Starting a mobile lawn mower repair shop.

Are you the type of entrepreneur that is constantly looking for new opportunities to expand your business empire? If so, here is a great discussion from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum about how one business owner expanded his services from offering lawn care to offering mobile lawn mower repair services. Maybe these ideas will inspire you to experiment and explore more.

One lawn care business owner wrote “as a business owner for over 40 years, I am always on the lookout for ways to make more money and improve my profits. The most recent business adventure I have taken on is starting a mobile small engine repair service. As I’ve worked with small engines for a long time I thought others could benefit from my experience and they would pay me to help them. Eventually, my goal is to run the repair side of my business while a partner runs the lawn care side.

Since getting this mobile unit started, I really wish I had implemented the mobile service 10 years sooner as the reaction to it has been amazing. For a while now I have run a small engine repair service out of my shop for extra income and because I love working with machinery. I always had free pick-up and delivery, since most of my customers are elderly and have acreage, but don’t have the ability to get their lawn equipment to a repair shop. When the gas prices began to climb several years ago, I knew that I either needed to go way up on my prices, to cover the cost of return trips, or do something that would allow me to just make one trip to the customer. This is when the idea for the ‘mobile shop’ was born.

I had an older enclosed landscape trailer in the yard that I outfitted to work on equipment in the field. I bought a generator and an ATV jack for the trailer which works great on all of the rider mowers I encounter so I can easily get access to any part of the mower that is in need of service.

A new program I began this season is to partner up with Homeowners Associations and visit their additions for the convenience of their members to bring their equipment to one site, within walking distance of their home. If some of those are elderly and unable to push their mower to where we set up, I’ll go to their home after I finish servicing the others equipment.

Most people expect this sort of personalized service to cost much more than they are used to paying at a repair shop, but they are quite surprised to learn that I’m usually 1/3 the cost of most repair facilities. Just to give an example of the cost of service for a typical riding mower, I give it a tune-up, change oil, clean or replace the air filter, clean & adjust the carburetor, grease all joints and pressure wash the mower for $64.95. If the engine is a twin cylinder model there is an additional charge of $5.00, and an additional charge of $9.95 for the oil filter. Under those conditions, the worst case scenario is $79.90, and the customers don’t have to take their equipment to a shop, or wait several weeks for it to be returned. It’s a win-win for everyone.

At the front of the trailer is a small workbench with a vise, chainsaw sharpener and parts bins (spark plugs, carb kits …etc.) mounted on top. Under the workbench is storage for oil filters, battery charger, oil drain pan, tubes of grease … etc. I’ve secured several milk crates under the bench to hold the previous mentioned items, plus some. On the left wall, viewed from the rear, is a mounted roll-around tool box, with wire wheel and grinder mounted on top, and the blue plastic drum is a water holding tank that feeds my pressure washer. I mounted a small pump on top of the tank to feed water to the washer. Next is the 1,800 cfm pressure washer. I’ve also built a holding rack that secures an ATV jack along the left wall by the rear door.

Starting a mobile lawn mower repair service.

Starting a mobile lawn mower repair service.

On the right side, next to the entry door, is my mounted air compressor, with air hoses and extension cords mounted to holders on the wall. Behind the compressor is another milk crate that holds quarts of oil, then two racks for fuel cans, one with straight gas and the other with mixed fuel. Then there is another milk crate with two small jacks and blocks of wood. Finally, closest to the rear door is a 6 gallon container for waste oil.
Sitting crossways between the two sides is my 6,500 watt generator. This is anchored, with a strap, to anchors on the floor to prevent it from rolling around when in transit.

When I get to my job site, I just remove the strap and roll the generator outside.
I wired two four-gang electrical outlets, one on each side of the workbench, and wired them to an exterior outlet that’s mounted on the outside of the trailer. I made a short heavy gauge cord, with male plugs on each end, which connects my generator to the trailer through the exterior outlet. With this system, when I start the generator it powers the entire trailer and allows me to run any accessory that I want to run from the outlets on the bench.

To me, the trailer is totally invaluable and something that I wish I had done many years earlier. Overhead is essentially non-existent and my customers are equally excited about it.

Mobile lawn mower repair service trailer.

Mobile lawn mower repair service trailer.

To run my pressure washer, I took a plastic 55 gal. drum and made a siphon tube out of PVC, with holes drilled along the side of the tube toward the bottom. I drilled a hole through the small bung of the drum and ran my tube to the bottom of the tank. The tube is cut at an angle on the bottom to aid in picking up the water. I bought a small 110 v swimming pool pump for about $20.00 and attached it to the siphon tube on the suction end, with a short piece of RV hose running to the pressure washer intake. A small piece of 1 x 4 board on top of the drum secures all of the pump assembly. When I’m ready to pressure wash equipment, I plug both the pump and pressure washer into the outlets on the workbench and get to work. I have had this set-up for the past 5 years and it has always worked flawlessly. There are probably better ways to set this up, but I haven’t found them yet.

I do market using a lot of what I’ve seen on the Gopher Forum and am currently in the process of having 1,000 door hangers hung on doors in surrounding neighborhoods. I paid a neighbor’s son $100.00 to walk around putting the hangers out, and made that back off of the first call that I received.

The trailer, which is professionally lettered, is also a ‘traveling billboard’ which draws responses on a regular basis. An occasional Saturday cruise through WalMart parking lots usually results in a call or two as well. It’s a rare occasion if I don’t have at least one potential customer stop by for a look when I’m servicing equipment in an addition. As you can imagine, the potential is unlimited.

What would I do different? I’ve given thought to using either a box van or cube van, both of which have some strong points, but I still believe I’d go with a trailer again. Oh sure, there are some limitations due to space, but nothing that has made me regret the decision that was made. I have plenty of room to stock the fast moving items, as well as a pretty good supply of belts and filters. My limited space has taught me to do a little better job of questioning my customers when we’re in the process of setting up an appointment, which makes returns, due to lack of needed parts, very rare. I suppose that I might choose a 20′ trailer next time, and will probably go for a 6′ 4″ rear door opening height too. At 6′ 2″ myself, I have, unfortunately, found the top of the rear door opening, with the top of my head, a few times too many.

Mobile service does have it’s limitations, but has it’s benefits as well. Having done this for several years now, it works great for me.

A warning to those using lawn mowers for their profession, remember that oil is a lot cheaper than a new engine so change it regularly to keep your machines as clean as possible. You’d be amazed at the number of engines I replace each year because the cooling fins were clogged with dirt and dust and oil was never changed.”

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Lawn Care Business Books And Software.
How To Get Lawn Care Customers Vol. 2
The landscaping and lawn care business plan startup guide
A rebellious teenagers guide to starting a landscaping & lawn care business
The GopherHaul Lawn Care Business Show Episode Guide.
Stop Lowballing! A Lawn Care Business Owner\'s Guide To Success