Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Conveyor dryers

October 11, 2010
Choosing the right dryer for your conveyor carwash can be a daunting task. Taking the time to understand the market and its offerings will aide you in the selection of a drying system that will work for you and your customers.

First, you will need to understand the two main applications for drying cars: light touch and touch-less.

Light touch yields the greatest efficiency due to its low horsepower demand rate. This result is directly related to the dryer’s decreased discharge distance to the vehicle’s surface.

Touch-less drying sacrifices these energy savings to produce equaled results. However, the benefit of never coming into contact with an automobile often overrides this concern. Energy usage may be reduced in this method by controlling the air’s movement, through the use of nozzles or bags, which allows the system to deliver pressurized pinpoint drying to the vehicle’s surface.

Choosing the right dryer
In conveyer operations, elements such as drying agents, conveyer speeds, RO water, and drip space are all factors in effective drying. When choosing the right model for a carwash business it is important to consider the dryer’s location. If your carwash is designed with less drip space, dryer efficiency is especially crucial. You will rely on good water separation or “break” to dry vehicles properly.

Another variable in this drying process is the air itself within the tunnel. If there is a lot of mist in the enclosure, drying becomes problematic since wet air is being circulated back onto the vehicle.

To optimize drying performance it is crucial to have the right size of dryer for your operation. This can be calculated by determining a facility’s maximum car count per hour that can be washed.

As with any piece of carwash equipment, proper maintenance and periodic inspection will greatly reduce chances of down time due to mechanical failure.

An area to pay particular attention to is the inlet region which, when blocked, can create many adverse effects on the dryer’s operation. To keep the dryer running at peak performance it is important to clean this area often and inspect the impeller(s) in the blower where wax, soap and auto exhaust may build up.

Vibrations are another valuable gauge in the detection of dryer problems. All blowers produce minimal vibrations during normal operation, nevertheless when the vibrations become greater it is usually an indication of a potential problem.

A few causes of abnormal vibrations:
  • Worn motor bearings;
  • Foreign objects in the blower; and
  • Missing balance weight.
If left unchecked this type of situation could lead to motor or impeller damage that can be very expensive to repair. Inform- ation on proper maintenance procedures regarding the motor and blower can be accessed by checking the owners’ manual.

In addition, periodic cleaning keeps drying systems free from foreign matters like wax, oil, exhaust build up and foreign debris allowing the drying unit to work at optimum capacity while prolonging equipment life. Worn or clogged nozzles will increase water and chemical costs. They are also a major factor in the quality of the wash process.

Although the upfront expense is high, automotive dryers will save you money, time and energy over the years. A high quality product will provide a return on investment year after year adding to bottom line profits. Cost effective dryers reduce labor, energy usage, installation fees, and are engineered for overall longevity.

Saving on energy is one of the best ways to ensure a profitable return on investment when purchasing an automotive dryer. Operators should be aware of the direct relationship of the cost of operation per horsepower to kilowatt usage (1hp will use 0.97 Kilowatts) therefore the more energy consumed by the operations dryer the less money retained.

Staggered starts, VFDs (variable frequency drives) and other motor load control devices will help minimize demand rates and improve energy efficiency between vehicles while making sure the dryer is back up to full power before the car enters the dryer, allowing the system to be more effective.

Installation & replacement
In the process of dryer installation it is once again essential to consider location when placing an automotive dryer into a conveyor operation. The positioning of the unit should account for drip space while allowing enough conveyor length for the vehicle to completely clear the drying system prior to leaving the conveyors control, being front or rear driven track. It is also important to factor in installation expenses even before purchasing a drying system. The greater number of motors, the greater incidental costs will be for additional starters, conduits, disconnects, labor and lines of current.

Existing carwashes will have predetermined three-phase voltages of 208, 230 or 460. Installation costs of the 208V and 230V are significantly higher than 460V due to due to increased material cost and labor incurred by a lesser voltage supply.

Keeping in mind proper installation is necessary for proper performance of the dryer, as most dryers can be assembled without professional aid. A certified electrician should be consulted when connecting three phase power to motors and control wiring to starters.

Knowing when to replace or upgrade a drying system is a judgment call that can ultimately increase return on investment and decrease down-time due to equipment failure. An obvious but important question to ask is: Does your dryer really work?

An improperly dried vehicle is indication of a poor drying unit that adds to maintenance, electricity costs and labor expenses while decreasing an operation’s bottom line profits. Newer systems not only offer the possibility of increase continual payback on investment but greater availability of parts as well. With continuous modernization it is also easier for newer drying systems to handle critical tasks such as higher line speeds and accommodate a wider vehicle array, while continuing to provide energy efficient performance.

Ph balancing
Ph balancing insures a more thorough rinsing and break action from drying agents to insure all surfaces (i.e. glass, chrome and paint) are effectively cleaned and dried. In addition, soap or dirt residue remaining on the vehicle after the rinse will inhibit drying agents from working to their full potential.

Even when using the best drying agents, operators may not always achieve desirable drying results. Often, it is the wash process that aids in the best outcome. Cleaning products work together and work best when pH balanced. When there is too much alkaline in the wash process, water tends to lay flat and sheet instead of breaking on the surface of the vehicle inhibiting the drying process. A proper mix of acidic agents applied through a second application arch will decrease the effect of high alkaline.

There are also many variables that affect the balance of the wash process. These include:
  • Climate;
  • Humidity;
  • Season;
  • Regional air qualities; and
  • Road surface.
Consult with your regional supplier to make sure your system properly pH balanced. Obtaining the right chemical balance in the wash process allows for the cleanest, brightest and driest results.

With his uncle George Grabenhorst being one of the founders of the self-serve carwash in 1962, J.R. Klemmer is definitely no stranger to the automotive industry.

After serving in the United States Air Force from 1981-1985, J.R. began his career in the carwashing industry in Detroit, where he worked his way up from employee to owner.

From 1987 to present, J.R. has been associated with Proto-Vest, Inc., where he currently serves as the vice president and general manager of their Glendale, Arizona office. He can be reached at 1-800-521-8218.