Keeping Grounds Maintenance Equipment in Top Shape

The City of Torrance, Calif., Fleet Services division discusses grounds maintenance equipment and emphasizes the importance of having close relationships with the user department.

September 2010, Government Fleet - Feature

by Thi Dao - Also by this author

The City of Torrance, Calif., Park Services Division relies on Fleet Services to maintain its 11 self-propelled riding mowers for use on the City's parks. Units include Rotary 580 Gang Mowers; Toro 52s; Toro zero-radius mowers for use around trees; John Deere mowers, including one with a flail attachment; and an Olathe sweeper.

For purchase, maintenance, and repair of grounds maintenance equipment, Fleet Services Manager Dave Winnett stresses the importance of a strong preventive maintenance (PM) schedule, having a specialized small equipment repair mechanic, and working closely with the user department.

Relying on User Input

According to Winnett, groundskeeping equipment purchases require more input from the user department than other vehicles or equipment.

"I encourage users to attend the trade shows, to go out and shop for themselves. Who knows better what they need to operate every day than the operator?" Winnett said.

John Najjar, small equipment repair mechanic, began working with Torrance Fleet Services nearly 20 years ago. He regulary interacts with operators and works closely with Park Services supervisors and managers in equipment purchases. 

Once an item becomes eligible for replacement, the department sends the equipment number or replacement model request to Fleet Services, which then handles the purchase.

Winnett noted, however, that equipment purchasing, especially for small pieces, doesn't always come through Fleet Services. The department will sometimes buy smaller items directly.

Perfecting the PM Schedule

Operators are responsible for daily equipment cleaning, and once a week, vehicles are washed and greased. When preventive maintenance or repairs are needed, Najjar steps in.

Grounds maintenance equipment is tracked through usage hours. The Toro Gang Mower 580, for example, shows up on the PM list every 16 weeks, having run an estimated 300 hours. Najjar performs an "A service" to make sure fluid levels are on target, no leaks exist, and safety features, such as brakes and lights, are working. The next time the equipment comes in for PM, a "B service" is performed, which includes "A service" checks and changing the motor oil, oil filter, and air filter. The type of PM service alternates, and once a year, Najjar performs a "C service," when all equipment fluids and filters are changed.

"We're really diligent about staying on PM and that's probably why we get such good service out of those pieces of equipment," said Winnett.

Besides PM and repair, familiarity with the quirks of certain units is essential. "An example is the extra effort the mechanic has to put in because of the Gang Mowers. Grass clippings end up getting sucked into the radiator and clog it up. That's a cleaning every week — you've got to pull that apart," said Jeff Cryderman, fleet services supervisor. "That's not part of the PM program, but it's something we've learned over the years. John's very diligent of staying on top of that."

The City's two Rotary 580 Gang Mowers are equipped with experimental diesel particulate filters (DPF) that, if successful, could become mandatory for off-road equipment. Najjar works with operators to ensure the mowers get regenerated when needed.

Maintenance issues that arise include changing cutting blades monthly, changing tires, and fixing worn-out hoses and parts that get hit and damaged. One of the more common problems is leakage of the Gang Mower's 45-gallon tank of hydraulic fluid. Najjar said units have built-in safety features that automatically shut off the engine when there are leaks, overheating, etc.

When major unit breakdowns occur, Najjar may estimate repair cost to determine whether it should be replaced.

A Rotary 580 Gang Mower is equipped with an experimental diesel particulate filter (DPF) that requires regenerating.

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