Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Evolving carwash doors

October 11, 2010

Planning ahead when building a carwash may seem like a very general guideline to follow, but it is extremely important.

Often, carwash owners don’t take the doors into consideration when constructing or remodeling their building.

Dead on doors
Headroom, side room and carwash equipment measurements can all affect the engineering of a garage door package.

Specific measurements are needed to choose the best door, counterbalance and operator options.

Talk to equipment suppliers early to get the necessary measurements and use them to plan the building layout. When fitting doors for an existing building, be sure to provide all measurements to the supplier upfront so they can suggest the best options.

After all is said and done, if there isn’t as much room left as expected, don’t panic. There are low clearance track designs available that will allow the overhead door to travel within 4” of the ceiling.

All doors are NOT created equal
Don’t be fooled, all carwash doors are the not the same. Look for a door manufacturer that sells door packages specifically designed to meet the unique needs of each carwash.

The packages are created by choosing from a variety of hardware options, such as:

  • Galvanized springs;
  • Stainless steel springs or strapeze counterbalance;
  • Galvanized, plastic, nickel-plated or stainless steel hardware.

These choices can only be made by asking specific questions about the individual location. The door supplier or manufacturer should be more than happy to offer recommendations.

If you decide to get comparison quotes, be sure to match them up item by item and ask specific questions if you do not understand the differences.

Once again, a door is a package. Unless you plan on having your customers open and close the doors by hand every time they enter or exit your bay, you will need an operator with your door package.

What type of automation will you use? Planning for the operator purchase requires knowledge of each style and how each one works.

For instance:

1) Jack shaft air operators: Jack shaft operators are mounted vertically on the side of the track and turn the shaft to operate the door.

2) Direct drive air operators: Direct drive operators can mount vertically on the track or horizontally to the ceiling. This type of opener operates by pushing and pulling the door rather than turning the shaft to open and close the door.

The main advantage of mounting the operator on the ceiling is that it keeps the unit out of the elements of the carwash bay, which include water, cold temperatures and chemicals.

Eliminate ice
For those owners who operate in cold weather climates, it’s time to face the facts about ice and accept that it will appear on doors, floors and tracks every winter.

However, there are new products that allow you to avoid the problems that are associated with ice buildup. The first was mentioned above.

Install a direct drive air opener horizontally in your bay and avoid frozen cylinders or cable jumping that can occur with jack shaft openers. Because the opener connects to the door rather than turning the shaft, it can stop ice buildup or similar obstructions without allowing slack to build in the cables.

Another way to fight ice buildup is to use plastic hardware. Installing plastic tracks and hinges will help reduce ice accumulation as the plastic does not conduct cold temperatures the same as galvanized steel or stainless steel.

Also available is a plastic threshold that can be installed to the floor underneath the door. The threshold is fitted with heat tape grooves for those with extreme ice issues.

Ice is inevitable, but the problems it creates are not.

Keeping the heat in
If you paid attention to last month’s heating bill, you probably noticed a trend in gas prices. If your wash is in a location where you must have heat, you must have doors.

By using high-cycle, high-speed air openers on the overhead door, an owner will be able to retain heat in the bay by opening and closing the doors after every car.

This will also protect against freeze ups and greatly reduce ice buildup on interior equipment. Doors also protect the owner’s investment by keeping out vandals and thieves when the wash is not supervised.

Carwash doors take a beating
Door hardware in carwash bays receives a constant spray of water and chemicals.

Increases in the strength and amount of chemical used in the wash process have placed greater demands upon the performance of these hardware components.

By upgrading the hardware packages to stainless steel, an operator immediately doubles the life of the door package. This means that the wash will run for a much longer period of time without ever having to turn cars away while doors are serviced.

The larger initial investment will more than pay off in the long run by eliminating service costs and downtime.

Purchasing stainless steel or plastic hinges, stainless steel shaft line and nickel-plated drums is the first step towards corrosion-proofing doors.

Bearing-less rollers are also a good idea for carwash applications. By eliminating the bearing, there are no parts that can seize or lock up from chemical buildup.

Other corrosion resistant parts include stainless steel tracks, plastic track, stainless steel bearings and stainless steel springs.

Another major benefit of corrosion resistant hardware options is that they maintain a new and clean appearance, which will keep customers coming back to the wash.

A door is not just a door
There are many door companies throughout the country that offer carwash door systems.

However, many of these packages include steel-insulated garage doors, electric openers and standard galvanized hardware. This combination will survive only a short while in the average carwash.

When a door is down it is subjected to constant water and chemical spray. When a door is open, all of this spray accumulates on top of the door and eats away at the panels.

Within months a steel door will have gained additional water weight and will show signs of corrosion. To counter these problems, polycarbonate doors are built with sloped rails to prevent water accumulation.

The weight of a poly door is approximately half that of a steel door and will not gain any additional weight throughout its life, ensuring better longevity of the door and hardware.

Although these doors are lightweight, they are built for durability. Polycarbonate doors are 200 times stronger than glass and will not rust, crack or dent.

Take advantage of the knowledge gained over the last few decades and purchase products that are specifically designed for your application.

From door to door
Be aware of new products and how they can improve the performance of your doors. Be sure to ask your supplier what products have recently been introduced before purchasing your door package.

The door industry is constantly changing and new products are coming out on a regular basis. Don’t miss out on the latest and greatest.

Josh Hart is the VP of Operations at Airlift Doors, Inc. Airlift Doors is a supplier of carwash doors and openers. If you have any questions please contact Josh at