Tech Talk: How Do You Handle Equipment Breaks While on a Job?

Jason Elquest
Equipment breakdowns never happen at a good time. It is always in the middle of a project. Over the years, we have become pretty resourceful and successful in squeezing every ounce of life out of a tool. I don’t recommend nor am I proud of some of the things we have done. Do as I say, not as I do, right? Now, we have extra tools in reserve. As a tool goes down, we replace it with a tool that has been repaired and is waiting for its turn to come back into the lineup. We then immediately repair the broken tool or have it repaired. We have found that the downtime spent on waiting for a part or for a tool to be fixed, costs us more than the spare piece of equipment.

Michael Dittmer
After working on the job for more than 30 years, we have learned just to figure it out. We have had to rewire vacuum cleaners, plugs, edger cords, and big machine fuses.

First, we see what other equipment on the job we have that is compatible with the broken one. So we can replace a cable from the broken machine with a cable from a machine that works. We always have a roll of black tape on hand to fix any electrical connection. I usually have an extra pair of edger motor brushes in my tool bag in case that’s the issue.

Above all else, I have attended numerous repair training sessions so that I know how to fix my equipment quickly. I try and read the owner’s manuals to see how to maintain equipment. Researching on YouTube has also been helpful in some cases to see how to repair the equipment. Many times in the shop, I take apart broken equipment and make repairs there, and that helps me to repair things when they break on the job.

Lenny Hall
As much as you try to prevent tool and equipment breakdowns, you have to be ready for it by a variety of means. Especially if you are a one-person shop. Having an apprentice or other crews softens the blow a little, but it still is inconvenient. We keep a stock of odds and ends on our trucks for the more straightforward repairs and look for options to repair things on site. Whether it be duct taping a stapled air hose, using electrical tape on an exposed wire, or making an 80-foot big machine cable and new pigtail from the former 90-footer that just got run over. The fun and ingenuity never end!

Besides having a small assortment of electrical and pneumatic parts, it’s a good idea to establish a redundancy in small- to medium-sized equipment on the trucks. Carrying a spare floor nailer, extra hoses and cables, an extra trowel, and even blades (that is my biggest pet peeve – not using sharp blades). Our trucks carry three blades for each cutting tool: one on the machine, spare #1 and spare #2. As the blade is changed, the spare #1 goes on and there is still a backup should damage occur.

Larger equipment like chop saws, band saws, big machines, edgers, compressors, etc., are handled by swapping with a fleet of redundant (older) pieces at the shop until the newer one can be repaired and put back on the road. It just happened recently when two buffers broke on two different jobsites. One the handle lock snapped and the other was the capacitor. Both jobsites were down for no more than an hour. One crew called another to grab a buffer they weren’t using, while the other instance the apprentice drove back to the shop to return the down unit and grab another.

It may seem like it costs more money to have the extra tools and equipment laying around not being used, but it can cost lots more in money, morale, and client experience to be down and unproductive on their jobsite for an extended time.

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