How to take care of your sensitive leak detection equipment
Handle with care
Drain inspection and leak detection equipment have found a place on many plumbing contractors’ trucks. Like some other precision gear in the trade’s tool box, this equipment represents a hefty investment. If you want it to last, you have to take care of it.
This month Reeves Journal talked with some of the folks who work with audio and video detection equipment about the care and feeding of these diagnostic tools. This equipment requires maintenance, care and proper use. “Handle with Care” may be the right cautionary signage. “Operate with Care” might be even better.
Having a maintenance routine is important. It keeps the equipment smelling nice and if you have to have it in the back of your truck you’d want to wipe it down so that your work truck doesn’t smell like a sewer. You want to clean the dirt off thoroughly, because if it gets in between the different parts, connections, couplers, or things like that, it can cause damage to the equipment.
Manufacturers of these inspection devices report a direct relationship between how equipment is operated on the job and how long it lasts in the field. They believe in modeling proper use of the equipment so it is less likely to break. For example, take video equipment for inspecting drains. When this kind of equipment comes in for repair, typically the problem is that the operator simply hasn’t followed protocol. Usually, it needs repair because the user bashed the camera into something in the pipe because he wasn’t watching.
So rule No. 1 in handling video pipe inspection equipment is: operate the equipment according to best practice instructions. Remember it is a camera system, not a battering ram. After you buy the gear and store it on your truck, the most important thing is, when you take it out to use it, use it the same way every time. Follow the instructions. Watch where you’re going. Be slow, be patient, be careful. Push down gently in short, quick strokes to get around bends instead of jamming it in, using it to push obstructions down the line.
Sometimes you have to maneuver this gear around bends; push rods have some springiness. The people who never break these systems use controlled motions and are always watching the screen. The pros advise to always have one eye on the monitor screen to make sure that you are not actually fast approaching something that is blocking the pipe. Let’s say there is a broken pipe, or a large object wedged in the line, you don’t want to run into those at full speed and break the camera, leading to a large repair bill or not inexpensive replacement costs.
Remember this is drain or pipe inspection, not drain or pipe cleaning. You’re not eliminating a problem; you are examining the line to determine why there is a clog, water backup or leak. Sometimes you do put a camera down a line filled with water to determine what the problem is, but that scenario is anything but ideal, inspection experts say. Obviously, sometimes the line can’t be cleared until the issue is revealed, but more often, you need to clear the line, then locate the problem and/or demonstrate that the issue’s been resolved.
Just for their own well-being users should think about disinfection because they are putting the camera and cables down a sewer, and we know what goes down a sewer. There’s a sanitary issue there if you are going to have the next workman or a tech actually work on the unit. Often, what techs will do is wash it down with a disinfectant solution or Clorox wipes, rinsing that push rod that they have to touch because it’s been down a sewer. Some techs regularly lubricate the cable as well. It may not extend the life of the unit, but it can provide a little peace of mind.
A safe place required
There are obviously different considerations for inspection equipment that goes into sewer pipe than leak detection equipment that doesn’t. This audio equipment consists of transmitter, amplifier and headphones, and a wand or probe that is inserted into different materials from carpet to grass to solid and gravel. It’s good practice to wipe down a unit after each use if it comes into contract with dust, dirt or debris. The chief maintenance concern with this audio equipment is safe and secure storage.
The most important thing with leak locators is having a place for it on the truck where it is not going to fall, go airborne, or be in the path of flying objects. It’s an old industry adage: Show me a plumber’s truck and I’ll tell you how long the equipment is going to last. A well-stocked and well-organized truck is more likely to have a secure spot for this equipment and considering the investment cost, it might be a good idea to give it some special attention. This also applies to drain inspection gear. Even if it is tucked into a case, there should still be a designated spot where it is kept out of harm’s way.
Another note from the manufacturers’ side: How well the equipment is cared for and/or how poorly it is used seems to be in direct relation to whose equipment it is. Someone who doesn’t own the equipment — who is renting it or using it as an employee of the company that owns the trucks and equipment — may not take the same level of care with it. This leads back to training everyone on this equipment, how to use it, how to handle it, how to store it on the truck, and occasionally doing a refresher or making sure each new employee gets full hands-on training.