Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Choosing doors: The rule of four

October 11, 2010

Owners and operators of automatic carwashes today are faced with a wide variety of door and opener choices. The challenge is how to decide which door is right for your wash.

4 more doors

1. Overhead sectional steel doors
Overhead steel doors can be manufactured to fit any size opening and include the option of adding insulated panels, which can increase heat retention.

Matched with the correct type of opener, overhead steel doors offer a great deal of security.

This type of door is typically used in garages or warehouses.

In corrosive environments this type of door deteriorates quickly and can retain large amounts of water, which increases the weight of the door and ultimately reduces its insulation factor.

This increase in weight changes the balance of the door, which negatively impacts the life expectancy of the door hardware and/or opener.

2. Overhead polycarbonate doors
Polycarbonate doors were designed specifically for the corrosive environments found in carwashes.

The polycarbonate and sloped aluminum construction of these doors virtually eliminates the accumulation of water in the door.

Many options are available with this type of door that will greatly increase their performance and lifespan as well as cut down on general maintenance. Some of these options include:

  • Strapeze counterbalance system;
  • Stainless steel hardware;
  • Plastic track and more.

The triple-walled polycarbonate sections offer UV protection and heat retention as well as providing 200 times the impact strength of glass doors.

Furthermore, with the addition of 1/4" lexan panels, the polycarbonate door provides the same full view characteristics as glass doors while maintaining only 1/8 the weight.

The door allows the passage of natural light into the bay providing a bright interior environment and an inviting exterior appearance.

This type of door is very secure, and is ideal for high cyclage applications.

3. Bi-folding doors
Bi-folding doors are generally made from the same polycarbonate material as overhead polycarbonate doors.

Functioning in openings with as little as 7" of headroom and/or side room, this type of door is ideal for applications where an overhead door will not fit.

Bi-folding doors provide security and heat retention as well as operate at the fastest speeds of any doors on the market. They are generally available only for automatic carwash applications with openings no higher than 10’.

4. Fabric doors
Fabric doors ranging from sliding curtain doors to high-speed roll-up doors are generally used in applications that have a high volume of traffic.

These doors often feature a break away safety system that can help prevent damage to the door should a vehicle contact it. Fabric doors do not provide a great amount of insulation or security.

Often an application that uses fabric doors will also use an overhead door to provide security and heat retention.

Open 4 success

Along with the variety of door types come more choices for the operation of the door. Door openers can be classified either by how they are driven (electrically or pneumatically) or by how they open the door (jackshaft type or drawbar type).

Jackshaft openers operate the door by turning the door shaft. Drawbar openers connect directly to the door and pull or push the door to operate it.

1. Electric jackshaft openers
Electric jackshaft openers are used in non-corrosive environments such as garages and warehouses.

They are installed on doors that require highlift where a drawbar opener will not reach the door. This type of opener provides a minimal amount of security and is also good for high cyclage applications.

2. Electric drawbar (trolley) openers
Electric drawbar openers are also used in non-corrosive environments, but are installed on doors that are standard lift or have a minimal amount of highlift. This type of opener provides good security and is safer than a jackshaft opener.

3. Pneumatic jackshaft openers
Pneumatic jackshaft openers are ideal for corrosive environments such as carwashes and salt sheds. They are mainly installed on doors that require highlift.

This type of opener operates at speeds up to three times faster than electric jackshaft openers and is recommended for high cyclage applications.

4. Pneumatic drawbar openers
Pneumatic drawbar openers are also ideal for corrosive environments. They are generally constructed of stainless steel or anodized aluminum and are installed on standard lift doors, or doors with a minimal amount of highlift.

This type of opener provides optimal security due to constant air pressure being exerted on the door. Pneumatic openers operate at speeds up to three times faster than electric openers.

Solving door dilemmas

Doors have historically been a headache for owners and maintenance personnel. Most problems arise from the wrong type of door being used for the wrong application.

However, newer models and innovations have solved many of the traditional problems. Beyond door and opener types, many other products are available to increase the performance of your door.

Products such as door thresholds, and stainless steel and plastic door components can help you cut down on those door headaches.

There are many areas to consider when choosing a door. Talking to experts in the carwash door industry will help guide you through the process.

Brian Schmitz is a Sales Representative with Airlift Doors, Inc. in Minneapolis, MN and can be reached for questions and comments at