Professional Carwashing & Detailing

The CarWash College High-Pressure Equipment Maintenance Tip of the Month:

August 17, 2006

Hybrid washing is a combination of friction and high pressure (touchless) cleaning. It is quickly becoming recognized industry wide as the preferred method of tunnel configuration. There are certain areas of a vehicle that friction can't clean, but high pressure can. The same holds true for the reciprocal. As high pressure washing is important to the cleanliness of the vehicles you wash, it is equally important to maintain this vital part of your wash process. By following the procedures listed below, you will be able to eliminate mechanical downtime and extend the life of your high pressure equipment.

Whether or not your high pressure cleaning applicator is stationary or "tracks" the vehicle, there are three main areas to check in your weekly maintenance schedule.

  1. Check to make sure that the integrity of your high pressure water hoses, hydraulic hoses and pneumatic lines are intact. Also, check any fittings, associated with these hoses, for leaks and tightness. If adjustments need to be made or a hose needs to be replaced, make sure that all power to the motors has been shut off and locked out. Additionally, confirm that all pneumatic lines are closed and drained of residual pressure by depressing the relief button on the side of the Mac Valve. Observe the pressure regulator to make sure it reads zero before working with the lines. If there is a compromise in any of the above mentioned areas, and you can't tend to the problem immediately, make your repair at the end of business that day.

  2. Check your pump activation and termination in your wash process. Observe its operation to determine if it's coming on and shutting off at times that maximize your cleaning. If not, you will need to change the number of pulses in your controller to regulate application duration; less if you want it on earlier and more if you want it on later. The same is true for shutting it off. Are you still using those tire switches and control boxes with timers? No problem, just adjust your timer for the desired affect and make sure that your tire switch is mounted in the proper location. If your high pressure cleaner "tracks" or follows the vehicle, watch to make sure you are getting the coverage on the targeted area that you desire and adjust your pneumatic flow controls accordingly. By opening the flow control you are allowing more air to enter the cylinder thus forcing the applicator to follow more quickly and vise versa. Remember as you change the conveyor speed you will need to change the speed at which it "tracks".

  3. Check to make sure that your air pressure stays the same from day to day. Once the pressure has been set at the regulator, the pressure shouldn't change unless adjusted. If you notice that the pressure is beginning to drop over time without adjustment, chances are your nozzles need to be replaced. Too many times I've seen operators and managers crank down on the regulator to get the desired pressure back when it starts to fall. This is a short term solution. In the long run all that you are doing is overworking your pump and greatly reducing its life expectancy. Keep your nozzles free of debris. It will keep the cleaning consistent and prevent over pressurizing the pump which will also cause premature wear in the pump. The last time I checked, nozzles were a lot cheaper than a new pump. For example; a new Wanner H25 pump is about $2,400 plus around $70 an hour for labor, bringing the grand total of a new pump installation to about $2,540. If you are planning on rebuilding, an entire rebuild kit will cost about $1000. With labor you're looking at a total rebuild costing around $1,140. When comparing a new pump to a rebuild or a new set of nozzles, which only cost about $37 for the set, I'd have to go with the nozzles and diligent maintenance. Did I mention the loss of added cleaning ability for the duration of the time the pump is down? How much money will the negative feedback from your customers cost you? Is it conservative to say that weekly maintenance will save you thousands of dollars and many headaches over the years? I think so.

Brett D. Gerring is an associate instructor at CarWash College and serves as the Midwest Regional Sales Manager for Sonny's Enterprises, Inc. Brett can be reached at