Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Checking the Chain and Rollers for Wear

CarWash College™ Preventive Maintenance Tip of the Month

June 26, 2008


At CarWash College™ we teach preventive maintenance. This month we are going to talk about a topic that has been written about in the past, but is such a critical thing to the operation of the car wash that it needs to be brought up again — the chain and rollers on the conveyor. The life of the chain and rollers can vary significantly, based on making sure that they are properly adjusted. Considering the replacement cost, proper adjustment can save the car wash thousands of dollars in early replacement cost.

The life of the chain and rollers can be extended by maintaining the following:

Keeping the operational area clean

By keeping the conveyor area clean it does several things. It makes for a better inspection of the conveyor, since all parts can be seen, without being covered in muck from the conveyor pit. In addition, keeping the area clean keeps grime and muck from splashing onto the chain and rollers, creating abrasion and accelerated wear of the chain and rollers. When adjustments are needed they can be done faster if the area is clean, saving valuable time. The next critical variable in the operation is chain tension.

Adjusting chain tension

Chain tension should be monitored to keep optimal tension on the chain. The idea is to keep the right amount of tension on the chain and not to wait until the chain is too loose. If the chain is too loose when this adjustment takes place, it can accelerate chain wear by constantly switching the chain from loose to tight.

Sprocket alignment

Another critical variable in the life of the chain and rollers is the sprocket alignment. The sprockets can be out of alignment and the chain can still appear to be tracking properly, although the chain could actually be pulling to either the right or the left. The wear on the chain will take place on one side, wearing the sprocket on that side as well. There can be damage to the rollers from the improper alignment as well. They can pull to one side or the other, causing the UHMW wheels to wear unevenly. Sometimes the roller may actually cause the roller frame to hug the top deck of the conveyor, causing wear to the roller frame. The improper adjustment will also accelerate the wear of the roller-up fork as well.

Having a program in place to check the tension of the chain, keep the operational area clean, and the alignment of the chain all in tolerance, can provide significant savings. If these adjustments are out of alignment, you could see as little as 60k cars before replacement is needed. If the chain is maintained, you could see as much as 450k cars before replacement. Both numbers illustrate the extremes. Let's assume you have an express exterior car wash, using a 120 foot conveyor equipped with a D88K chain, washing 65k cars a year at a $6.50 ticket average. To replace the chain, rollers, and sprockets will cost approximately $4,887.00. Cost of deterioration at 60k would be about $5,000.00 a year. Cost of deterioration at 450k would be about $715.00 a year.

Robert Andre is the Director of Classroom Training for CarWash College™. Robert can be reached at For more information about CarWash College™ certification programs, visit or call the registrar's office at 1-866-492-7422.