- Buyer's Guide
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Over the past few years, carwash doors have continued to evolve, improve and develop. Long gone are “one-style-fits-all” door offerings; they’ve been replaced by a wide selection of styles, colors and materials. Below, readers will find the latest improvements that help make up-to-date doors such an asset to carwashes of all shapes and sizes.
Top three benefits
The biggest thing to consider when replacing your doors is the hardware package. All too often people choose a hardware package based on the amount of use the door gets. They may opt for galvanized steel hardware because they don’t cycle the door between every car and leave their doors open all summer. However, your hardware package should be based on the environment before usage. Whether a door is open or closed, it will get sprayed with water and chemical and therefore should have a hardware package consisting of plastic, stainless steel and all corrosion-resistant hardware. Most plastic and stainless steel components come with a five year warranty vs. galvanized parts that come with a standard one year warranty. The benefit will be a much longer period of time before you have to look at replacement hardware in the future.
The next biggest benefit is appearance. We all know that a door in a carwash environment will not look new forever. Replacing panels on a door is always a good way to give your wash a facelift. A clean, clear door is very inviting to potential customers and relays the message that the wash is well maintained.
The last benefit is eliminating past problems. New technology is constantly being introduced, and if you consult with your distributor or manufacturer and explain some of the most common problems you have had with doors in the past they will likely have a recommendation that will eliminate those problems in the future.
On polycarbonate doors, there are a few key changes that have improved door construction over the last few years. Most manufacturers use a 16 mm polycarbonate, however be sure that you are getting a five-wall polycarbonate panel. This will not only improve your R-Value for the door and reduce heat loss, but it will also reduce the water absorption of the panel and keep your doors looking like new longer.
On the aluminum framing of the door there are two key features of construction that will drastically improve the appearance of your doors. One is to have sloped rails so water will not sit on the door rails and absorb into the panel. The other is to ask about anodizing the aluminum. Anodizing can be done in a clear finish or a number of different colors and will protect the finish of your rails better than the standard mill finish.
On vinyl roll up doors you should make sure that the vinyl material is not less than a 22-ounce material. Lighter materials are more prone to tearing and will not last as long with heavy usage. Another key element in the construction of roll up doors is to make sure that your clear and vinyl sections are heat welded rather than sewn. The strings on sewn doors tend to break down in the carwash environment and lead to early deterioration of your panels. Lastly, make sure that your door is constructed of individual panels rather than a continuous panel with sewn in wind supports. This is important if you have a damaged panel you can replace one panel instead of the entire door.
The number one improvement in door hardware is the use of plastic materials instead of stainless steel. Using plastic hinges or a plastic track, for example, will provide numerous benefits in your door operation including the following:
- Plastic is less expensive than stainless steel.
- The warranty is the same as stainless steel.
- Plastic offers the same corrosion resistance.
- Stainless steel hinges mounted on an aluminum door will cause a reaction over time and begin to break down the aluminum of your door making hardware replacement difficult where plastic will not.
- Plastic has better low temperature properties and will not conduct cold like steel will, so you have less ice build up on your hardware.
- Plastic hinges have a universal block for multiple roller placement so you do not have to keep stock of multiple hinges. One hinge is a #3 - #7.
- Plastic track does not have sharp edges like steel and offers a safer environment for your customers.
The other key hardware improvement is the strap counterbalance system. This counterbalance system takes the place of torsion springs and offers the following benefits:
- Mounts off to the side of the door so you do not have springs mounted in the center dripping on the door.
- The best torsion springs offer 100,000 cycles. A strap counterbalance can get up to four to five times that lifespan with no maintenance.
- When a spring breaks it usually requires a full shaftline replacement. When a strap breaks, all you need to do is replace the strap without removing any of the other shaftline components.
- Strap counterweight systems do not require any lubrication or maintenance.
The introduction of the vinyl roll up door is what has really increased speeds of doors. A typical electric opener on an overhead door will run between 10-16 inches per second. The introduction of pneumatic openers on overhead doors increased this speed to between 18-24 inches per second. The introduction of the vinyl roll up door now offers speeds up to 34 inches per second. This is accomplished by the roll up design as well as the shaft driven motors. So speeds will vary based on the type of opener as well as the style of door.
Door automation has come a long way over the last few years. There are very few washes where the customer has anything to do with opening or closing the doors anymore.
In automatic bays most doors are controlled by the carwash equipment that tells the doors when to open and close. Temperature controls can also tell the doors to open or close based on the bay temperature. Alerts can be sent to let an owner know if there is a door problem or the current position of the door.
In self-serve bays, loops, eyes and timers have eliminated the need for customers to hit buttons to enter the bay or close the doors upon leaving the bay. There are other options as well to monitor the door function and temperature of self-serve bays remotely.
Dependability of doors is based on two main components: Door hardware and openers.
Door hardware is simple. Purchase corrosion resistant hardware designed for the carwash environment. It does not matter how much your door operates during a given day or month, if it is in a carwash it will corrode if it is not designed to withstand the environment. Corrosion is the number one factor in causing door problems over time.
Choosing the right operator for your application is critical to achieving dependable operation.
On an overhead door you should choose a direct drive operator rather than a jack shaft model. Direct drive means you are attaching directly to the door to open and close the door. Jack shaft means you are turning a sprocket on the shaft to open and close the door. The direct drive operators are always in sync with the door so you cannot jump your door cables and they do not require any belts, pulley or sprockets, so there is less maintenance.