Extend the Life of Your Cable Machine

Manufacturers lend tips on how to keep one of your most essential drain cleaning tools in tip-top shape.
Extend the Life of Your Cable Machine
“Know your machine ... Don’t push it beyond its limits," says James Kruger, general manager at Gorlitz Sewer & Drain.

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You just got a brand-new cable machine for your drain cleaning work. How do you make it last as long as possible?

The short answer is, care and common sense. Following a few simple, sensible rules can help ensure that you get the most for your investment in a tool that is as essential for the professional drain cleaner as the Batmobile is to Batman or his Martin N-20 guitar is to Willie Nelson.

“If properly maintained, a cable machine can last as long as 10 years, depending on maintenance and how often it is used,” says Lori Troyer, marketing manager for Duracable Manufacturing.

Proper maintenance can make all the difference. “We have machines that are over 30 years old, and with proper maintenance and care they are just as good as a new machine,” says James Kruger, general manager at Gorlitz Sewer & Drain.

Rule No. 1
The first rule of thumb is follow the instructions.

“As with any tool, the machines should be operated per the manufacturer’s guidelines and maintained on a regular basis,” says Mark Speranza, vice president of sales at Electric Eel Mfg.

Regular replacement of the cable itself is simply a fact of life. Typically, cables will last three to six months on average, Kruger and Troyer agree. Regular cleaning and lubrication will extend cable life, Speranza notes. And dry that cable thoroughly after use so it doesn’t rust.

“Cables and their attachments such as blades or cutters can last days to months depending on what they encounter within the sewer,” Kruger says. Operator care can also make a difference, he adds: “An improperly installed blade can be lost the first time used.”

Kruger lists caustic drain cleaning chemicals and offset or broken pipes as among the most common sources of damage for cable equipment. Another is operator misuse — fitting it with the wrong cable for the size of pipe being cleaned or forcing a cable beyond its normal working conditions.

“Know your machine. Don’t push it beyond its limits,” says Kruger. And while you’re at it, don’t push your operators beyond their limits, either. Use a foot switch for safety, and never run the machine itself in standing water; that’s an electrical hazard.

Storage and transportation
Quite simply, don’t take short cuts. Secure the machine in your service vehicle while in transit, Speranza advises. Avoid exposing it to the elements. Store the foot pedal and the GFCI electrical cord so they aren’t damaged.

A large machine should be broken down, with the cable reel detached while being transported. “This puts less stress on the frame of the machine and, most importantly, puts less stress on the operator moving the equipment to help reduce the chance of injury,” Troyer says.

And when you unload the machine to put it to work, don’t be lazy. “Many times the life of a machine is shortened because the operator drops the machine and breaks or bends the frame,” Troyer says. Use the stair climbers or gliders. Don’t bounce the machine down the basement stairs; that will just damage the frame.

When you’re ready to pack it away, drain the reel thoroughly of any water to prevent rusting the cable and the reel.

Regular maintenance
Also, read the manual and follow the maintenance schedule. “Neglect will shorten the life of any machine,” Speranza says.

Some bad maintenance practices are sins of omission — failing to keep the cable lubricated, for example. Others, though, are sins of commission. For instance, Kruger warns that if a cable is kinked you should never try to cut out the kinked stretch and splice it.

Check power cords and GFCI cords, Speranza notes. Replace belts and grease components as needed. Duracable recommends regular lubrication of the head bearings, reel shaft and bearings, Troyer says.

And at the risk of being obvious, make sure the machine is turned off and unplugged first, so the operator doesn’t get hurt.

Kruger finds a lot of good advice for operating and maintaining sewer cleaning equipment, including cable machines, in The Professional Handbook, Drain and Sewer Cleaners, by Ernest L. Weber and published by the International Institute of Sewer & Pipe Cleaning.

Or if you want to keep it even simpler, consider these words of advice from Speranza: “Operate it correctly, maintain it according to instructions, treat the machine as your own, and use common sense.”



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