How to break your drain cleaning equipment

By Dave Dunbar

I once had a grade school teacher who used to say we all impact the people around us, either as an inspiration or a cautionary tale, depending on the decisions we make in life. Although most of us would prefer to be a positive role model, we sometimes learn best by examining the stark reality of a negative example. After all, it’s easier to learn from another person’s mistake than it is our own.

This idea holds true for the preventive maintenance of drain cleaning equipment, because most of the damage that we see comes from a relatively small number of bad habits. Certain habits produce certain results, and like the advice my grade school teacher gave me years ago, we can learn from other people’s mistakes.

In this spirit, we decided to write this “tongue in cheek” guide to breaking your equipment as fast as possible. This article is designed for plumbers and drain cleaners who want to destroy as many machines, cables, push rods and accessories as possible, and will be invaluable to contractors who need to show a huge annual loss for tax purposes, or who have more money than they know what to do with. All others are advised to do the exact opposite of these top seven suggestions.

1. Simply toss drain cleaning machines and snakes into the back of your truck as soon as the job is over with no cleaning or lubrication, and don’t give them a second thought until the next drain cleaning job. Don’t empty the water out of the drum, and don’t spray or pour any lubricant in the drum afterwards. After all, the customer probably didn’t put a chemical drain cleaner down the drain before you arrived. They never lie about that … right? And whatever else you do, never put a drain cable protectant or any other lubricant on the cables. After sitting in the back of your truck for a few days, I’m sure that cable will look as good as new the next time you go to use it.

2. Pretend that your drain cleaning cable is a battering ram and force it down the drain as hard as you can. Ignore the rotational cutting action of the snake and focus on hammering through the obstruction with forward momentum. Or, better yet, if there is a power cable feed on your machine, just shove the feed control lever into forward, step on the foot pedal, check social media for a few minutes, drink the rest of your coffee and catch up on your DMs. No problem.

3. Never use a starting tool. Just put your biggest, baddest, and widest cutter on the end of your cable, ram the snake down the drain and hope for the best. After all, size matters in this line of work, and it’s important to show the clog who is boss. Besides, who wants to pull the snake back to change cutters two or three times in order to make the pipe look like new? Who has time for that?

4. Never use anti-freeze in your water jetter pump during the winter months. It takes way too much time, and after all, time is money. If you drive fast to and from the job site and only do the bare minimum when cleaning the line, you can have your high-pressure water jetter back in your heated garage before the pump head has a chance to freeze. Absolutely, probably. Just because freezing is the most common cause of pump failure in northern areas doesn’t mean it has to happen to you.

5. Why use a $30 cutting tool to clear an obstruction in a pipe when you could use a $3,000 camera head? Who wants to take the time to snake or jet out the drain before you inspect it? After all, the camera head is right there in the pipe, and that hunk of concrete you are looking at probably only needs a little nudge to push it out of the way. Besides, it’s just a video camera you are shoving down a clogged sewer. What could possibly go wrong?

6. Don’t bother looking at the video screen while you shove the push rod and camera down the drain. You might strain your neck, and you know from experience there is probably nothing in the pipe your camera head will smash into. There’s nothing to worry about, right?

7. Stand up when pushing a camera head into the drain. Don’t worry about kinking the push rod, it’s tough enough to take any abuse you throw its way. Besides, if you kneel down, keep one hand close to the drain and use short, quick, bouncy motions, it might take you longer. Like we already said, time is money.

Based on 93 years of experience, we’re pretty sure these suggestions will have the intended effect of destroying your stuff as quickly as possible. Try doing the exact opposite and see what happens.

You might have noticed that a lot of the excuses listed above revolve around time. Yes, time is money, but as my father used to tell me: it seems there’s never time to do the job right, but there’s always time to do it over again when you make a mistake or break something. Try tallying up all the time your company spends dealing with broken cables, pumps and camera systems. What if you only had half as many problems over the span of a year? What would that do to your bottom line?

Slow down and develop situational awareness. You’ll find that it will save you time and money in the long run.

Dave Dunbar is national sales manager with General Pipe Cleaners.


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