In Delaware, Ohio, Mike Stewart, Jr., is president of Stewcare. In business since 1978, the company has three full-time employees and six seasonal workers in the peak of summer. Mike, Sr., started the company 36-years-ago and still works in the business mostly during the busy summer season.
“The first thing we like to do is bring in one machine at a time, from our tractors, to our mowers to our trimmers. We clean it up, give it a bath. The (mowers), we’ll pull a machine in here, take the deck off, pull off the fenders, tires, everything we can short of pulling the engine out of the frame. We make sure there are no breaks or cracks. We weld or repair. If it’s due for service, we perform an oil change and lube. We try to get them as close to showroom new,” Stewart says.
The Stewcare team lead by Dale Sullivan, the staff mechanic who has been with the company for 30 years, approaches their winter equipment maintenance with a set plan. “As the parts go, we prioritize. We go with the most essential elements first, and work on the cosmetic bits, like decals and paint, last. We do the structural and parts first. Once we know it’s maintained and serviced, then we switch out tires if a tire is bald, paint and touch up.”
There’s even a set amount of time spent on each piece of equipment.
“I’d say on the trimmers, blowers, and hand tools, we spend two- to-three days on each of them. The lawnmowers, we can be extra thorough. That’s our money maker, what we’re sitting on eight –to-10 hours a day. So, we are very thorough. We take a week- to-10 days on the (mower) machines, so we can say the machine is ready to be stored away for the winter,” he says.
Stewart offers a piece of advice for winter equipment maintenance.
“Take care of your equipment because that is what is going to make you money. Take the time in the off-season for preventative maintenance, otherwise it will catch up with you,” Stewart says. “Take the time to winterize it and get it ready so that in the spring you can put the blades to grass and not have any surprises.”
Equipment R&R. “By this time of the year, our equipment has taken a little bit of a beating,” says Jason Brooks, owner of Jay-Crew Landscape. The company has offices in Muncie and Indianapolis, Indiana, with about 40 people on staff during peak season. Right now, Jay-Crew is down to about 10 full-time employees spread over both service areas.
“We are pulling mowers, trucks, handheld blowers. We pull each piece of equipment in and go through it with a fine tooth comb. For preventative maintenance, we replace blades or sharpen them, check and replace grease and oil, check and replace filters and belts, as needed. Cosmetically, we touch up paint, logos and lettering,” Brooks says.
Not every piece of equipment gets the same treatment. “We could have had a piece of equipment that just had a belt replaced, so we won’t replace everything. We just take every piece of equipment on its own,” Brooks says. “Each spring, everything starts out the same, but by November and December, the maintenance is customized per piece.”
The goal is to begin winter equipment maintenance no later than December 10, and to be finished with all repairs by March 1. To accomplish this, Jay-Crew Landscape employs a fleet manager and a full-time mechanic who goes over every piece of equipment the company owns. If needed, other team members are encouraged to pitch in with the work.