When a machine stops working, which is inevitable, even with routine maintenance, facility cleaning managers must decide how to avoid downtime. They may also need to make a tough call on repairing versus replacing.

Some facilities have in-house maintenance departments capable of doing extensive repair work on vacuums and extractors. Facility cleaning managers should always ask about this option rather than automatically shipping the machine to the distributor’s repair shop. Sending out a machine may involve significant cost — from delivery charges to labor fees.

If in-house repairs aren’t an option, the next course of action is to reach out to a distributor rep. They should be able to get the ball rolling on getting an estimate for replacement parts or repair fees. They may also be able to provide a comparable loaner to keep the crew working while the machine is in the shop.

When the bill is sizable, the rep can also help weigh the pros and cons of repair versus replacement. Distributors agree that it’s pretty easy to decide what to do when the motor dies on a 5-year-old vacuum or when a brush must be replaced on an almost-new extractor. The picture may be less clear, however, when a department has already sunk $1,500 into repairs on a 3-year-old extractor and now it needs new batteries for $2,000.

In fact, the distributor rep should play a proactive role in the entire maintenance process. If they are doing their job well, they can actually help delay the repair versus replace conversation for as long as possible.

“We know our customers, and it’s up to us to mention that it’s time to check the equipment,” Allen says. “In the end, the best thing we can do as distributor reps is help our customer stay on top of maintenance.”

After all, it’s the small day-in-and-day-out maintenance work that most affects the lifespan of carpet care equipment.

“It’s the simple things that cause the biggest problems,” Cadell says. “Everybody thinks it’s big problems causing the issues, but more than 95 percent of our service records could be solved by something as simple as changing a bag or cleaning jet valves.” 

BECKY MOLLENKAMP is a freelance writer based in St. Louis, Missouri.