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Business Operations

B-r-r-r-ing on the winter

October 11, 2010
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Winter’s coming. The change of seasons means preparing for different customer habits because of a change in weather, putting your operation and your equipment in shape for the stresses they will encounter, and getting ready for the busiest time of year.

Everyone knows the salt and sand used to eat away ice and snow on roads must be washed off cars regularly so they don’t eat away a car’s finish and start rust. Since handwashing is not a viable option for most people during the winter, they prefer to visit a professional carwash where the equipment cleans the vehicle and the driver stays warm and dry.

To assure a winter of smooth and profitable operation, carwash owners need only perform a little preventive maintenance before the deep freeze sets in. A little time invested now can yield big dividends in reliable operation. Not only that, but preparing for winter before the snow hits means minimal headaches in the months to come.

Doors are essential to winter operation in regions where the weather gets really cold. They can remain open to permit faster throughput when the weather is warm enough, but in most cases should be opened and closed with each vehicle to permit a good wash without freezing the equipment.

Doors that have not been closed through the summer need to be inspected and lubricated before they face the frigid temperatures and frequent operation of winter.

  • Check the condition of the tracks. Are the cables or chains good and all bolts tight?
  • Check the condition and tension of the torsion springs.
  • Make sure the drums and pulleys are in good condition.
  • Replace any components with obvious wear and be sure to lubricate all the moving components according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • If you have air-operated doors, make sure the compressor and cylinders are operating properly and the automatic oil reservoirs are filled.

Floor heat
If you have a floor-heating system, check to be sure the system heats adequately and does not leak.

Fire up the boiler, wet the floor and see how the system dries it. If you see any problem, immediately contact the supplier who installed the system so it is working properly when it comes time to use it.

Rail heat
If you have a rail heat system on your equipment, check to see it is working properly. Some systems use electric heaters, while others use liquid-filled tubes. If you have a liquid system, be sure there are no leaks and your system is filled with an adequate amount of fluid.

Weep systems
Many manufacturers offer weep systems to prevent chemicals and water from freezing during winter. These systems allow a trickle of liquid to flow continuously through the equipment and lines. These systems sit unused all summer, so part of winterizing your wash should be to reconnect all weep systems, test their operation and adjust the rate of weep per the owner’s manual.

Also check the relays, thermostats and other components of the weep systems.

Soaps, soaks, et al
Because cold makes liquids thicken and flow more slowly, it may be beneficial to change to winter-formula chemicals for your pre-soaks, soaps and foams.

This should be part of your winterizing routine.

If you use chemical heaters to help keep your operation flowing smoothly, test them as part of your winterizing procedure. You may also want to reduce the volume of soap used during the cold months. Follow the equipment and chemical manufacturers’ recommendations when adjusting.

If you use pressurized air to blow water and chemicals out of the lines, be sure the system is working properly. Drain water from air lines and add a drying agent to keep moisture from freezing inside the air lines.

General routine maintenance
A winterizing inspection is also a good time to change the oil in gearboxes, pumps and other equipment. Most manufacturers recommend an annual oil change and doing it at a routine time minimizes the chance you will forget and assures you of having an adequate supply of fresh lubricant in your equipment. Check drive belts, chains, hoses, connectors and other components for wear and proper adjustment. Follow the manufacturer’s specifications for proper settings.

Entry station
If you use an entry station, be sure all of its components are working properly and be sure the heater system is not only working, but turned on.

If you offer different wash packages for winter, this is a good time to install the new customer-interface screens and change your other signs. Use your entry station’s marketing screens and audio prompts to remind customers to return to your wash regularly during the winter to not only keep their vehicle looking its best but reduce the corrosive effects of winter-driving chemicals.

Winter prep is really nothing more than good, thorough preventive maintenance.

If you have questions about any phase of pre-winter maintenance, call your vehicle-wash distributor and service team. A good distributor has well-trained, expert service technicians who can help you be certain you’ve covered all the vital components and adjustments for a smooth and profitable winter of service to your customers.

Mike Thoma is a Technical Service Representative with PDQ Manufacturing, Inc. Mike has worked on PDQ equipment for 8 years.