Battery-Powered Drain Machine With Lift-Assist Treads Lightens the Load

Drum machine’s stair-climbing feature provides contractors a lift

Battery-Powered Drain Machine With Lift-Assist Treads Lightens the Load

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After wrestling 250-pound drain machines in and out of service vehicles and up and down customers’ basement stairs, Billy Oudshoorn says his back and knees are shot — and he’s only 30 years old.

“Those older big machines will throw you around a bit,” he says.

But now he’s getting a reprieve of sorts, courtesy of the new Milwaukee Tool MX Fuel drum machine with POWERTREDZ stair climbing and lift assist technology.

“If I would’ve had a machine like this 20 years ago, I’d still have a healthy back and knees,” says Oudshoorn, lead field supervisor at Drains R Us of Southeastern Wisconsin. Oudshoorn’s father, David, established the Racine-based company in 1995.

“It’s a total game-changer for me,” he says. “It’ll also change the game for younger guys coming into the industry because they won’t have to worry about all that wear and tear on their bodies.”

In addition, the machine has literally doubled productivity because Oudshoorn no longer needs two people on his drain cleaning jobs. That frees up an employee to do other revenue-generating activities and reduces labor costs, which helps makes the company more competitive.

“It’s nearly impossible for one guy to deal with a 250-pound drain machine,” he says. “Now I’m in or out of the truck or up and down stairs with the push of a button.

“You double your productivity with a one-man truck. We’re so busy these days that we sometimes have to turn away work. So being able to one-man a truck is huge.”

The lift-assist function is easy to engage. Just flip a switch on the top of the machine from cleaning mode to climbing mode, then set another switch on either ascend or descend mode. The operator then uses a small trigger by the handle to engage the unit’s two rubber treads, which feature cleats that grip the lip of stair treads, as well as control how fast the treads rotate.

“You really only have to guide it, not pull it,” Oudshoorn says. “And you have to find the right angle.”

The lift-assist feature works great on trucks, too.

The machine features include a fully enclosed drum that can carry 100 feet of 5/8- or 3/4-inch-diameter cable; a 3Ah lithium-ion battery; fatigue-reducing automatic cable feed and retraction; 200 rpm cable spin-speed; a brushless motor; and a quick-release button that disengages the motor almost immediately.

The machine is designed to clean pipes from 3 to 8 inches in diameter. It weighs 125 pounds and measures roughly 32 inches long by 22 inches wide by 47 inches tall.

Oudshoorn says one of his favorite features is the almost instant cable-drive release function. “When you’re rodding a line and you hit something hard, or maybe the cable gets bound up while going from a 6-inch-diameter pipe to a 4-inch pipe, you want it to disengage right away or you’re in trouble. And this one steps within seconds.”

An outer casing that fully encloses the cable drum enhances customer service by eliminating potential drips and spray. “Cleanliness is huge with customers,” he says. “No want wants sewer juice spit all over their basement walls and ceiling or dripping onto carpets or floors.”

He also applauds the unit’s direct-drive technology, which eliminates the need for belts that can either break or slip if they get wet.

Battery power also offers another convenience. There’s no potential for electrical cords falling in water or posing trip hazards, and Oudshoorn says he also no longer contends with hard-to-find electrical outlets or outlets that aren’t compatible with three-prong grounded cords.

The battery recharges in about 45 minutes and Oudshoorn says he can do six drain jobs on a fully charged battery. “I rarely do more than six jobs a day, so running out of juice isn’t an issue.”

If anyone thinks battery-powered drain machines aren’t powerful enough, guess again, he says.

“I recently cleaned an 8-inch sewer line at a big-box, home-center retailer that was clogged with wipes and all kinds of other foreign objects. Commercial clogs usually are the worst kind, especially in a line that big — and this clog was huge.

“At first, I thought about going back to our shop to get our water jetter. But I decided to give the MX Fuel machine a shot. And I cleared that clog after about an hour of rodding. That’s when I knew it was the real deal.”

The technically advanced machine also provides a less tangible but equally important benefit: It impresses customers when they see it climb stairs and clear clogs, which boosts the company’s image as a professional and progressive outfit, Oudshoorn says.

“I’ve actually had customers say, ‘This thing is awesome — what a crazy piece of machinery,’” he says. “They’re used to seeing those old bulky machines and then I bring in this one.

“In the end, we’re salesmen, too, and this machine helps us sell jobs.”

In short, Oudshoorn definitely would recommend the machine to other drain cleaners.

“In a heartbeat. With the way they designed this, Milwaukee Tool really hit a lot of things right on the head. I’d put it up against any drain machine out there.” 


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