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Getting schooled on tools

March 08, 2011
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With any type of business, customers want to make sure the operator is staying up-to-date and improving on and adding on new equipment. It not only makes you look like an involved and innovative business person, but also shows that you’re willing to spend money on equipment that will run better and more efficiently, too.

As the owner of a carwash equipment manufacturing and supply house, we service a wide range of “old” and “new” school owner/operators. These owners are staying on top of customer demands for a high quality wash equipment and continually asking for “what’s next.” By staying on top, they keep their washes updated and stay in tune and in touch with evolving customer expectations.

Equipment improvements
Customers are also looking for washes that are easy for them to use. That’s where new equipment comes into play.

In recent years there has been a focus on improving the customer’s interface with the self-serve bay equipment. For starters, let’s consider the high pressure gun swivel. Anyone who regularly frequents a self-serve carwash has had one of these coil up, which obliges the user to stop and forcibly rotate the swivel to un-coil the hose.

Now, due to better manufacturing tolerances and bearing technology, high pressure swivels can work as “live” swivels. One might ask, what’s the difference between a live and non-live swivel?

A live swivel will rotate regardless of having pressure on it or not. The average swivel will rotate under low pressure functions, but when changed to a high pressure function the swivel will lock up and not rotate. Imagine a customer doing a final high pressure rinse, walking around the car and the hose continues to coil up. Using a live swivel the hose will continue to rotate and eliminate the coiling issue.

Live swivels may cost a few more dollars, but the customers will notice the difference — no more straining to rotate the hose. Check your swivels to see if you could benefit from an upgrade.

Trickle down ergonomics
A great complment to live swivels is ergonomically-friendly bay trigger guns. These guns require less hand torque to compress the trigger and subsequently require less force to keep it compressed. The relaxed action trigger will reduce hand fatigue and promote longer wash time. As vehicle sizes increase so does wash time. This is a critical item to have in each bay!

Another ergonomic improvement that is often overlooked is the high pressure hose size. A majority of carwash owners use 3/8 high pressure hoses when 1/4” high pressure hose will accomplish the same performance while reducing the weight the customer has to bear by over 1.5 lbs.

As a customer carrying around an extra 1.5 lbs for 10 minutes can add to arm and hand fatigue. Using a 1/4” hose and combining the reduced weight with a lighter gun and flex wand offers the customers a more comfortable experience.

Some boom insight
Self-service business owners are looking at ways to better fit the hand bays to accommodate different types and sizes of vehicles. Some owners are even reworking the bays to accommodate RV’s, boats and over the road trucks. This requires larger booms to cover not only the width, but also the length of the vehicle.

Boom manufactures have noticed the growing trend in RV-sized bays and are modifying booms to meet the need. On the market today are booms that can cover a diameter of 35’+. This means one can wash a vehicle span over 70 feet long.

Booms on the market today are very simple in design. Most booms consist of a 90 degree boom swivel, boom hose and subsequent in-line swivel. Working on them should take no more than a few wrenches and a ladder. In the case of owner/operators in the Northern United States, make sure you know which wrenches are needed before the cold weather hits!

Got room for a z-boom?
You might not consider it a new technology, but “z-booms” are becoming a must-have for any self-serve carwash. Customers go to a wash with the expectation of having a clean environment, economical price and ease of use. They want to go into the bay and use the equipment without having to drag hoses from under the car or because they are caught on mirrors.

The z-boom configuration allows carwash owners to have up to four 360-degree center mount booms in one bay. With the advent of in bay dryers, tri-foam clear coat protectants and in-bay vacuuming there is a need to have multiple booms per bay. Couple these items with the standard high pressure gun and foaming brush applications and it is very easy to see why one could use four booms in one bay.

Wall mount booms, while functional, are very cumbersome for customers to use. They typically have hoses that are not sized properly and get caught on, under or around the car. Customers have to take time to untangle the hose to continue washing the car. In the customer’s mind they are not getting what they paid for and/or they feel they are wasting paid for time. The z-boom configuration gives the customer full rotation around the vehicle without a tangled hose.

As the demand for additional in-the-bay functions increases, the need for z-boom configurations will rise along with it. The standard bay design with one center mount high pressure and one wall mount foaming brush boom is a thing of the past.

Owners are looking for ways to drive increased revenue in the bays. Owners want customers to spend more time in the bay. The only way to increase the time is to have value added functions such as in-bay dryers, vacuums and tri-foam clear coat.

Secondly, the booms are easy to install and take little effort to plumb. It is an easy installation with quick return on investment for the owner.

Trent W. Walter is the general manager of National Pride Equipment, Inc., a manufacturer and distributor of self-serve carwash equipment, 4 Paws Pet Wash Equipment, accessories, parts and supplies. It is also the Ohio Distributor for Sonny’s Direct Equipment and Service Provider for Hydrospray Wash Systems. He can be reached at 800-537-6788.

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