Keep Brushes Clean, Look for Damage to Maintain Brush Sweeping

Maintenance. Anyone who wants to keep something moving or working properly needs to get with the program—a maintenance program, that is. Think about it: brushing your teeth, rotating your car tires, even walking the dog; it all is part of keeping things moving: your mouth, your car, your pet. Stop doing it, and everything comes to a standstill.
The same is true for keeping brush sweepers working in tip-top shape. Maintenance can be easy to ignore. However, almost nothing costs as little but carries as large a payoff as keeping up with routine maintenance.
The biggest sweeper and brush manufacturers and users in the country have plenty of suggestions for how their customers can get the most out of their brushes and brush sweeper components. After all, municipal operators and private owners alike know that these machines are pricey. No one can—or should—think they can take a shortcut when it comes to keeping their machines and components functioning well.
“I tell people that sweepers that use brushes by far have a lot more moving parts on them and all [of] those moving parts are trying to move back against the ground and the dirt they are picking up,” explained Brian Giles of Elgin Sweepers in Elgin, Illinois.  Elgin is a major player in the sweeper industry, with products such as the Whirlwind, Broom Bear, and Pelican sweepers.
“The importance of maintenance is [that] each piece needs to work for every piece to work. Daily cleaning and lubrication is so important, and everything has to be adjusted properly. Keep them clean, lubricated, and working together,” Giles said. Attention to detail is vital to ensure the machines with brooms are working well.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone past a construction site or a maintenance area [where they] are using a mechanical sweeper that is not working efficiently or not keeping up with the program,” Giles said. In all likelihood, the problem is a maintenance issue. By going over the machine daily—cleaning, lubricating, and adjusting the brooms—the operator will have cleaner streets and less downtime. In short, the machines will keep moving and doing it well.
United Rotary Brush of Lenexa, Kansas, is one of the leading suppliers of brushes to the sweeping industry. The company has more than eighty years of combined experience in rotary broom and brush design and manufacturing. United Rotary Brush uses environmentally friendly manufacturing for its brushes and brooms. An example is its SmartSweep line of brooms, which are fully recyclable.
Perry Stenzel, of United Rotary Brush, explained that how the brush is maintained and how it is used on the sweeper are both key to keeping the components working efficiently.
“Improper maintenance will result in the life of the broom being decreased. Improper maintenance also does not allow the broom to sweep as well as it could, resulting in streaking and trailing of the debris,” he said.
Those responsible for maintaining brooms on street sweepers need to keep several things in mind, according to Stenzel. Here they are:
Down Pressure. Downward pressure can actually decrease broom life up to ninety-five percent.
“A broom sweeps with the tips of its bristles. When too much pressure is applied, the broom is no longer using its tips. The broom is now working with the sides of the bristles. This limits the flicking action of the bristles, limits its sweeping effectiveness, and shortens the life of the broom,” according to the company.
How do you check if the down pressure is correct? Operate the broom on the ground and rotate at normal operating speed with the machine remaining stationary. Then stop and lift the sweeping assembly. The correct sweeping patch of a properly adjusted broom will clear a two-inch to four-inch pattern.
Broom Wear.  Check the broom level adjustment daily to ensure even, side-to-side broom wear and to extend the life of the broom.  With normal bristle wear, ten to twenty percent of the tips wear down, and bristles are cleanly and evenly worn. Heavy broom wear shows a thirty-five to forty percent tip wear, and the bristles are worn along the side. Signs of abusive wear are frayed tips and bristles that have a “chewed” look.
Slow Down. “If your travel speed is too fast, the debris piles up in front of the broom, causing you to bulldoze instead of sweep. This can damage not only the broom but also the core, chains, sprockets, drive lines, and frame,” according to United Rotary Brush. “Plowing produces side thrust and excessive stress on the broom, core, and frame. While operating under the plow effect, the bristles are flexed against the steel ring that holds the bristles, which could result in broom failure.”
Broom Replacement. It is time to replace your broom when the filament length reaches ½ of the original outside diameter measurement.
Schwarze Industries, Inc. of Huntsville, Ala., manufactures more parking lot and street sweepers than any other company. The company has recently introduced its Canbus M6000, a system that decreases downtime by increasing diagnostic capabilities. The system eliminates more than fifty percent of its hydraulic hoses and electrical wiring on its machines, which allows the maintenance trouble-shooting to be conducted at key diagnostic points throughout the equipment. With its Human Machine Interface (HMI or Monitor), Schwarze is able to provide key warning indicators and diagnostic resources at a reduced cost and at a moment’s notice.
That said, the folks at Schwarze want to make sure that the people who buy their high-quality machines maintain the brush and broom sweepers, because so much of how they work depends on the quality of the moving parts.
Joe Hendrickson is Product Manager at Schwarze Industries. “A job can only be done as well as the tool that you are working with enables you to do that job. Maintaining your equipment ensures the quality of your work and longevity of your equipment with reduced, unplanned downtime,” he explained. “Both of these items equal productivity, which, in turn, equals money.
“A mechanical sweeper does not have the abrasive characteristics created by the velocity of a regenerative air sweeper. With a broom and dust pan design, the maintenance has to be focused on its moving parts, hydraulic components, and electronic controls. There are two key ways to do this: first, follow a strict preventative maintenance schedule, and second, eliminate contaminants,” Hendrickson explained.
At Schwarze, each of its twelve models of street sweepers comes with a preventative maintenance schedule that is based on hours of operation. For example, the company suggests a daily safety and maintenance inspection.
“Common items to check would be broom length and contact pattern, elevator tension, and cleanliness, chassis, and sweeper lighting functionality, etc.,” Hendrickson said.
Once the equipment has left the yard, it is up to the operator to use his eyes and ears to identify problems before they happen. “An operator needs to be aware of different noises from the engine, non-functioning brooms, and material that is not being picked up,” he said. “There are also numerous options manufacturers can provide for indicator lights and alarms to warn the operator of a problem such as the main broom stalling, low hydraulic levels, or an elevator jam,” he said.
Problems need to be dealt with quickly. Minor maintenance issues are completed during non-scheduled sweep times. “Again, any time a sweeper is not sweeping, it costs money; therefore, we want to maintain the sweeper when it is not scheduled to sweep,” according to Hendrickson.
Cleanliness is everything. “It is imperative that every sweeper is thoroughly washed after every shift. We work in the very environments that destroy the hydraulic, electric, and water components that make our equipment operate,” he said. “Allowing this dirt to sit on the equipment for even twenty-four hours will most certainly contribute to premature failure of key working components. A manufacturer has designed the equipment with these hazards in mind, but the only way to truly prevent failures is to keep dirt, dust, and grime from corroding the system.”
Another point that Hendrickson made is that the features on a street sweeper can also reduce equipment wear.
“Using the correct brooms…for example, can increase the productivity by reducing downtime for changing brooms (or brushes) on the sweeper. An auto lubrication system will guarantee that your lubrication points are greased at the proper intervals. Spring-style shoes will help decrease downtime from repairing bent shoes.”
What about used equipment? How does its broom equipment maintenance different?
“It is important to define what maintenance schedule the equipment had. (In) some cases, the seller has a current log to provide with the equipment. If a log is not available, one way to define a maintenance schedule is to check the filters. It is a common practice for the filters to have a date, miles, and hours written on them at the installation date,” Hendrickson noted.
“If these dates are current, it gives you an idea of the last time maintenance has been done; however, it is always good to make sure that the machine is completely oiled, greased, and filters changed at the time of purchase or soon after.”
The part of the country that a sweeper is working can affect maintenance. Which is harder on a broom machine? The hot, sandy South or the cold, icy North?
“It is hard to define a particular part of a country being more demanding on a machine. It is all about the material swept, combined with the environment. Heavy material in a cool, humid environment may not be as harsh on the equipment as light material in a dry, dusty environment. The key to maintaining either scenario is [to] follow a plan and identify issues before they become costly problems,” Hendrickson said.

Story by Marie Elium