- Buyer's Guide
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The start of summer — is there any finer time to be a carwash owner? Swarms of big bugs are coating bumpers, and families are filling their cars for summer vacations. The combination of warm weather and busy roads can come together to give carwash sales a boost.
Even though it is busy, now is also a fine time to remember your doors and dryers. The latest advancements in doors and hardware can guarantee no losses in wash time, while fully functional dryers will keep customers content with spot-free cars.
One benefit of carwash doors is that they can help reduce the amount of upkeep a carwash needs, according to Josh Hart with Airlift Doors Inc. “There is no doubt about it that new doors with the right package for the wash can virtually eliminate upkeep costs,” Hart said.
When it comes to cleaning, Hart said that, over time, the inside walls and equipment of a conveyer wash can start to look dark and dirty. “If you have a door installed and keep it clean with regular maintenance it protects the overall appearance of the building by not allowing the customers to see the dirt accumulation inside the bay.”
Recent advances in stainless steel and plastic door hardware components can pay off big for carwash owners. Newer hardware reduces door downtime and maintenance costs, and it improves the overall performance of the equipment. This corrosion resistant hardware is an option buyers can choose, so Hart said to make sure that this option is requested when pricing outdoor packages.
Today, owners can choose between polycarbonate doors and vinyl doors for carwashes. “In my opinion,” Hart said, “there is no real advantage to either style door based on appearance. Vinyl doors offer more variety in color options, so if matching a color scheme of a business is important, you have more options with a vinyl door.”
Polycarbonate doors are available in two styles, according to Hart. The standard is five-wall polycarbonate, or the single pane polycarbonate that is completely clear and gives the appearance of glass. Also, with polycarbonate doors, owners have the ability to design a door that matches existing window or door patterns of a building.
Another good feature that carwash doors offer is the ability to control customer traffic. Hart said the opening and closing of the doors makes sure drivers will only enter and exit the carwash at the appropriate times.
If carwash doors will be used as traffic control, roll-up speed should definitely be a consideration. In this situation, a high-speed roll-up is the main feature needed, and here vinyl doors offer the best option. Hart said vinyl doors can open at a rate of 34 inches per second versus the 18 inches a second that a polycarbonate door with a pneumatic opener achieves.
If a wash needs a polycarbonate door with a pneumatic opener, Hart said to make sure and request a high-cycle opener for speed. Many manufacturers offer options for owners to choose low to high cycle options.
When it comes to dryers, Archie Johnson, owner of The Dryer Pros said that, to promote customer satisfaction, operators need to choose their drying systems carefully. It is very important to have enough drying capacity to handle maximum volume, and installing energy-saving controls such as variable frequency drives and air on-demand systems can reduce the cost of drying.
“Customers’ demand for clean, dry vehicles continues to be the biggest challenge carwash operators face today,” Johnson said. “And, if an operator fails to meet that challenge, his competitor down the street will. While installing a state-of-the-art drying system is a substantial investment, it’s an investment that smart operators continue to make. It’s one that the competition will make, and it’s one that customers expect.”
Johnson said it was easier to remove softened rinse water compared to today’s popular spot-free water. That’s because softened water will bead and easily blow off surfaces while spot-free water tends to cling to surfaces making it harder to remove. “But it’s fair to say that not leaving spots is worth the trade-off. Dryers simply have to work harder to get acceptable results.”
While the cleaning process in an exterior carwash can be enhanced with pre-washing, the drying system is always left alone to do its part of getting vehicles dry. Sometimes customers will judge their entire carwash experience by how much water is left on their windshield as they exit the tunnel, Johnson said. If too much water is left, they’re dissatisfied with the whole wash process.