Maintaining a Seamless Gutter Machine
Proper operation of a seamless gutter machine—and a long machine life—is highly dependent on regular maintenance and care given to the machine. All the machine manufacturers will tell you a machine can last 20, 25, or 30 years, perhaps even more. A few older firms will say a few of their machines have operated for more than 40 years. But you will also hear that the life of a machine is more dependent on the owner and operators and the way they treat a machine than on what the manufacturer did in designing, building, and testing the machine
In the opinion of at least one machine manufacturer, the most successful gutter companies use an enclosed trailer, van, or truck to transport their gutter machines. Why does this make such a difference? Because it keeps your machine clean and dry. Dirt, debris, and the direct effects of weather can prematurely age your machine and turn a valuable asset into a sad piece of junk. So, how successful do you want to be?
In order to protect your investment and assure proper and timely operation of your machine at the jobsite, you should develop a plan for maintenance, inspection, and cleaning of the gutter machine. Implementation of this plan will require the involvement and participation of the machine operators as well as the individual tasked with lubrication, inspection, and cleaning of the machine.
Each day, before operating the machine, the operator should inspect the electrical components and wiring. Look for loose wires or components, discoloration that might indicate overheating, or any other signs of damage. While performing this inspection also look for any dust, dirt, or debris inside the machine. If any is detected, it should be removed before commencing operations.
Lubricate the shear blade daily with the recommended lubricant. Often this will be one that contains Teflon or silicone. Avoid overspray on parts where it doesn’t belong. Lubricate the other parts of the shear mechanism WEEKLY with oil (sometimes SAE-90 non-detergent oil is recommended, other manufacturers recommend chain oil).
Lubricate the drive chain MONTHLY with a recommended lubricant (maybe motorcycle, farm, or industrial chain oil). Check the tension of the chain. Adjust it if necessary.
Most machine manufacturers object to the use of WD-40 as a lubricant. It is intended more as a penetrant, and has the effect of removing oil or grease from the parts. Check your operating manual and follow the recommendations of the machine’s manufacturer.
A thorough cleaning of the machine should be done regularly. Be sure the machine is turned off and disconnected from the electric power source while you are performing the cleaning. A monthly cleaning is considered optimum by some machine manufacturers. Remove any dust, dirt, or debris from inside the machine. This can be done with compressed air or a vacuum hose. If compressed air is used, avoid blowing dirt or debris onto moving parts or the motor.
Some manufacturers suggest using a pressure washer. If this technique is used care must be taken to avoid spraying the pressure wash on or in electrical boxes or components.
Empty the shear chip bin. Be careful not to spill any chips or debris inside the machine. Look for any sign of burrs, chips, or buildup on the guides and rollers. If buildup is present, clean the parts using the recommended solvent on a soft, clean rag. The solvent should be one that will not leave any residue on the parts. Acetone, paint thinner, or lacquer thinner are often recommended—check your operating manual.
REMOVING RESIDUE BUILDUP
If cleaning with solvent and a rag does not remove any marks, burrs or buildup, try to remove them by lightly sanding the part with fine Emery cloth. Polish out any remaining marks with a Scotch Brite pad.
Keep covers and safety panels closed except when working on the machine. Never have the panels open when running gutter.
ABOVE ALL, PROTECT THE MACHINE FROM DIRT, DUST, WORK SITE DEBRIS AND FOREIGN OBJECTS OF EVERY KIND.
In just a few seconds a nail or screw can be pulled through your machine, inflicting $1,000 of damage or more. How many jobs do you have to complete to earn $1,000 of profit to pay for the repairs?
STORING YOUR MACHINE
If you will not be using the gutter machine for 30 days or more, store it in a well-protected area (preferably indoors). Make a plan to run it for a few minutes every week, just to keep the lubricants on the bearings and chains smoothly distributed. This gives better protection against any rust or corrosion.
MACHINE ADJUSTMENTS AND REPAIRS
Incorrect alignment of the material in the machine is cited as the most common cause of incorrectly formed gutter. The machine was carefully aligned at the factory. Technicians from the factory or from a dealer are available to make alignments and corrections when required. Because this is something they do regularly, they are skilled in making such adjustments.
Although the proper adjustment technique is complicated and involves many steps, some manufacturers recommend that someone in the company be trained to make these adjustments. This may merely serve as an emergency backup to outside service personnel, or the owner may elect to undertake the alignments when they are needed. It is generally recommended that, after learning to make such adjustments, you will be better off to alter the adjustments as infrequently as possible. The tendency to tinker with the adjustments often creates more problems than it solves.