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“Airing” a Grievance

Air compressors need routine draining.

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So, to what do you attribute your carwash’s success? Is it the astronomically high number of unlimited plans you sell? The beautiful, clean, dry, shiny car you produce? The street sign that captures every driver’s attention and immediately persuades them to come in and buy a wash? The lights, scents and show your tunnels produce?

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As successful operators, I’m sure it’s a combination of all the details above. And it shows.

So, what’s the grievance I want to air? I recently received a video from a former student who works for an organization that I admire. The facilities are clean, they produce a great car consistently, and they have been recognized as a top company to work for in their region of the country.

They do a lot right. But no matter how good you get, you can always get better. And this video revealed just that. 

The video showed the air compressor tank being drained. Judging by the amount of water rushing out, it may very well have been the first time the tank had ever been drained. It appeared the compressor had a 120-gallon storage tank, and I’d be willing to bet more than 100 gallons of water came out of the tank.

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Why is this a concern? Visit YouTube, search “air compressor explosion,” and you’ll see why.

Air compressor tanks are under severe pressure. Since water is a byproduct of compressed air, it collects quickly inside a tank as condensation. When too full, the tank becomes a safety hazard. Having residual water in the tanks for months can compromise the integrity of the tank. The pressurized air is always looking for a way to escape. If given even the smallest opportunity, the tank can explode.

In addition, all our air-driven components — shocks, cylinders, MAC valves, and filter regulator lubricators — like cool, dry air. If we’re sending very moist air out to these components, we’re in a never-ending battle with maintenance and frequent replacement. Adding an air dryer to the compressor can help eliminate moisture, but it is no substitute for draining the tank.

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Clearly, the best option is to maintain your current tank to handle corrosion. Before I received the video I referenced earlier, I thought everyone had already adopted auto tank drains on their compressors. I guess I was wrong.

If you don’t have an automatic tank drain on your compressor, go out today and buy one. Most are dual-timer setups that plug into the wall. You can set one timer for how often you want to drain the tank and the other timer for how long. There are other options, but they all serve the same purpose: Get the water out of the tank.  An automatic tank drain is one less thing for operators to think about and one less routine maintenance task needing human interaction during a day. However, you should still manually drain the tank in the morning before you open. Overnight, the tank will cool, and any moisture clinging to the tank walls will settle at the bottom of the tank.

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I’m glad the student decided to share the video with me. It reminded me that it’s not uncommon for routine tasks to become periodically forgotten or perpetually postponed. Unfortunately, periodically forgetting equals periodically accepting preventable failures. Without air, we can’t wash cars.

Follow your air compressor manufacturer’s maintenance schedule, drain the tanks early and often, and add an air dryer to the system. You’ll have years of trouble-free, explosion-free, cool, dry air and happy, air-driven components. 


Bob Fox has 35 years’ experience in the carwash industry and is the vice president of Sonny’s Car Wash College™. Bob can be reached at [email protected]. For more information about CarWash College™ certification programs, visit CarWash College or call the registrar’s office at 1-866-492-7422.

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This content is sponsored by CarWash College. Sponsored content is authorized by the client and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Professional Carwashing & Detailing editorial team. 

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