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Prevention and preservation

October 11, 2010
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There are two types of maintenance that concern carwash owners: Preventive and general. Preventative maintenance should be as much a part of your business as water and cars. General maintenance is important, too. Cleaning the entrance way, changing a light bulb, etc.; but maintenance that can prevent breakdowns, downtime, inefficiency and less profits is priceless.

The bottom line is that not only should each wash have a preventative maintenance program (PMP), but it should also be followed religiously if you want what’s best for your wash.

The 411 on PMP
The acronym PMP may not be a part of the industry’s every day lexicon, but it should be. According to Dean Cheramie, vice president of sales and marketing at Ryko Manufacturing, a proper PMP is comprehensive and designed specifically for the site and the equipment installed.

“The program should cover not only proper functioning of the complete carwash equipment, but also the complete carwash program, including activation and payment systems, signage, warning buzzers, doors, bay heat and freeze protect, chemical titration, RO water, etc.,” Cheramie explained.

Cheramie pointed out one important misconception; many operators believe a maintenance program is not required during the warranty period, since all repairs will be under the manufacturer’s warranty. “Regular maintenance is required and should be scheduled from opening day. While the service provider is often the same company that sold the equipment, a clear arrangement for preventive inspections should be made during the warranty period.”

Creating the PMP
It is important to make sure you don’t make a task too big to handle. According to Dan Beaupied of PECO Carwash Systems, routine maintenance can be done by carwash staff while the heavier mechanical work is performed by a qualified technician. “There are plenty of rainy days that will allow staff to maintain and clean equipment while at the same time it may save you considerable down time to have an experienced technician perform heavier tasks,” Beaupied said.

4 different checklists

A good PMP will follow and include a checklist of tasks. A great one will follow four different ones, according to Robert Andre who said there should be a list of daily, weekly, monthly and annual/semi-annual chores.

1. Daily Procedures: Observation is the most important aspect of these procedures. The goal is to catch small problems early, before they cause greater damage. This group is further broken down into:

a. Opening Checks — Performed prior to opening the carwash for the day’s business. These checks confirm the wash's ability to safely wash a vehicle with no damage to the equipment or the vehicles.

1) Dry Checks — Includes hydraulic fluid checks. Look for low oil levels, leaks, and sub-standard performance of the overall system. No water is run prior to this check because oil leaks are easier to spot on a dry floor. All hydraulic leaks should be repaired as soon as the dry check is complete.

2) Wet Checks — This portion of the opening check is performed before opening and is designed to bring all of the equipment on line and ready to wash vehicles. The wet down procedure is programmed into the controller and allows you to concentrate on observing the equipment.

3) Wet Checks II (Chemical Checks) — A visual check of the chemical barrel levels in the equipment room. You do not want to run out of a chemical for any reason. The entire wash process can be compromised if this happens. When changing a barrel, always clean and test the foot valve. Transfer the last of the old container into the new container when possible. Besides just looking for barrels that need to be replaced, you are looking for excessive use and minimal use. Additionally, you would check the salt level of the water softener system. Fill with salt as needed. It’s better to have too much than too little.

b. Operational Checks — These are performed while the wash is operating. These checks confirm the equipment is functioning properly and correctly adjusted.

1) Tunnel Checks — A walk-through of the tunnel while a wash is occurring with all extra service applicators operational. Check for overall performance and specific adjustment indicators.

2) Support Equipment Checks — An inspection of the equipment room while a wash is occurring with all extra service applicators operational. Check for overall performance and specific adjustment indicators.

c. Closing Checks — These are performed after the wash has closed for the day. These checks confirm the equipment is functioning properly and is correctly adjusted. In addition, any heavily soiled cloth is cleaned.

1) Tunnel Checks — An inspection of the tunnel. Look for any damage that may have occurred during the day.

2) Support Equipment Checks — An inspection of the equipment room. Check for any damage or problems that have come up during the day.

2. Weekly Procedures: The inspector should pay close attention to lubrication. When Weekly Procedures are performed, long-term wear and tear will become apparent and further deterioration can be avoided. The Weekly Procedures are divided up between the tunnel and the equipment room for a typical conveyor carwash.

3. Monthly Procedures: Monthly Procedures include thoroughly cleaning the wash’s equipment and close inspection of long-term wear points. This allows the operator to gauge overall wear and tear on the equipment. The Monthly Procedures are divided up between the tunnel and the equipment room, and are scheduled for individual days assigned at the manager’s discretion.

4. Annual and Semi-Annual Procedures: Focus on the long-term replacement of wearable items; such as chains and rollers. The scheduling of individual tasks is determined by the manager of the facility. However, they must be done within 30 days of their due dates.

In order to create your PMP, you’re going to need a few tools. Robert Andre, president of Tamarac, FL-based CarWash College, said operators should:

  1. Create a 30-day schedule using a dry erase calendar;
  2. Label weeks 1–4 and fill in daily, weekly, and monthly tasks in perma nent marker;
  3. Leave space for sign-off boxes to be initialed when the service is complete;
  4. In addition to the 30-day calendar, an annual dry erase calendar can be helpful as well;
  5. Using the annual calendar, you can also plan a years worth of repairs and projects with some forecasting and scheduling;
  6. Next, create an equipment log, utilizing a three-ring binder for each piece of equipment at the location. Document all service and repairs both scheduled and unscheduled, but not those in the PMP. Include the date, car volume since last performed, and whether the service was scheduled or unscheduled.
  7. Add notes, tools, required parts, part numbers used, vendors and the time it took perform the repair;
  8. List potential causes if a repair was premature. This will help with scheduling future repairs to avoid downtime.

An ounce of prevention
The payoffs of a good PMP are obvious, according to David Dougherty, a senior product manager with PDQ Manufacturing, Inc,. “Greater uptime in the bay equals more cars washed, longer equipment life, and scheduled maintenance is a lot cheaper and more efficient than emergency service calls,” he said.

Committing to a preventive maintenance plans also instills customer loyalty. “Customer confidence is a byproduct of always being open. If your wash has a history of breaking down or if obvious signs of neglect are apparent, customers will notice and take their business elsewhere,” Beaupied explained.

In addition to encouraging repeat visits, maintenance is also necessary to combat Murphy’s Law. “We all know in the carwash industry that equipment does not break on the slow rainy days, always the nicest Saturday in weeks,” Dougherty said. He added that customers tend to remember and avoid negative experiences like going to wash their car and finding the carwash closed or long waits because of equipment failure.

“Not to mention; Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to sleep at night or take a day or two off with complete confidence in your site will continue to operate correctly and efficiently?”

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