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Cloth and conveyor upkeep

October 11, 2010
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Since the conveyor is the heart of the carwash business, owners must become very familiar with the operation, maintenance, and overall general care for every aspect of their conveyor in order to ensure they do not interrupt their business with unnecessary down time.

Keep an eye on...

There are several things that carwash owners need to monitor in order to maintain their equipment including:

  • Water quality;
  • Soil conditions;
  • Climate;
  • Wash volume;
  • Chemicals; and
  • Improper loading and unloading.

All of the above have a significant impact on the life and quality of a conveyor.

Visual inspection

Owners must make the conscious effort to look at their chain and rollers closely for any signs of premature wear. Doing this daily will ensure early recognition that perhaps it may be time to change some rollers and flip the chain.

Be sure to get it scheduled, order parts and get it done. Once something in the conveyor gets a little out of sorts, not addressing it will only compound the problems and costs down the road.

Also, inspect the entrance and exit trap doors, this is an area that can chew up rollers, put stress on the chain, and lead to costly repairs.

Maintaining proper chain tension will ensure correct operation of the conveyor, decreasing the chance of having a roller jam, and keeping the chain guided straight in the conveyor.

Annually pull the chain and rollers from the conveyor and inspect the entire operation and structure. Flip the chain to extend its life, rotate or replace the sprocket if necessary.

Pit cleaning

Carwash owners need to give daily pit cleaning top priority in order to experience years of successful washing with their conveyor.

Connect a wash down (tied in with your wet down, reclaim or RO wastewater) for the conveyor pit to flush the solids from the chain, rollers and decks of the conveyor.

This will minimize wear and help keep water flowing through the drainage system. This is a very simple part of opening and closing your wash that will prevent major headaches down the road.

Roller up

A carwash owner's conveyor most likely has a feature that calls for a roller to come up and carry the vehicle through the wash. The owner should understand the linkage and how this operates.

Some conveyors are air actuated and consist of an actuator along with the forks and in some cases a photo eye to read where the rollers are.

Air dryers to make sure there is quality air, proper air pressure and the forks condition along with the trap door all need to be regularly inspected.

Bearings also need to be greased regularly and changed approximately every 24 months (some washes may experience longer or shorter lifespan depending on the conditions and maintenance habits).

Always beware of loose hardware on the conveyor. Loose nuts and bolts contribute to premature wear and if left unattended could cause down time.

Owners should be familiar with the conveyor operation so in the event of a problem they will understand what needs to be done to get back up and running.

Manufacturer's maintenance

If a wash owner is not contracting their local equipment provider to perform regular preventative maintenance, they must be sure they understand what needs to be done, such as:

  • Greasing bearings;
  • Chain maintenance; and
  • Roller up mechanisms.

Most manufacturers have a set maintenance program that should be followed as closely as possible for each piece of equipment.

Proper cloth care

Owners won't go wrong with regular cleaning and plenty of soaps to maximize lubrication and cleaning while minimizing the noise (for exterior customers in the vehicles).

Keep nozzles clean — It is imperative that owners continuously flush clean their cloth. With clogged nozzles the wash is not getting the manufacturer's recommended flow in order to keep the cloth in top shape, looking good, and maximizing its life expectancy.

Needed lubrication — DO NOT CUT ON CHEMICALS! Lubricity from the proper combination of detergents and water are the reasons behind the carwash business.

A lack of lubricity will lead to the cloth getting aggressive, wearing at a greater rate, and leading to the possibility of damage to a customer's vehicle.

Owners should work with their chemical provider for the proper amount for a good clean vehicle while keeping in mind they will also need to rinse it off and prepare the vehicle for drying in the allotted area.

Employee training — Make sure carwash employees realize that loose moldings, sharp edges, and rusted running boards can lead to equipment, cloth and vehicle damage.

If an employee can spot this early in the process the owner can get that car out of line and offer to hand wash it or politely send them on their way.

Staying on top of it

Cloth and conveyor maintenance isn't a difficult thing for owners and operators to keep track of. However, it does take some active participation and awareness on their part.

Staying on top of general cloth and conveyor maintenance issues will ensure that the carwash runs smoothly and any potential problems are identified early on and dealt with appropriately to save time and money.

Brian Gleason is the vice president of sales and marketing at PECO Car Wash Systems, Auburn Hills, MI, a maker of soft cloth and high pressure tunnel carwash equipment. For more information contact Brian at