We at Professional Carwashing & Detailing wanted to learn about the advances made in the carwash door market. We turned to Josh Hart with Airlift Doors Inc., and he answered our questions about the latest improvements when it comes to carwash doors.
Phillip Lawless: What are the newest trends for carwash doors in 2013?
Josh Hart: There are a few new trends for 2013. One of the most noticeable trends is the popularity of the vinyl roll up door. This style door became popular for a few reasons. First, it is much faster than most overhead doors. A high-speed vinyl roll up door can operate at speeds up to 34 inches per second where most overhead doors are around 16-18 inches per second. Another key feature of the roll up doors is that it can be impacted without causing any damage to the door. When knocked out of the opening, the door will automatically reset on the next cycle. Lastly, there are not as many components to a vinyl roll up door. Less hardware means that there is less equipment to maintain. It is important to keep in mind however that these doors offer no security and have zero R-Value so they are only recommended in certain applications.
Another trend is automation. With roll over bays or tunnel washes, the carwash equipment can control the doors and tell them when to open and close between cars. However, it has become a trend for self-serve carwash bays to make them fully automated so the customer does not have to exit the car other than to wash their car. Typically customers add an in ground loop to open the door when the car pulls up. Once the car enters the bay, a timer will close the door automatically. Once the customer is finished washing their car they hit a button to open the exit door, but then it will close automatically once the car has cleared the bay. If a car is in the bay photo eyes will recognize this and cut off the loop signal so the enter door does not open until the bay is ready for the next vehicle. This system not only eliminates any hassle for your customers, but it also ensures that a door is not open for an extended amount of time which can save a great deal of money on your heat bill in the winter season.
PL: How have door designs improved over the past five years?
JH: The number one improvement has been the use of corrosion resistant hardware. Whether you are purchasing a vinyl roll up door or a polycarbonate overhead door, make sure you are getting a rustproof package. This will make your equipment last a great deal longer, but more importantly will keep it operating properly to eliminate costly downtime. New trends include plastic garage door tracks, plastic hinges, e-coat door drums and many other stainless steel components that are not always considered standard items, so be sure you are asking for these when quoting a new door or replacement parts.
PL: What advantages will a new set of doors offer a carwash owner?
JH: The main advantage that new doors offer to a carwash site is definitely appearance. No matter how hard you try to keep your doors clean, after many years of constant chemical and water spray, they will begin to look a little cloudy. You have to remember that the doors are the first thing the customer sees when they pull up to your wash so it is important to keep them looking nice. Polycarbonate doors are nice because they allow customers to see in or out of the carwash bay and at night will really radiate the internal light from your carwash inviting customers to use the bay. If you choose to go with a roll up door, it is important to have multiple clear panels so you can get the same effect. Keeping your doors looking nice also tells customers that the rest of your equipment is probably in good shape as well. Remember, you do not need to replace the entire door and hardware. Often times, replacing a panel or two will go a long way with appearance.
PL: What benefits do doors offer carwashes in the winter?
JH: There are a few obvious reasons here, but the main one is to keep your equipment from freezing. A good door will not only protect your equipment, but will do it at little cost because if they are controlled properly they can trap the majority of heat in the bay and eliminate the need to have your heaters running constantly.
Another is to keep ice buildup at a minimum. In cold weather climates keeping the water spray inside the bay will eliminate a potentially dangerous situation with ice buildup outside the bay on your parking lot and pedestrian walkways.
Lastly, in a self-serve application, it offers the customers a sheltered environment to wash their cars without dealing with the winter elements. Customers will typically spend more time and money washing their cars if they are comfortable while doing it.
PL: What benefits do carwash doors offer in the summer?
JH: In the winter it is obvious why doors are necessary, but in the summer you should still operate your doors for a number of reasons.
First, doors can control when a car should enter or exit the bay. Without an entrance door opening to signal it is ok for a car to drive into the bay they may enter too early before the wash cycle is ready. On the exit side a door opening can signal that the wash is complete and tell a customer to pull forward at the right time and not leave the wash too early or hang around too long after a wash is complete.
Another key reason to operate doors in the summer is to keep water and chemical spray inside the bay. Many city ordinances will now require this in all carwashes to keep the overspray from running into city storm sewers.
For highly populated areas, many washes operate the wash with their doors closed to eliminate noise from the carwash equipment and prevent disturbing neighboring homes or businesses.
In a self-serve environment having the doors closed during the wash process can eliminate the wind tunnel effect and make for a much more pleasant wash experience for you customers.
PL: How can doors be used inside carwash tunnels?
JH: For tunnel applications doors can be a good tool to separate the different processes of the wash cycle. You may have a car going through the wash process at the same time the car in front is beginning the drying cycle. A door in the middle of the bay separating the two cycles will keep water from spraying on the car that is in the drying cycle.