Melissa Walsh

The Reel Deal

Service Truck Magazine | September 2015 | The Reel Deal

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The Reel Deal

September 22, 2015

For every type of job in the field requiring heavy-duty equipment, there’s a mechanic and his truck fulfilling maintenance needs and making repairs to the crane, dump truck, or excavator. And just as no two service bays are exactly alike, no two fielded service trucks are exactly alike. The mechanic personalizes his service assets, whether stationary or mobile, to his taste and utility. Selecting the right hose-reel assemblies is part of customizing the mobile service bay.

Off-the-shelf customization

Heavy-duty equipment service companies and technicians prepare their service trucks for each job. The type and amount of fluid or air specified determine the hoses, and the hoses determine the reels. Though specifications vary job-to job, hose-reel manufacturers mainly supply their customers with off-the-shelf reels. Reel manufacturers like Hannay, Coxreels, and Reelcraft offer programs to customize reels. However, it is rare that the consumer does not find the right reel in the diverse listings of manufacturer catalogues.

“We help whoever it is that has a hose,” said Rex Larkin, vice-president of sales and marketing with Reelcraft Industries Inc. “We make it easy for them to get the hose to where they want to use it and get it back on the reel.”

John Lozon, a service mechanic with Laramie Equipment Company in Detroit, Mich., mainly services crawler cranes. For many jobs, the reels he uses for hydraulics are on the cranes themselves. Unlike the reels on the trucks that have a latching mechanism, crane boom reels do not lock the hose in place. The hose moves out and back with the boom.

“Mainly what we use hose reels for on our service trucks is air, to run our air-driven tools,” Lozon said.

Lozon has reels mounted to the exterior of his truck and in compartments. Though the job dictates how a truck is configured for handling hoses, Lozon said that he occasionally customizes his truck’s hose-reel mounting for a specific job.

“For instance, with Michcon, we ended up tapping into their hydraulic system with two hose reels so they could do gas taps,” Lozon said. “We had them mounted one on each side of the truck.”

Hose-reel manufacturers partner with service truck manufacturers and specialty distributors to supply hose reels based on the fluid type (or air), pressure and length specified. Service-truck hose reels typically handle shorter lengths, from about 25 to 100 feet, moved out and in via a spring-rewind application. Hand-crank or motorized reels operate hoses longer than 100 feet. Application prescribes length, and diameter is specified by how much fluid or air is moved through the hose at a given pressure. These factors determine the reel a truck designer chooses.

John Affatati, national channel manager with Coxreels, explained that swivels joints and seals might be specified, since PSI requirements are getting higher. He said that a dispensing hose will be a flexible hose with a thinner wall and “with significantly less reinforcements than what is needed for vacuum applications.” Evacuation application hoses, which are heavier, require reels with more spring pressure to rewind.

“There are few customized reels needed for truck-based applications since so many standard reels exist that will cover the applications needed,” Affatati said.

He explained that Coxreels offers a 1600 series reel – a symmetrically designed system that allows the truck designer to order the accessories needed without the need to order a customized reel. Coxreels’ EZ-Coil option adds a controlled retraction spring rewind cord, cable or hose reel. According to Affati, EZ-Coil is the only safety reel on the market.

Mounting options

Whether a hose reel is mounted as an OEM standardized fixture, or fitted up as an aftermarket option by a specialty distributor, reel mountings come and go as determined by the service mechanic. He or she chooses an exterior or interior mounting of a swivel-bracket or single- or dual-pedestal mounting. Reel manufacturers learned long ago that reel applications for service trucks must be ruggedized and weather-resistant and that they need to offer them in various heights and guide-arm positions for the many mounting needs of service trucks and their limited space inside and outside the truck. If a reel is designed for interior installation, it’s probably a cord reel.

For the service-truck market, hose-reel manufacturers know that mounting type isn’t as much of a differentiating factor as the amount of space the reel consumes. Service-truck compartments have restrictive spaces in height and width. Reel manufacturers have done well in providing reels that fit into those spaces and remain durable for the heavy-duty needs of the job.

“We sell a lot of reels to the various service-truck builders,” said Larkin. Though most of what Reelcraft provides to the OEM is standard off-the-shelf, the company does design special reels for service-truck manufacturing. Usually this customization is due to compartment-space needs.

Overall, as explained by Bill Martin of Reelcraft, hose reels are “fairly stable and don’t change much.” What’s relatively newer in Reelcraft’s catalogue are additional low-profile reels for service trucks. As with their other reels, Reelcraft’s low-profile reels are heavy-duty and some are double-pedestal, supporting both sides, or single pedestal.

“They work exceptionally well, and there’s nothing wrong with (the single pedestal) design,” said Martin. “But there are some customers that feel that the double-pedestal reels are superior; so we came up with those that are low profile.”

Hannay Reels, which has been making OEM and aftermarket hose reels in the U.S. since 1933, also offers a diverse listing of hose reels built for heavy-duty applications. Their differentiating design includes a dual bearing and dual-frame support that come standard for all models. Like Reelcraft and Coxreels, Hannay offers compact designs for space needs and will work with end-users and OEMs to customize designs.

Maintenance-free design

As mobile mechanics maintain heavy equipment in the field, they need not worry about maintaining their hose reels. Typically hose reels will last for the life of the truck.

“They’re fairly maintenance free,” said Larkin.

Unlike the heavy equipment applications serviced, there are no prescribed checks and services for hose reels. As long as the installer and end-user follow manufacturer specifications for mounting and use, today’s hose reels are trouble-free. As far as ever having to replace them, Lozon said that it “varies with what type of reel you’re using and if it was meant to be outside.”

“You’ll see people who mount their own reels,” Lozon said. “It’s supposed to be an inside reel and they mount it outside, and they end up having problems.”

Reelcraft does not prescribe preventative maintenance checks and services. The reels don’t even require any lubrication.

“Once they’re installed for service, they’re permanently lubricated for life,” Martin said.

Today’s reels have sealed gaskets or O-ring seals to protect the drive spring and to keep lubricant in and contamination out. There are special salt-water applications, as well. Affatati explained that the truck designer or end-user selects the reel location for the application. Manufacturers therefore design nearly their entire catalogue of reels to be all-weather. He said that Coxreels uses a proprietary powder-coat system to prevent chipping, and its exclusive “spring can” protects springs from dirt and debris. Martin said that the standard for all Reelcraft products is a “baked-on, cover-coated finish” that is corrosion-resistant finish for outdoor use.

Designed to be all-weather, most hose-reel assemblies can withstand extreme cold and extreme heat. Because climate affects the fluids and the hoses, weather conditions could determine the type of hose required, which may drive a need for a different type of reel, such as motorized instead of spring rewind. Manufacturers put hose reels through extreme testing to ensure they’re ruggedized. Affatati explained that Coxreels testing concluded that UV deterioration is a contributor to shorter hose life. To eliminate a need for chains, which will freeze or rust, Coxreels designs reel applications with a ring-gear direct drive. With today’s designs, moisture and dirt deteriorating a reel’s spring is not an issue in testing or out in the field.

When asked if hose reels are components of his truck’s tool and equipment set that he thinks about replacing, Lozon said, “It’s like everything else; after it gets old you’ll have some problems, but as a rule, no.”

Melissa Walsh is a freelance writer based in Rochester, Mich.

September 22, 2015