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By the book mower maintenance

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by LwnmwrMan22, Apr 11, 2007.

  1. LwnmwrMan22

    LwnmwrMan22 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,372

    When you do the maintenance on your mowing equipment, do you do it exactly by the book???

    Or do you do it to what you think you should.

    Every piece of equipment has the section in the owners manual that says something like every 50 hours, change the oil, every 100 hours change the air filter, yada yada yada...

    My dealer is trying to work out a pricing plan for me to do the "by the book" maintenance.

    Now understand, I've been in business for what will be my 19th year this year.

    I know how to do maintenance. It's something that, when you get your business refined to the point of where I'm at, will all customers set up on flat fees, monthly, with most customers having multiple locations, commercial properties, so invoicing is a minimum.

    Equipment is all new, so repair time is a minimum.

    I've already got about 60-80 hours / week of work lined up all summer, so I'm not really looking to get out and do more advertising, knocking on doors, etc.

    Anyways, right now it's something like this....

    Dealer cost on filters, oil, parts, and then the shop rate of $75 / hour.

    I run between $75 and $100 / hour mowing. I guess I look at it this way. Every 50 hours for me, running solo, means about every other week I'd be dropping a mower off at the dealer.

    I call the day before it's being dropped off, they'll make sure they have a guy for it when I drop it off. I've got an extra ZTR on the trailer, another ZD28 / 60" deck, so I'm not out a mower. Anyways, it's ready when my route for that day brings me back in town.

    At the 50 hour service, an oil change is looking about $75 total. I figure if I buy the oil, filter, grease, that is going to be about $15, give or take for 6 quarts in the diesel engine, plus the filter and 1/2 tube of grease. Anyways, it's pretty much a wash on the parts whether I put them in, or they do, since it's at dealer cost. Now they're looking at about $60 for the labor, not quite an hours worth of work. They'll wash it for me as well, plus sharpen the blades.

    I look at it, by the time I get the pressure washer out, not to mention either stop at the dealer and get an oil filter, or order them online in bulk (about 8 / year) wash the mower, change the oil, filter, blades, and grease the whole thing, that's an hours' worth of work, if not a hair more. I suppose if you really wanted to hustle and didn't care about the wash job tremendously, that you could cut that time down 15 minutes or so.

    Either way, even if it was only 1/2 hour, that's still $37-50 that could have been covered with me mowing, so about 60-80% of the labor charge of having the shop do it, plus they're looking for other things to take care of.

    I know it probably sounds like I'm lazy, which is some of it too. After working 60-80 hours for the week, last thing I want to do is start crawling all over the equipment.

    I was talking to the sales guy, who's also the V.P. of the place, a dealer where I've bought over $100,000 worth of equipment in 5 years from, asking him if there's a better trade in value then as well. He said yeah, that's it's worth an extra $700-1000 if he had invoices to show a customer that the mower was meticulously maintained by the shop. I realize most here will probably say that he's saying that so I'll spend more money there, but he's a good guy, we go out to lunch all the time and talk in great deal about each other's operations, and I'm pretty sure he wouldn't be blowing smoke up my butt about something like that.

    All in all, the mower(s) would get about 800 hours on them in a year. My total for the shop doing the service would be roughly $2000 for the year, or around $2.50 / hour. The biggest charge would come at the first 50 hours, and then again every 400 hours, doing a hydro fluid change, since the Kubota ZD331 now has 19 quarts of fluid to replace.
  2. rodfather

    rodfather LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 9,501

    Only time my equipment goes to the dealer is for warranty work or something major that I can't handle in house. I have a full shop with all the tools we need. This year I have hired a mechanic to do all the maintenance on the weekend...it's too much just for me to do it any longer.
  3. LwnmwrMan22

    LwnmwrMan22 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,372

    See, and I don't. I have your standard air 3 hp air compressor, 200 piece craftsman "tool box to go", electric impact wrench, pretty much for the everyday, have a flat tire-get it fixed tools.

    Nor do I have NEARLY enough work, even REMOTELY to hire somone in house.
  4. hughmcjr

    hughmcjr LawnSite Member
    from Oregon
    Posts: 183

    I do all the regular maintenance that is required like cleaning filters, oil , etc. I used to spend hours cleaning, using WD40 for parts not to get rusted, tons of time in the winter going over equipment. I have learned that besides the basic stuff, no matter how much you try to maintain things they will break or wear out anyway, so I do mostly the bare minimum as I mentioned above. I guess what I am saying is I use things till they break down and spend way less time trying to keep them up. In the long run I am ahead time and dollar wise.
  5. Mark in MD

    Mark in MD LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 322

    I kind of agree with hughmcjr. It's :dizzy: trying to do all the stuff they want you to do. They say "grease is cheaper than steel", but maybe not after you add the time factor. And sometimes, when I have a free moment, it's nice just to sit down for a minute.
  6. Richard Martin

    Richard Martin LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 14,700

    I don't know dude, $2,000 a year is a whole lot of money to do maintenace on a few mowers. Let's look at a hypothetical situation of me doing my own using your 800 hour season.

    We'll use my Dixie Chopper 28 EFI as an example.

    I cut the factory recommendations in half in regards to oil and filter changes. That means I change the oil at 50 hours and the filter at 100.

    Please note that it doesn't matter how many mowers you have since you are a solo op, the hours will still accumulate at the same rate since you can only operate one mower at a time.

    In 800 hours I will use 96 quarts of oil (6 quarts in your diesel) at 2 bucks a piece. $192.

    I will use 8 oil filters at $5 a piece. (Purolator Pure 1) $40.

    8 tubes of grease will cost $16.

    48 blades sharpened at $5 each. $240.

    1 hydro oil change with filter. $42.

    Total is ...


    That's about $1500 you could be putting in your own pocket instead of the dealer's.
  7. dc33

    dc33 LawnSite Member
    from Indiana
    Posts: 240

    if you're putting 800 hours on EACH mower a year than daaaaaaaang!!!
    you're bringing in some good cash and deffently need to keep them maintained, you cant afford not to

    I do pretty much everything on my own except warrenty stuff and hydro oil. its really not hard at all. Grease only takes like 2 mins, oil is about 20-30 and most of that is it draining, ari filter is 30 seconds.
    Ild say for the most part either do this stuff on a rainy day since youre so busy or just set aside like 30 mins 2 or 3 times a week at the end of the day and do alittle at a time. While the oil is draining grease up the mower, sharpen blades etc. by the time youre done with basic stuff liek that put a new filter on and refill with oil and youre ready to go, simple and fast and saves you cash :)
  8. LwnmwrMan22

    LwnmwrMan22 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,372

    Not to dispute your numbers Richard, I appreciate any time you respond to a post of mine.

    Here's where I'm at with the numbers. We'll use the same breakdown of schedule as far as hours / frequency.

    Oil - I use AmsOil in everything. It costs me about $4.50 / quart when I get it in gallon bottles. I'm a dealer, so that's dealer cost. For the same 96 quarts, it would be $450, give a couple of dollars.

    Filters - the cheapest I've ever been able to find is $4.50 at Napa. This includes online, Carquest, Checkers, J-Thomas, dealer. 8 of those is going to cost me about $34.

    Grease - again I use AmsOil grease, which is about $4 / tube, so we're looking at $64 there.

    The blades I already have, and have them just switch them out for me. When they're already doing the work, what's another 3 minutes for them to jack up the mower and slap them on??

    The washing part, as long as I keep 90% of the grass buildup off, then it shouldn't be too bad.

    Air filters would be about $30ish for the season.

    The hydro change.... filter is about $10-15, however for 19 quarts at $4 / quart is $76. 2 of those for the year, once at 400, then again at 800.

    It's going to be closer to $1000 than $500, for what I use as fluids, more than anything.

    So, I need to get a hard number on labor charges for this.

    Again, I only put on 800 hours total on a mower, and that's in 6 months of work, if that. About 130 hours / month on the mower. That doesn't sound like alot to some, until you figure that roughly 1/3rd of the mowing is on a mower, 1/3rd of the mowing is with a trimmer, then the rest is windshield time.

    Others, please don't lecture me on windshield time, it's an area where there's nothing to do about it. My niche is small to mid-sized commercial properties, doing full service on them. Residential is too cheap, almost backwards of most of the country. Commercial properties want to pay higher money to look better than the competition, residential properties want grass cut every other week.

    Anyways, back on topic. It'll come down to about $1000 out of my pocket for the labor. Last year I grossed just over $130k, so it's not even 1% of my gross. Also, there's something else to factor in.

    Usually, I trade my mowers in every three years. This keeps my mowers down to about 1200 hours when I trade it in, since the first year, it gets about 800 hours, then it's moved to a backup, so almost no hours, then when both mowers are 'used', I split the hours between them. If doing the maintenance by the book will get me another 1-2 years out of the machine, then I'd be netting extra cash, from not having that mower payment.

    However, at the same time, if the dealer DOES give me an extra $1000 or so, then that wipes out the payment for the labor charges for one of the years, so theoretically, over the life of the mower, I'd be into it for roughly $2000, rather than the $3000 in labor, if you count the increase in trade value.

    It boils down to this.... would you hire someone to maintain your mowers for $1000 for the year???? Take someone like Rodfather that's going to be hiring a mechanic to do the service in house. I don't know what he's going to pay, but if it's somewhere in the area of what he pays his workers, it'll probably be around $20,000 +/- for the year. Plus the over head for the shop, the tools, electric, etc. If the mechanic works on 20 different mowers, that's pretty much about $1,000 / year / mower. I'm sure he can do other stuff on trucks / trailers as well though, so the number there will flex, I'm sure.

    As for the other post that said just take 20-30 minutes of your time at night to do one or the other..... sometimes that's all I've got to spend with my 2 boys before it's time for them to get to bed. Then you put it off, put it off again and before you know it, you're looking at going a full service schedule without doing anything.
  9. DaughtryLC

    DaughtryLC LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 739

    You have to look at it this way whats more important TIME or $. If you can afford it then take it to the dealer and have more personal\family time. It you can't do it yourself. Just my thoughts!
  10. causalitist

    causalitist LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 610

    if your that busy, and your time/family time is at such a high premium, have the shop do it.

    in economics class i was taught how there is more profit as a whole if each company specializes, and provides their service to the other companies that specialize in something else.

    you obviously are specialized in this industry and are good at it by looking at the numbers.
    so spend time with your family.

    me on the other hand, im no where near where u are as far as revenue/time, so i will keep doing it myself.

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