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Don’t forget the doors and dryers

May 06, 2011
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In today’s competitive carwash market, the customer always has other options. Pulling new customers into a carwash is a daily battle, so savvy carwash owners are always looking to make a good first impression. To do this, owners must ask themselves some tough questions:

  • What is the first thing about my carwash that catches a new customer’s eye?
  • What can I show them during that first wash to make sure they return to my carwash in the future?

When it comes to a building’s appearance, every visible piece of a carwash sends a clear message to new customers. One example that can speak volumes about the quality of your business is the carwash door. An updated and clean carwash door tells customers, “This is a well-kept carwash that will definitely get your car showroom clean!” But a dented, dingy and dirty door can warn customers, “Abandon hope all ye who enter here!”

“It’s the first thing the customer sees when pulling up to the carwash,” said Marcus Mohwinkel, vice president of sales and marketing with Goff’s Enterprises, Inc. “If the door is dirty or damaged, it gives the impression that the carwash may not be well maintained and may not take the best care of (a customer’s) car.”

Josh Hart of Airlift Doors, Inc. agreed. “The first thing a customer sees when driving by or pulling up to the wash is the doors,” he said. “By installing new doors, it is like giving your building a facelift. Your customers will notice the improvement, and it gives them confidence that the owner of the wash takes care of all of their equipment.”

Polycarbonate or vinyl?

Today, there are two popular choices for conveyor carwash doors. While polycarbonate doors have been used in carwashes for years, the vinyl roll-up door seems to be catching on in the market. The high roll-up speed and low maintenance costs have made vinyl doors appealing to carwash owners, Mohwinkel said. “The cost to purchase as well as maintain is significantly lower compared to a polycarbonate door.”

“(The) roll-up gained popularity in tunnel applications as a bay divider to separate the wash area from the dryer area,” Hart said. “In recent years, you are seeing more and more on exterior applications for entrance and exit doors.”

Hart explained that either style can be installed based on the features that are important to the carwash owner. If speed and breakability are key concerns, a vinyl roll-up door is typically used. If security and heat retention are more important, a polycarbonate door is usually installed.

Both styles of doors can even be used in a single tunnel. “In this situation, you would have an overhead door mounted inside the bay and a roll-up door mounted outside,” Hart said. “This allows you to utilize the speed of a roll-up during normal business hours but close the overhead door after hours to maximize security.”

Reliability and security

Hart said carwash doors can make the best first impression on customers by being reliable. “A quality door system is the key to a successful carwash,” he said. “You can have the top of the line carwash equipment and facility, but if your door does not open, your customers cannot access your wash.”

This can be a definite problem when a car hits a carwash door. Hart said when a polycarbonate door is hit, it usually needs panel replacements for the impacted panels. “With a vinyl roll-up door, most styles have a breakaway and automatic reset function where, if the door is impacted, the door will knock out of the opening without causing any damage to the door,” he said. “The door will be out of the track until the next cycle when the door will automatically pull back into the track and continue normal operation.”

Mohwinkel explained the vinyl door’s breakaway and automatic reset system leads to less downtime and less upkeep costs. “(Owners) want automatic reset after impact; especially 24-hour carwashes,” he said. If a polycarbonate door is hit, it can be expensive to fix, but replacing a vinyl door’s damaged panels is a low cost repair.

“If security is a key element necessary for your wash, you are better off choosing a polycarbonate door,” Hart said. “Vinyl roll-up doors are easily knocked out of the opening and can be lifted easily for access to your building.”

“Polycarbonate has an impact resistance 200 times that of glass,” Hart continued. “When coupled with a direct drive pneumatic opener, you are getting the highest level of security available as you eliminate the ability to pry the door open from the bottom as well.”

Color or clear?

Another way carwash doors can make a good first impression on customers is by matching carwash color schemes. “With vinyl doors, carwash owners have a choice of color so they can match it to their carwash,” Mohwinkel said. “It promotes a cleaner look for the entire carwash since it is the first and last thing the customer sees.”

But polycarbonate and aluminum doors can match colors as well. “With the aluminum/polycarbonate doors, you can actually anodize the aluminum to match a business’ color scheme,” Hart said. “And if you want to take it a step further, some people choose to go with a colored polycarbonate.”

Clear polycarbonate doors can make a good first impression by letting customers see inside the carwash. “The biggest concern that most people have is that a closed door makes it look like their business is closed,” Hart said. “So you want a door that is very inviting and allows the customers to see inside the wash.”

“That is one of the reasons why polycarbonate doors have become so popular,” he continued. “You can keep the doors closed to retain heat in the bay, but customers can still see inside.”

Dryers and exits

Dryers are another part of a carwash that can make a lasting impression. Now, let’s assume the brushes have spun, the solutions have sprayed and the soap has been fully rinsed — the carwash still isn’t over. “Sometimes a customer will judge their entire carwash experience by how much water is left on their windshield as they exit the tunnel,” Archie Johnson, owner of The Dryer Pros, said. “If too much water is left, they’re dissatisfied with the whole wash process.”

Johnson said drying today is especially difficult because it is harder to blow spot-free water off surfaces. “Spot-free water tends to cling to surfaces making it harder to remove,” he said. “Dryers simply have to work harder to get acceptable results.”

Also, carwash owners need to choose their drying systems carefully. Johnson said a carwash must have enough drying capacity to handle maximum volume. “While installing a state-of-the-art drying system is a substantial investment, it’s an investment that smart operators continue to make,” he added. “It’s one that the competition will make, and it’s one that customers expect.”

And customers leaving the dryers will get an ever-important final impression from the exit door. Hart said it is a common practice for carwashes to buy entrance and exit doors as a set. “Not only will having entrance and exit doors maximize heat retainage, but it is a good feature to control the traffic in the wash so people only enter and exit the wash at the appropriate times.”

Mohwinkel said, “The door is typically the last thing the customer will see before they leave the carwash. A clean, well maintained door is important in showing the customer that you care.”

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