Monday, February 23, 2009

The Great Thing About History...




I  love history. I read all the time, and four out of five times, the book you'll catch me reading is a history book. I think history is important. I think history teaches us all we need to know about the present. It's like the old saying, "those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it".

And, yes, I'm talking about Salt. You knew it was coming, right? Well, this blog - and my customer base -  are now old enough to start making some cyclic observations about Salt Damage.

I posted a photo a long time ago, when I first started talking about salt damage to the automatic cleaners - Polaris in particular, because that's what most of my customers have. The picture showed a rusty, chewed to the nub drive shaft on a Polaris 280 Black Max. Here it is again.

Polaris 280 drive shaft damage submitted by Park Cities Pools
Here's what I said the first time I posted about it:
"I pulled this Polaris 280 out of a pool on 2/11/06. It came out of a 30,000 gallon pebble finish pool with Oklahoma flagstone coping and decks and waterfall. This pool was brand new and fresh filled on 02/16/04. This pool also has a Zodiac Clearwater LM2-40 salt system. I had to replace the wheel bearings and the wheels when I replaced that drive shaft. At the time, this wasn’t happening to my other two year old Polaris cleaners, so I figured it was a combination of the bumpiness of the pebble finish, in conjunction with the salt, that caused that Stainless Steel Drive Shaft to last about as long as the plastic teeth on the wheel it was meshing with."

So now, just nearly three years later, I had to rebuild that cleaner again, and, you guessed it, the drive shaft was worn down. Here's the photo:

Polaris cleaner drive shaft submitted by Park Cities Pools
You can see how, once again, the teeth on the drive shaft are worn down to nubs. But notice anything different? Right. There's no rust. Now, the history of this part is that when it failed, I called Polaris and told them the story, how it was only a two year old cleaner and what a bone job it was that my customer was going to have to pay for that part. So, Polaris took a look at the photo I e-mailed them and put a part in the mail to me, even though it was a full year past the one year warranty on parts other than the frame. And I'm assuming that between the time that Polaris 280 was manufactured in the early part of 2004 and when they shipped that replacement drive shaft to me in 2006, they spec'd a higher grade stainless for their drive shaft.

Golly, I wonder why they would do that? I wonder, what was going on about that time that might have prompted them to go out looking for a higher grade stainless for their drive shafts? Oh, yeah, I remember! Salt! It was making a big splash - pun intended - back about that time.

Funny thing is, in 2006 all of the salt system manufacturers were telling you that guys like me were crazy and that what we were seeing we weren't really seeing, and if we were seeing it, it Wasn't Their Fault, or it was God's Will (commonly known as the Bible Belt Defense).

So, bottom line is that the higher grade stainless steel lasted almost exactly a year longer than the first drive shaft. But in the end, the chattering ass-whipping it took from the pebble finish on this pool did it in. But that's not bad. A 50% increase in the life of the part, in probably the most adverse conditions a pool cleaner can be put in; salt, a rough, bumpy surface, and water temps that range from 90 in the summer down to about 45 in the winter.

But notice in that picture there is still a patina of rust back toward the plastic turbine. Here's a picture of the other side of the drive shaft turbine:

Polaris drive shaft rusty pin submitted by Park Cities Pools
You can see that all the rust is emanating from the pin in the drive shaft turbine assembly. I showed a lot of pics of that back in the first post I did about rust damage to auto cleaners. And Polaris paid attention to history there, too. Here's a pic of side by side drive shafts from that post in April 2007, a year after they sent me that first warranty drive shaft:

side by side comparison of old and new style drive shafts submitted by Park Cities Pools

Conspicuous by it's absence is the pin in the turbine. Polaris gave up on the galvanic cell dissimilar metals thing and just started molding the turbine to the drive shaft, somewhere around the time that this picture was taken.

So, see? Here's a pool manufacturer doing what it can to re-engineer it's product to meet the demands of the harsher salt environment.

Now, if they could just figure out a way to get rid of the brass frame inserts that the stainless axle screws thread into, we'd be all set. Here's a repost of the pics I took back in April 2007 when I first started seeing frame insert failures:




Polaris 280 Black Max frame insert failures submitted by Park Cities Pools

Polaris 280 Black Max frame failure submitted by Park Cities Pools
You can see in the top pic how the inserts are just shards. The bottom pic shows where those shards came from. They just pulled right out of the frame, and the wheel - axle and all - came off. But, to their credit, Polaris has a 5 year frame warranty and every time I've called them with a frame failure they've stood behind their frame and sent me a new one, with exchange, free of charge.

Even outside of the five year warranty, the frame price is under $100.00 retail.

In sharp contrast, Letro cleaners have a 1 year warranty on every part, including the frame. Which isn't a big deal until the brass frame inserts pull out, which recently (October 2008) happened to one of my customer's Letro Legend Platinum Grey models. We've been taking care of that pool since it was new, too. It filled in June 2005. So, the frame inserts lasted 3 years and 4 months on a smooth plaster surface. Imagine my surprise when I looked up the cost of a new frame for that cleaner and found that it was 140% of the cost of a whole new Letro Legend Platinum Grey cleaner with hose. That's right; 140% of the cost of a whole cleaner.

Letro is owned by Pentair, and Pentair makes a salt system, too. So, you'd think they would know there are issues with these brass inserts and stainless steel screws. And you'd think that, like Polaris, they'd step up and take care of frame failures due to deterioration of the brass inserts. I mean, the brass inserts are the only way I can imagine the frame failing, short of stripping the cleaner down and taking a ball peen hammer to it. So, you'd think they'd be extending a little more of a helping hand than, in essence, saying, "Sorry about that, but thank you for playing Beat The One Year Warranty".

On the other hand, there's lots of things about Pentair that I like. When I have to replace a pump, most times I'll sell my customers the Pentair Challenger. It's been around forever, and except for those darned tabs on the pump basket handle, it's the best, longest lasting, easiest to fix pump on the market. And I could rave all day about the Sta Rite Max-E-Therm & Pentair Master Temp heaters. If you have a heater, it ought to be one of those.

But that's why - in my continuing series of Making Salt Work for your pool - I recommend that if you have a return side cleaner, you're WAY better off, and will receive a whole lot more support from the manufacturer, if that cleaner is a Polaris.

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Comments:
I AM VERY HAPPY I FOUND THIS BLOG.I AM A POOL BUILDER IN TOPEKA KS.I STARTED MY BUSINESS AFTER WORKING FOR A REAL VETERAN IM TALKING 45 YEARS EXP.ABOUT 8 YEARS AGO WE WERE CONTRACTED TO INSTALL A 20X40 VINYL LINED DIVING POOL WITH A AUTO COVER.THIS SIZE OF POOL AND COVER WERE THE MOST POPULAR THAT WE OFFERED THROUGHOUT THE YEARS.THE ONLY DIFFERENCE WAS THE CUSTOMER WANTED A SALT GENERATOR.AS I WAS WITNESS MY BOSS TOLD THEM HE HAD NEVER INSTALLED THIS TYPE OF EQUIPMENT AND WAS NOT SURE OF PROLONG USE DUE TO THE SALT AND BEING IN THE CONCRETE INDUSTRY FOR THE YEARS. HE HAD BEEN WAS WORRIED ABOUT DECAY ON CONCRETE AND DESSERT DECK. COATING.BUT TO THE CUSTOMERS INSISTENCE WE INSTALLED A PENTAIR IC 40 CELL AND CONTROL PANEL.2 YEARS AFTER COMPLETION OF POOL THE CUSTOMER CALLED AND COMPLAINED ABOUT DECAY OF CONCRETE AND DESSERT DECK.AFTER INSPECTION OF POOL I FOUND THAT MOST DECAY WAS AROUND SLIDE,DIVING BOARD,AND LOUNGING SEATS.I FELT THIS WAS CAUSED BY SALT WATER POOLING ON AREAS WITH THE MOST USE. ANY WAY EVEN AFTER WARNING CUSTOMER OF HIS CONCERN OF DECAY TO DECK AND MANY ATTEMPTS TO REPAIR THE DECK HE WAS STILL SUED FOR 25000 DOLLARS.WHICH HIS INSURANCE PAID. I HAVE SINCE INSTALLED SALT GENERATORS WITH A CLAUSE IN MY CONTRACT STATING THAT MY COMPANY IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR CONCRETE OR DESERT DECK OR ANY METAL BEING SCREWS ON INLETS AND SKIMMERS, TO HEATER PARTS,
TO COVERS AND HAND RAILS.MY FIRST OPINION WHEN THEY ASK IS THERE IS NO WAY I WOULD INSTALL ONE ON MY POOL. IN MY EXPERIENCE I CAN LIST ALLOT OF CONS TO MANY TO LIST IT WOULD TAKE DAYS. AND ONE PRO THE WATER FEELS GOOD.
 
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