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Fire apparatus being washed with a microfiber sponge using Pierce’s five tips

Keeping your fire apparatus clean is important for several reasons. Not only is it a representation of your fire department and community, it is an investment that must be washed, waxed, and cleaned as part of general preventative maintenance. Keeping fire trucks clean and polished not only clears away potentially harmful dust, dirt, smoke, and chemicals, but also provides an opportunity to closely inspect wear and tear. Why?

  • Mechanics like a clean truck because they have an easier time performing maintenance and diagnosing any issues when there isn’t a layer of grime or grit.
  • Regularly washing the apparatus makes it easier to inspect wear and tear, which prevents corrosion and can prolong the life of your department’s investment.

Here are five tips for washing your fire apparatus.

1. Use Cotton Microfiber Towels

Cotton microfiber towels are a cost-effective way to wash a fire truck. They have a soft, absorbent material that won’t mar the finish. They can also be washed easily. Make sure the towels are separated appropriately. Use some towels for washing and drying the apparatus, and reserve other towels for cleaning up spills, like oil or fluid.

Another tip – skip the sponge. Sponges are not ideal for soap application, and they can trap dirt and debris which will end up scratching your truck.

Also (and this can’t be stressed enough) if the towel hits the ground, grab a fresh towel. A towel that has been on the ground collects dirt and debris which can scratch the truck.

2. Use the ‘Two-Bucket Method’

Washing an apparatus the correct way starts with just two buckets. Fill the first bucket with soapy water and fill the second with just water to use for rinsing. First, dip the microfiber towel in the soapy bucket. Once the area is washed, or if you require more soap, rinse your microfiber towel off in the water bucket. After the towel is rinsed, wring it out to remove excess water and dip it back in the soapy bucket. Repeat as necessary.

The goal of the two-bucket method is to reduce the amount of dirt particles that the microfiber towel accumulates. If only one bucket is used to rinse and apply soap, the towel will get dirty very quickly. That dirt will then spread across the apparatus, and the debris will leave scratches in the paint. Grit guards can also be used to further separate dirt from the towel.

3. Wash Panel by Panel, from Top to Bottom

A fire department is washing its fire truck going from panel by panel, top to bottom, ending with a thorough scrubbing of the fire truck wheel.

Take a look at the truck and map out where different body panels meet and surfaces change. Use this as a guide to effectively wash your apparatus. To make the washing process efficient, go panel by panel. Rinse the microfiber towel and gather more soap each time there is a transition to a different panel. This will keep the soap application consistent and reduce the amount of dirt the towel is picking up each time it is rinsed.

Start from the top of the truck and work downward toward the wheel wells and wheels. Most of the dirt will accumulate around the lower areas of the apparatus, so this will avoid bringing that dirt up and spreading it all over the apparatus, even when using the two-bucket method.

It's also a good idea to wash the apparatus wheel wells and wheels in a separate washing area. As the dirtiest areas of the apparatus, it is best to contain the dirt and grime to one spot without contaminating the rest of the wash. Many people like to do these areas last.

One final recommendation -- don’t forget about the undercarriage! This can be a challenging spot to wash but is critical to keep clean since dirt, debris, and road salt can collect in the nooks and crannies of the undercarriage. Even a simple water rinse of the undercarriage is beneficial.

4. Dry the Apparatus with More Microfiber

Drying a fire apparatus may seem easy, but there are a few things to consider to avoid streaking and water spots. For optimal drying, use large microfiber towels. These are incredibly absorbent towels that will allow you to dry large areas before you grab another dry towel. If you’re stuck washing the apparatus in direct sunlight, water the truck down as you wash to avoid water spots as the truck dries. To avoid streaking and water spots altogether, try to keep the fire truck wet through the wash process, and keep it wet when you begin the drying process.

5. Final Apparatus Cleaning Tip: Instant-Detailer and Polish

Pierce employee polishing a fire truck step using an instant detailer.After the truck is clean and dry, take some time to polish any chrome or shiny metal. Manually applying polishing compound keeps the apparatus looking its best and also creates a protective barrier between the metal and environmental dirt and small debris. Using a bit of instant-detailer does the same for painted surfaces. Instant-detailer should be applied regularly to help water bead up and run off effectively, keeping your truck looking better, longer. The regular application of polishing compound and detailer will also make it easier to wash the truck in the future since the dirt and grime will come off easier with a simple water rinse.

There are many different methods to clean fire apparatus, but with the tips above, you should be off to a great start.

How do you wash fire apparatus? Post pictures to show us your best ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots!


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Topics: Maintenance/Service, Pierce Manufacturing, Inc.

About Pierce Manufacturing
Pierce Manufacturing Inc., an Oshkosh Corporation [NYSE: OSK] company, is the leading North American manufacturer of custom fire apparatus, including custom and commercial pumpers, aerials, rescue trucks, wildland trucks, minipumpers, elliptical tankers, and homeland security apparatus. In addition, Pierce designs its own foam systems and was the first company to introduce frontal airbags and the Side Roll Protection system to fire apparatus. Pierce markets its products through the industry’s largest and most comprehensive dealer and service network. The company enjoys a nationwide web of dealerships with over 600 certified and factory trained Service Brigade technicians and over 50 service centers. Visit piercemfg.com to learn more about Pierce.

About Oshkosh Corporation
Founded in 1917, Oshkosh Corporation is 100 years strong and continues to make a difference in people’s lives. Oshkosh brings together a unique set of integrated capabilities and diverse end markets that, when combined with the Company’s MOVE strategy and positive long-term outlook, illustrate why Oshkosh is a different integrated global industrial.  The Company is a leader in designing, manufacturing and servicing a broad range of access equipment, commercial, fire & emergency, military and specialty vehicles and vehicle bodies under the brands of Oshkosh®, JLG®, Pierce®, McNeilus®, Jerr-Dan®, Frontline™, CON-E-CO®, London® and IMT®.

Today, Oshkosh Corporation is a Fortune 500 Company with manufacturing operations on four continents. Its products are recognized around the world for quality, durability and innovation, and can be found in more than 150 countries around the globe.  As a different integrated global industrial, Oshkosh is committed to making a difference for team members, customers, shareholders, communities and the environment. For more information, please visit oshkoshcorporation.com.

®, TM All brand names referred to in this news release are trademarks of Oshkosh Corporation or its subsidiary companies.

Forward-Looking Statements
This press release contains statements that the Company believes to be “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. All statements other than statements of historical fact, including, without limitation, statements regarding the Company’s future financial position, business strategy, targets, projected sales, costs, earnings, capital expenditures, debt levels and cash flows, and plans and objectives of management for future operations, are forward-looking statements. When used in this press release, words such as “may,” “will,” “expect,” “intend,” “estimate,” “anticipate,” “believe,” “should,” “project” or “plan” or the negative thereof or variations thereon or similar terminology are generally intended to identify forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and are subject to risks, uncertainties, assumptions and other factors, some of which are beyond the Company’s control, which could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements.

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