semi-technical mindset.

The typical soil extractor today is powered by:

  •  A vacuum motor
  •  A pump
  •  An in-line heater

All of these items are located in an "easy-to-access" area of the extractor unit.

Vacuum motor: If the extractor is properly maintained and the users do not allow particles to get into the impellors of the motors it will last a very long time. If particles get in the motor, you can hear the sound of something in the motor, which means, it's time for a replacement. Over time, the motor will wear out and it is a very simple procedure to unscrew the motor, disconnect the wires and replace. It is a good idea to keep a spare motor on the shelf as a repair can be done in a matter of minutes and that way you won't have any downtime while waiting for the motor to come in.

Solution pump: Again, these pumps require very little maintenance and will last for quite a long time. With a pump, you have two choices: You can have a rebuild kit on the shelf, or you can replace the pump itself. Rebuilding the pump is somewhat more complicated and it takes more time, but it is not difficult for anyone who is capable of reading instructions. Replacing the pump is as simple as replacing the vacuum motor.

In-line heater: The in-line heater is also located in the same area as the vacuum motor and pump and is as easily accessible. Again, if properly maintained the in-line heater will last for a long time. One key preventative maintenance procedure that must be followed is running at least 1 gallon of vinegar water (1 cup of white vinegar to 1 gallon of water) through the heater. This will keep hard water minerals from clogging the solution channel. This needs to be done regularly anywhere from once or twice a month or even more than that. If you are in a hard water area like Nevada or Arizona, or your water source is on a well, you probably should do it at least once a week, or even more than that depending on the amount of dissolved solids in your water source. A way to virtually eliminate this maintenance procedure, and to improve the cleaning overall, is to use only distilled water in the machine. Or, if you use an extractor shampoo you will need to dilute it with distilled water, which should eliminate the need for this maintenance procedure.

A couple of other maintenance tips
If the heater stops heating it could be something as simple as the "thermostats" on the heater are tripping. It's an easy fix as there is usually a trip switch on the end of the heater that you can just reset and then you'll be back in business.

If this does not work, you will have to replace the thermostats, which should correct the problem.

One other item that will eventually require some servicing is the extractor nozzle valve. Either there will be something like a "grain of dirt" in the seal that will cause it to leak, or the seals will just simply wear out. In either case, you need to open the valve and clean it out to remove the particle of dirt causing the seal to leak, or you will need a rebuild kit for the valve.

There are other items on a soil extractor that can require maintenance such as fittings that leak, or vacuum hoses that split or are run over. Both of these issues are easily identified and can also be easily repaired.

As you can see from this example, equipment maintenance is not very difficult if you read the equipment manual, follow the instructions, follow the manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule and have a basic knowledge of how the equipment functions.