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Soap solutions: De-freeze a self-serve wash

October 11, 2010
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What’s the best way to de-freeze a self-serve wash?

Roman Zelek: Letting your spray guns and foam brushes weep is the primary way to keep your carwash from freezing.

Many operators use cold water for weeping, however, from experience, it is recommended that operators use warm water for weeping below 10 degrees.

Today’s high-tech market includes devices that control the usage of water depending on the outside temperature. These devices will allow water to flow at a predetermined rate, or you can set your own rates.

Temperature sensors must be installed in the coldest spots of the carwash; the shady side of the building that the wind blows upon is the best spot. You will get false readings from the sun shining on the sensors.

Besides weeping expensive water, there are a few other ways to keep your foam brushes from freezing.

Methanol soap (talk to your chemical supplier for further information) for foam brushes is one idea.

On the plus side, customers cannot use a weeping foam brush to wash their car. The down side is that methanol soap is very expensive and still can freeze at bitterly cold temperatures.

Also some fire departments won’t allow you to store much of it because it is flammable.

Foam brush buckets — having these installed in the bays is a good idea for having a clean, soft and icicle free brush all day long.

Post instruction signs telling the customer to rinse the brush with the high pressure gun before using.

Heating your floors

Floor heat is very important for safety in your carwash but unfortunately, floor heat has become a very expensive necessity.

Many operators use plenty of deicing salt to cut heating costs and some put their floor heaters on timers and shut them down at night when there is no business. You are taking a chance, however, since there is the potential that a few customers may wander in and end up washing in slippery conditions.

Open or closed

Keeping the bay door closed is a great idea to cut wind and it creates a warmer environment for the customer to wash their car.

If you have doors on both sides of your automatic bays, it is not recommended that you close them at night for a simple reason: there are too many ways a door can fail to open.

It can freeze to the ground on a cold night or a mechanical problem can develop, and even the best planned safeties can fail.

Check it out

Be sure to check the following things at the end of October:

  • Solenoid valves and check valves;
  • Backflow preventers;
  • Swivels, chemical and high pressure lines;
  • Heaters: clean burners once a year;
  • Proper fluid levels;
  • Antifreeze concentration for floor heat;
  • Thermostat and pilot light;
  • Circulating pumps;
  • Oil in gear boxes and pumps;
  • Trough: heating insulation, and vibrating hoses;
  • Doors, air lines, cylinders, springs; and
  • Compressors.

Have as many spare parts as you can afford to keep in stock. Freezing is an unavoidable part of self-serve washing.

When it does happen, remember to remove frozen hoses and put them in a container of hot water. While hoses are deicing, check your trough heating system.

Next, spray hot water onto the connection hose hanging from the roof to the boom. You should see water weeping again shortly.

Then reconnect the hose and do the same with the rest of the thawed out foam brushes and guns. Do not try to thaw with a propane torch. Extensive damage to swivels and seals will occur.

Roman Zelek is the manager of the Busy Bee Car Wash in Schaumburg, Il, and was named PC&D’s most valuable carwasher in 2001.