For golf course superintendents, a few best practices can save time, money and headaches. Proper equipment cleaning practices can prevent many time-consuming and costly repairs during the lifetime of mowers and other turf gear. 

“Equipment managers should really look at daily cleaning as part of preventative maintenance,” said Erik Sides, executive director of the Equipment and Engine Training Council (EETC). “By spending just a few minutes at the end of each day properly cleaning equipment, operators can actually save their facility money.”

The most common failures on a machine can almost always be traced back to water intrusion: relays, switches, coils, bearings and bushings. Some of this comes from normal operation in the rain, dew, etc., but many issues are the direct result of water and debris intrusion from cleaning. It’s typically not one improper cleaning session that causes issues. It’s usually a series of repeated events over time.

The two most common mistakes made when cleaning equipment is using too much water and using too much pressure. Excess water or pressure can force contaminants such as dirt, grass, and top-dressing sand into the bearings and bushings, thus causing premature wear on metal-to-metal contacts like lift arms and rollers. In the photo at right, a technician uses an air hose to clean sensitive areas.

Areas where grease has been washed away must be re-greased immediately to prevent wear and rust.

Serious damage can occur if water makes its way into electrical parts like the instrument panel, relays and switches. This can cause serious damage — especially if it’s reclaimed water, which can be very corrosive.

Other serious problems can arise if machines are cleaned when still hot. Spraying hot electrical coils with cold water shortens their life. Make sure all equipment has properly cooled before cleaning and never wash a running machine — water intrusion into the engine can cause it to seize up.

To help prevent water and debris intrusion when cleaning equipment, experts suggest using a ¾-inch or smaller hose and keep the PSI under 60. However, the best solution is to use compressed air. For facilities that don’t have air, backpack blowers work great. Ideally, you should use water on the rotary blades and reels and compressed air on everything else. Using a pressure washer is never recommended.

Rich Stuns, the equipment technician at Washington National Golf Club, offers this equipment maintenance advice. “We take good care of the equipment here,” said Stuns. “I think the guys take better care of it when it looks good. I will even wax the hoods as a final touch. I’ve found that my Jacobsen equipment will last forever if maintained properly. We make it harder for neighboring courses to get new equipment because they think everyone should get 12 years out of a mower.”

Rich Stuns stands next to a Jacobsen mower he maintainsStuns’ course, the Washington National Golf Club, is located outside of Seattle. Several pieces in Stuns’ fleet are more than 12 years old and have been in use more than 7,000 hours. In the photo at left, Stuns stands next to a Jacobsen fairway mower he maintains. 

By implementing some common-sense cleaning procedures, you can save time, money and headaches over the long run.

Adam Slick is public relations and communications manager at Charlotte, N.C.-based Jacobsen, makers of Jacobsen Turf Equipment.