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Effective carwash door upgrades

March 01, 2012
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We are right in the middle of the busy carwashing season. When you look at the performance from your carwash doors at this point are you satisfied with their performance or do you need to make some improvements? There are a number of ways to upgrade or improve your doors and openers, obviously depending on what type of package you are starting out with.

If you still have old steel insulated doors, the obvious upgrade would be to change them out and upgrade to a polycarbonate style garage door. The polycarbonate doors will not only allow more natural light inside the bay, but they will improve the overall appearance of your wash for your customers. The ability to see inside the bay makes your wash more inviting and lets your customers know that your wash is open for business.

If you currently have polycarbonate doors, take a look at your hardware package and see if there are improvements that need to be made there. Every piece of hardware on today’s carwash doors is available in a corrosion resistant material. If your hardware is rusting or breaking down from all of the water and chemical, your door is most likely not performing at peak efficiency. Items like hinges are now available in plastic or stainless steel. You can now get a shaftline with stainless steel shaft, stainless steel bearings, stainless steel bearing plates, and coated drums to guarantee a longer life and better performance. Even the door tracks are now available with plastic or stainless steel options.

Another simple upgrade that may greatly improve the performance of your door would be changing from torsion springs to a strap counterweight system. High cyclage springs are typically rated for 100,000 cycles where a strap counterweight system should go 400,000-500,000 cycles before requiring a replacement strap. Another key advantage of the counterweight system is that there is no maintenance required. Torsion springs need to be greased on a regular basis for the springs to operate properly. All springs are mounted on the shaft above the door so much of this grease then drips down onto the door and can be very messy and unsightly for your customers.

These are a few of the most common improvements that can be made to improve the performance of your door. However, the number one recommendation that I make for anyone looking to improve the efficiency of their overhead carwash doors is to upgrade to a direct drive pneumatic opener. A direct drive opener is one that connects directly to the door rather than turning the shaft to open and close the door. Direct drive openers can be mounted horizontally and operate as a trolley style opener or they can also be mounted vertically and use a bracket to go from the operator to connect directly to the end stile of the door panel.

A direct drive pneumatic operator is the best choice for an overhead door in a carwash environment for a number of reasons:

High Cyclage

Pneumatic openers are made to run constantly and will not heat up or burn out like electric operators can with high cycle usage. This is extremely important for high volume washes to ensure that the operator can keep up with the volume without needing a break in between cars.


A direct drive pneumatic opener is the most reliable opener for the carwash market for one specific reason, the door is always in sync with the opener because they are directly connected. A very specific example would be a case where the door comes down, but does not close all the way because there is ice buildup on the floor or door tracks. In this scenario, the direct drive opener stops with the door and will hold that position until it gets another signal to open. In this scenario with a jackshaft opener, the door would stop, but the operator would continue to turn the shaft which would result in the cables coming off the drums and failed door operation. Cables coming off the drums is the number one door problem in the overhead door industry and can be eliminated by using a direct drive opener.


Pneumatic openers typically operate at higher speeds than electric operators which allows a location to get more cars through per hour as well as retaining heat inside a carwash bay in cold weather climates.

MaintenanceMagnaglide and Powerglide together

Direct drive pneumatic operators do not have any chains or sprockets that are necessary for the jack shaft style openers. Therefore there is very little maintenance that is required or parts that need to be replaced with this style opener.


The carwash is a difficult environment especially in the Winter months. Ice and snow can put additional stress on an overhead door so it is important to have the power to endure the elements. The newest pneumatic direct drive openers have been designed with larger bore sizes and port sizes to ensure that they are the most powerful openers available.


Warranties are important with all products. The typical warranty for most door openers is 1 year in the carwash environment. Most direct drive pneumatic openers come with a 3 year unconditional warranty because they have proven the most reliable and effective in that environment.

There is obviously cost involved in making the decision to upgrade to any of the components listed above, but we all know what the cost of downtime can be due to failed equipment. Doors can be very reliable and efficient with the correct hardware options. If you are having problems, contact your service provider or manufacturer and explain to them what is happening and you may be surprised at how a simple upgrade in hardware can solve all of your problems.

Josh Hart is the vice president of Airlift Doors, Inc. of Minneapolis, MI. For more information on Airlift Doors, visit, or call 888-368-4403.