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Avoid in-bay winter weather woes

October 11, 2010
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While the bad news is that summer’s warm weather is gone, the good new is that the approaching winter weather in most parts of the country means dirtier cars and more carwashing.

How can an owner properly prepare his or her in-bay automatic to make the most of the peak washing season?

The amount of effort required will obviously vary depending upon geography, but if the wash site is anywhere other than the sunbelt, here is a checklist of actions that can be taken to minimize the risk of weather-related equipment failure, while maximizing uptime and customer satisfaction.

An ounce of prevention
First and foremost, always follow the carwash manufacturer’s maintenance instructions. The manufacturer knows how the equipment will run in all weather conditions, so adhere to recommendations provided.

Harsh weather will exacerbate any potential problems lurking inside a poorly-maintained system, so an ounce of prevention is really worth a pound of cure when it comes to keeping a carwash up and running.

Have your in-bay heating system fully inspected to ensure that it’s operating properly and the venting is not clogged, rusted or in any way impeded, which could create a carbon monoxide hazard.

Test thermostats and/or slab-stats on all freeze protection systems by adjusting their temperature settings to trigger a protection cycle. Review the operation of each specific device to ensure it meets the manufacturer’s specifications.

If your carwash has bay doors, test them manually and lubricate them as necessary to ensure smooth operation.

Carefully inspect:

  • Cables;
  • Chains; and
  • Springs for proper operation.

Activate all freeze protection devices and confirm proper operation. Make sure that all systems activate and continue to operate as designed by the manufacturer.

Pay particular attention to automatic operation of doors and any safety devices installed to prevent accidental contact with vehicles and/or people.

Too often these component failures are found as a result of a vehicle accident instead of routine maintenance. A customer trapped inside an in-bay area will grow irritated and become a problem for you and your wash.

Don’t freeze up
If your bay is in an area that accumulates ice as a result of poor floor/slab heat, you may want to adjust your bay doors to stop an inch above the ground so the rubber seals don’t freeze to the ground and cause the doors to malfunction.

Also inspect the water supply to the equipment. Insulate and wrap it with heat tape if needed.

If you have chemicals stored in an area exposed to the elements, move them into the equipment room or other protected areas. And if you have a weep system, activate it and test it to ensure that it’s operating correctly.

If you have a glycol floor heating system, inspect fluid levels and the operation of the pump and boiler. Make sure there are no leaks and that the intake air and exhaust are in good condition.

Have the flame checked and adjusted as necessary or required in your area. Care should be taken and repairs should be made by trained technicians only.

Additions may be needed
Add a pneumatic auto-drain valve to your air compressor to prevent water build-up. Drain your compressor tank and check the operation of any Filtering Lubricating Regulating (FLR) units on your equipment.

Inspect all flexible air and water lines for wear and replace them as needed. New hoses are inexpensive insurance against costly machine repairs.

If you have trough heat, inspect it for proper functioning.

Check drains and gutters for obstructions that could cause water to build up and freeze, which could damage equipment and/or pose a safety hazard to customers.

Stock your site with a healthy supply of sand or de-icer to ensure the safety of your customers, and be sure your on-site personnel are trained to use it in a timely fashion when bad weather arrives.

Having an attendant onsite to head-off potential problems is a beneficial idea for the winter season. Be sure attendants dress appropriately for the weather and wear safe footwear.

Thinking ahead
There’s nothing worse than having to put that orange cone in front of your carwash after a winter storm passes through, so invest the time to perform the items on this checklist now before the bad weather arrives.

If you act beforehand you’ll be able to rest assured that your site is ready to capitalize on the busy wash season.

Steve Robinson is the Director of Product Strategy & Communications for Mark VII. Steve can be contacted at