Professional Carwashing & Detailing

A door to adore

June 2, 2011

Carwash doors do their part if they open and close when they should, but there is a lot more to them and they can be a money blackhole if they are not properly installed and maintained. Josh Hart, vice president of Airlift Doors, Inc., said customers are looking for quality, product support, and warranty.

“The majority of carwashes are no longer the ‘mom and pop’ operations of years ago,” Hart explained. “With most washes not having an on-site maintenance person at all times, having quality products that require little or no maintenance is becoming more important.”

Take advantage of new technology
Most of the newer technology in the carwash door business hinges around corrosion resistant products. “Polycarbonate doors have replaced the majority of the old steel doors over the last 10 years. Corrosion resistant hardware is the latest trend,” Hart said, adding that door packages are available with stainless steel shaft, bearings, rollers, hinges, and even track. “Plastic,” he said, “is also available as an alternative to stainless steel on such items such as hinges and track.”

Another product that is relatively new to the carwash door market is the high speed vinyl roll-up door, according to Hart, who said they have become popular in mild to medium climates where security is not a critical factor.

“One of the advantages to the vinyl roll-up style door is the ability to pop the door out of the tracks and have the panels automatically reset on the next cycle,” Hart stated. “Some of the newest style doors also have a counterbalance option which allows a customer trapped in the bay due to a loss of power to pull a cord on the motor and the door will open automatically.”

Hart warned that if you are interested in this type of door, be sure to find one that has been designed for the carwash market. Fiberglass track, stainless steel shaftline, and stainless steel brackets are a must for this type of door to succeed in a carwash.

Doors have come a long way since yesterday
Doors have come a long way from the old steel contraptions that used to greet carwash customers. The most significant change has been the introduction of the polycarbonate door (see sidebar). Whereas steel doors would quickly deteriorate, dent and corrode in the wet carwash environment and would absorb the moisture inside the panel adding extra weight on the door, polycarbonate doors provide a lighter, but stronger option.

Another improvement is the durable and corrosion resistant materials replacing the standard garage door parts, Hart said. “Plastic track, stainless steel track, E-Coat door drums, plastic hinges, stainless steel hinges, stainless steel shaft, stainless steel springs, stainless steel brackets, stainless steel bearings, and all stainless steel screws, bolts, and nuts are a few of the components that are unique to the carwash door industry.”

Direct drive operators are another major improvement. The first openers used were electric jackshaft openers. “The problem as we all know now is that electric openers do not hold up in the tough carwash conditions,” Hart explained. “This led to the introduction of the pneumatic jackshaft opener. This opener performs and lasts very well in the carwash environment, but is still susceptible to problems with the cables coming off the drums,” he said.

How to make a door work better
There are many little things a person can do to make sure a door is running at peak efficiency, according to Hart, who said carwash doors are typically engineered for high cycle use. “Therefore,” he noted, “sitting idle for long periods of time can actually do more damage to the system. We recommend cycling your door regularly if you do not have it opening and closing between every car.” He recommends running the doors a few times to keep all parts lubricated and to keep the chemical spray from building up on the equipment. Another tip he suggested is spraying down the panels regularly to reduce the layers of chemical buildup.

Another small improvement, Hart suggested, is to make sure all of the hinges and rollers are functioning properly. “If you have not upgraded to plastic or stainless hinges and stainless steel rollers with plastic wheels,” he said, “this change can drastically improve the overall performance of your door package.” Hart added that not only will they eliminate corrosion problems, but in cold weather climates, they can greatly reduce ice buildup on the tracks and hinges.