Common Problems with Automatic Floor Scrubbers

What are the most common reasons automatic floor scrubbers need service? This will be an overview. The first in a 5 part series of why these cleaning machines break down and require service. Let’s first take a look at a little history and what automatic scrubbers do and how they perform.

Automatic scrubbers have evolved quite drastically over the last 60 years or so. The first floor scrubbers were very simple in mechanical nature but very inventive for the time. (Here is a quick summary on Automatic Floor Scrubber History) They dispensed water from a clean water holding tank, scrubbed the floor with the clean water and added cleaning chemical, and then vacuumed the floor dry with a vacuum system and squeegee mechanism on the back. These 4 areas are where most of the service is needed. Putting down water, picking up water, scrubbing the floor, and operating forward and reverse. It was true 60 years ago and still true today. Although the earlier machines were much simpler in their mechanical design.

Combining the actions of a floor mop, scrub brush and wet/dry vacuum all into one machine. The first scrubbers ran on electric supplied by plugging the machine into a wall outlet, but soon they were using batteries to propel the machine. This made them much more maneuverable and easier to use.

Because these machines combined all the necessary aspects to cleaning a floor, this made the floor cleaning process much more hygienic. Operators were discovering they could use disinfectants, degreasers, and specialized chemicals to aid in creating a cleaner environment. They are great for use in hospitals, schools, government buildings and all places where large groups of people congregate on a hard floor surface. They were soon discovered to be of great use in cleaning factory floors and other large buildings. As the popularity of the automatic floor scrubber grew, so did the complexity of the machines. Constant improvements by manufacturers were made to make the machines more maneuverable, efficient, productive and easier to use for the operator.

Since the first automatic floor scrubbers were fairly simple, the required maintenance was necessary but easy to perform. Clean out the tanks. Clean the brushes. Clean the squeegee assembly and the squeegees and you were pretty much done. There were possibly a few grease fittings to lubricate on a routine basis but that was all.

The scrub brushes were raised and lowered mechanically, usually either with a hand lever or a foot pedal. The operator would let up on the foot pedal to lower the brushes to the floor and push down to raise the brushes from the floor. This was a really simple lever action mechanical system that required very little maintenance. The squeegee mechanism used the same principle. Move a lever to one side with your hand and the floor squeegee lowered, move the lever back and the floor squeegee raised. Once again very little maintenance required.

Solution was dispensed through a mechanical valve that was opened and closed by the operator. The solution valve lever was usually located conveniently next to the operator’s hand to slide forward or back as he needed more or less water. This lever operated a cable that was attached to the solution valve above the brushes. Outside of an occasional corrosion issue after 10 years or so this was very reliable.

The vacuum motor that was used to remove the dirty water from the floor was operated by one switch on the dashboard. On or Off, that was it.

The first machines used the weight and pressure of the brushes to propel the machine forward so very little maintenance was required. There was no drive motor to worry about.  You can still find some brush driven scrubbers today but most are powered by drive motors forward and reverse.

So you can see, when I get a request for a service call today, the reasons why haven’t changed a whole lot. The scrubber isn’t putting down water, it’s not picking up water, it’s not cleaning the floor properly or it’s not moving forward or reverse. These are the issues we hear most often. As the machines continue to evolve mechanically and electronically they become more complicated to service. They are also much more ergonomic, easier to use and produce less stress on the operator.

When purchasing an automatic floor scrubber, please take these aspects into consideration. Scrubbers are made to pick up all the dirt on the floors most people want to avoid. This dirt has to go somewhere and that is the inside the machine. They must be cleaned out on a routine basis to perform well. The four areas we addressed here are the most commonly heard issues for maintenance. Take care of these and you’ll get longer life out of your new purchase.

A good preventative maintenance program will help you prevent these problems and have less down time. Effective preventative maintenance has two big components; scheduled maintenance calls by a trained professional (monthly, quarterly, or semiannually depending on your needs) and daily routine maintenance done by you and your team.

For more details about our preventative maintenance program and service department please visit this page. Also be sure to check back or subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss parts 2 through 5 of this mini blog series on common problems with automatic floor scrubbers!

image call to action for service and preventative maintenance