Man the Pump!

vacuum pump  Vacuum pump set up

The driver was unsure what had happened. He had depressed the clutch on his pumper truck and switched on the PTO, but when he released the clutch to engage the vacuum pump the truck nearly stalled. “It’s broke…” he simply reported after pulling it into the shop.

Vacuum pumps are the heart of a pumper rig set-up. Maintaining your pump will make or “break” your business and bank account in a hurry! While blowers are increasing in popularity this article is devoted to rotary vane pumps. There are several simple steps to keep your pump in good running condition.
A working oil system is the first place to start. Unlike an internal combustion engine, your vacuum pump is designed to consume oil to keep internal parts lubricated. It will expel a fine oil mist out of the muffler. Contact your pump manufacturer to determine the correct oil usage for your pump. Some pump manufacturers have installed external sight eyes or tubes, while others will require you to check the oil internally. Another best practice is to keep an eye on the external oil reservoir to make sure the level is decreasing as you go throughout your day.
Running your pump at the proper speed is essential! Manual transmission trucks allow you to engage the pump gently with the truck clutch. Automatic transmissions engage immediately when you flip the PTO switch. Either should be done at the lowest engine RPM’s possible. Once the pump is engaged you can adjust to the proper engine speed. Remember that your engine RPM’s do not match your pump speed. Refer to your tank manufacturer for suggested engine RPM’s for your particular set-up. Running your pump too slowly can prevent the vanes from extending, resulting in no vacuum. Over running the pump will overheat it and prevent proper lubrication.
Overheating your pump can result from a variety of other causes, as well. If your vacuum or pressure exceeds recommended levels, your pump will quickly overheat. Most trucks are equipped with a pressure gauge on the secondary to monitor vacuum or pressure in the tank. Check your relief valves periodically to ensure proper working condition. Keep your pump clean. Dirt and debris on the exterior of the pump housing will prevent it from properly radiating heat.
Be sure to frequently check your secondary and muffler drain valves. Sometimes the valves can clog preventing proper drainage. When driving over rough terrain or down steep inclines, water can seep past your primary into your secondary. If you ever notice white “smoke” coming from your muffler you should immediately drain your secondary and allow the pump to expel the water. Allowing water into your pump is the quickest way to break a vane causing costly repairs and downtime.  Some tank manufacturers install a flushing fluid kit on the truck. Flushing your pump with a small amount of approved flushing fluid is recommended every 10-20 loads.
Attention to the small details is the name of the game. Your oil level, RPM speed, pressure gauges and drain valves can be easily overlooked. Proper attention to these indicators will go a long way towards a healthy pump and a healthy pocketbook.

 Ike Martin -Pik Rite, Inc.

Ike has been servicing and rebuilding vacuum pumps for the past 13 years. His experience and expertise in the service department at Pik Rite, Inc. is highly valued. Pik Rite manufacturers and services commercial vacuum tanks, hoist units, roll-offs, slide-ins, portable toilet service units and tank trailers ranging in size from 300 to 6,500 gallons. Our 15 year steel tank warranty sets us apart from the competition. Tanks are available in steel, stainless steel and aluminum.

Call 800-339-3840 and mention promo code ALW for a 10% discount on pumps and pump parts during the month of December.