Maintaining Your Vacuum Truck

Just like maintenance on your car, maintenance on your vacuum truck can save you money in the long run and keep your truck running for longer.

“With reductions in fleet sizes and a noticeable trend toward leasing and seasonal rentals, the vacuum truck you own represents an important investment that must be protected and maintained to provide years of dependable performance,” says Andy Current, technical information supervisor at Vactor Manufacturing.

Current suggests the following items be reviewed daily for reliable and proper operation to prolong the life of your truck:
• Perform a walk around your truck to verify all items are properly secured for travel.
• Under the hood: check all fluids, belts and hoses. Fill fuel tanks.
• Check all lights including brake and running.
• Check tire pressure and condition.
• Fill diesel exhaust fluid tank if equipped.
• Check brakes, driving and parking.
• Drain air tank(s) and check air dryer system.
• Wheel chocks should be available on the unit.
• Verify all safety decals are in place and legible.
• All safety equipment should be with the unit, including a safety tee if required.
• All drain plugs should be left open to keep residual water from the tanks from migrating to the system during transport. Leave all valves open, Y-strainers out and drain plugs out when the unit will sit overnight or longer. This will allow any residual water to drain.
• Check all hydraulic and electrical functions for proper operation.
• Verify the correct operation of all manual and automatic vacuum relief valves.
• Check all micro-strainers and strainer baskets as equipped.
• Verify all drains have been drained and all drain caps are with the unit.
• Check filters if equipped. Replace any that have excessive build up.
• Verify ground bonding cable.
• Verify that all blower, transfer case, pump and gearbox fluid levels are correct.

Additional maintenance tips for a vacuum truck include:

Driveline Service
Driveline components installed by Vactor all require bolt, nut and torque specifications. Chassis manufacturers may use other bolt, nut and torque configurations in the chassis drivelines. Some transfer cases are installed by the chassis manufacturer. Follow chassis manufacturer specifications for bolt, nut and torque when provided. Use only recommended and approved components and torque specified by Vactor or by the chassis manufacturer for service work.

Rear Door—Seal
Regularly clean the door, especially the door seal, and lubricate the hinges. The door seal should be cleaned each time the debris body is dumped. The rear door seal provides an airtight seal for the debris body. It is important to keep the seal clean and in good condition. Inspect the seal after each dump and replace if damaged or worn. The seal can be replaced on the vehicle or the door may be removed and placed on supports with the seal channel facing up.

Butterfly Valve Adjustment
A variety of air and hydraulic actuated butterfly style valves from a number of different manufacturers are used. A butterfly valve rotates a disc in the material flow to open and closed positions. The valves are normally actuated by switches or automatically by the system controls.

During servicing, or use, an inadvertent actuation could result in an injury from the moving parts. The valves can still remain active when not installed, unless the air or hydraulic lines are disconnected and all safety precautions followed.

Do not allow tools, arms, hands etc. in the butterfly areas as serious injury may occur. Shut down all systems and de-energize or disconnect the air or hydraulic system to the valve before servicing.

Improperly adjusted valves can cause actuator damage or disc bolt fatigue and failure. Valves should open and close smoothly. Butterfly pneumatic actuators are designed to allow adjustment without the removal of the actuator end caps. Typically there is a jam nut located on each end of the actuator in the center of the end cap. Newer style butterfly valves have the adjuster bolt on the side of the actuator. One adjuster controls the closed position and the other the open position.

Air Operated Vacuum Relief Valve
The air operated vacuum relief valve is used to relieve the system if the vacuum hose, debris body or inlet filter become plugged or restricted. These valves are on all blower units. The valves are normally operated from the master control panel, pendant or optional wireless remote. Proper operation should be verified daily by verifying under vacuum. Actual location size and configuration of the valve varies by the model and options. Typical location is in the inlet piping of the blower.

Vacuum relief valves require regular inspection and periodic cleaning. Develop a regular program of visual inspection, looking for clogged drains and discharge pipe, dirt buildup in and around the valve seat, and broken or missing parts. Keep the valve and the area around the valve clean and free of any foreign material or substance.

Blower—Automatic Relief Valve
The automatic relief valves protect the blower if the vacuum hose, debris body or inlet filter become plugged or restricted. These valves are on all units with 15 – 18 in-hg systems. The valves open at a preset vacuum level and allow the blower to draw air through the valve openings. Proper operation should be verified daily by temporarily blocking off the vacuum hose and observing that the valve whistles at the unit’s rated vacuum level.

Vacuum Hoses, Tubes and Fittings
Inspect all vacuum hoses, tubes and connectors before each use. Leaks reduce vacuum efficiency and may result in spills.

Always use the correct hose clamp for the hose. Vactor recommends common cream type hand cleaner as a lubricant to assemble hose to the fittings. Do not use grease as it may allow the hose to pull off the fitting much easier. Route hose away from other work to avoid damage. Verify that the hose is suitable for the material and temperatures being vacuumed. Store hose in a cool, dry, dark and clean place. Confirm that all electrical connections are good for proper static protection.

Vacuum Line Routing
Generally, the shorter the run, the better. Large easy curves reduce wear on the hose. Eliminate unnecessary bends or turns. Remove as much corrugated hose as possible as it lessens vacuum efficiency. Use as short and direct a route as possible. Rotating the hose regularly will also increase the usable life. The hose run should be well supported without any large sags when crossing open areas.

Hose and tube assemblies are not intended to support their weight on vertical drops or runs up. Rope or other supports should be provided to support the run. In operation, the added weight of the material being vacuumed along with the hose and tubes can pull connections and hoses apart.

Do It Yourself?
While many municipal buyers and private contractors are doing more of their own equipment maintenance in-house, specialized equipment like sewer cleaner trucks occasionally require specialists to address certain maintenance issues. Taking your sewer cleaner to an experienced dealer may also save you time and money in the long run.

Full-service maintenance plans that offer scheduled maintenance conducted by the dealer’s specialist technicians are strongly recommended. This type of maintenance contract has several advantages, including the flexibility to plan and control expenditures; improved cash flow; optimum use of your sewer cleaner; and reduced operating costs. Machines that have been on a routine maintenance program also command a much higher resale value. As the saying goes, “Pay me now (for maintenance) or pay me later (for a reduced trade-in value).”

Also, it is strongly recommended that you take full advantage of the training provided by your dealer and manufacturer, including operator, safety and maintenance training. Your dealer should provide operator and maintenance training at the time of delivery of your sewer cleaner. This is your time to ask all the questions and get a solid understanding of machine operation and maintenance issues. An ongoing commitment to training is a great way to keep productivity high and ensure optimum resale values.

Paying attention to the sound and feel of the sewer cleaner during operation is crucial. Early problem-detection not only protects your machine’s resale value, it can significantly reduce the cost of the repair and any associated downtime.

Your sewer cleaner operator’s manual should be read cover-to-cover by all of your operators. The manual should be kept in the truck at all times. Periodically review the manual with all operators to refresh their knowledge.

These steps will not only help to prolong the life of your vacuum truck, but also help maintain its value.

Story by Andy Current and Jennifer Taylor

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