While door manufacturers recommend consistently cycling carwash doors in order to keep all working parts of the door lubricated, they also recognize that some carwashes inevitably end up keeping their doors open most of the summer. But now, with the warm weather having come to a close, those carwash doors you’ve kept raised all season will be rolling up and down again (if they aren’t already) to protect your wash from the coming winter elements.

However, after a season of staying open, you need to be sure to perform a thorough door maintenance check. “The most common cause of disrepair is a lack of good maintenance and equipment checks on a regular basis,” William Stokes, senior sales representative of Ultimate Supplies LLC, asserts.

Even if you have been cycling your doors consistently, maintenance is key. According to Kevin Baumgartner, president of American Garage Door Supply Inc., “All of the exposures of your wash environment — moisture, chemicals, temperature changes and the constant punishment of repetitive use — are constantly working against the integrity of your door system. These forces are damaging to sections, hardware and subcomponents and reduce the ability of your door to operate in a smooth, safe and reliable manner.”

Routine door maintenance practices will help prevent this equipment from falling into ever more costly disrepair down the road. But, whether your doors have been open all summer or not, now is the time to perform thorough maintenance in order to prevent damage or issues as your doors jump back into a more intense regimen during the winter months.

’Tis the season for maintaining

Before beginning any maintenance or repair work on a door or door opener system, Baumgartner cautions, be sure to shut off the power or air supply, and block off the door from any possible use.

Then, experts say, perform a thorough cleaning of the door. Different parts of the door require different care, but for the large portion of the door — its sections — use a cotton cloth and a polycarbonate- or vinyl-specific cleaner (depending on your door type) to clear off any dirt, debris or soap byproduct buildup.

Next, service the doors. One part of this step involves lubricating all moving parts of the door. Lubrication is especially important if a door has been dormant during the summer months, since it will allow the door to open and close smoothly during the initial cycles following its dormancy. Another aspect of servicing doors is tightening any fasteners. Finally, inspect all parts of your door, such as the rollers, hinges, torsion shafts/couplers and bearings/bearing plates, to determine if anything is missing, damaged or rusted. If it is, replace it. Many of the small parts of a door are simple enough to replace yourself, but Baumgartner advises having an experienced service person replace such parts as damaged door sections and torsion shafts/couplers.

“Checking the weather strip around your door for cracks or tears and checking door cables, track and bearings for any additional wear or damage will help prevent issues in the cooler months,” Jim Johnson, general manager for Airlift Doors Inc., notes.

Related: 6-system checklist for winterizing carwash doors

Stokes adds, “If you are using air-powered door operators, you will also need to make sure the air supply is clean and water-free and that the operators are free of air leaks.”

Most door manufacturers will offer a maintenance guide or owner’s manual that details how to keep the doors operating smoothly. You should always keep these manuals on hand and refer to them as needed.

Now that you’ve spent all this time and attention maintaining your doors, you want them to last a while. Of course, part of making sure a carwash door achieves its optimal lifespan is performing this maintenance regularly. According to Stokes, you will want to do a visual inspection of all overhead doors and their openers at least once a month during high volume seasons. If you ever find an issue with your door or opener, he adds, do not procrastinate in repairing or replacing it, since doing so could cause more costly damage down the line.

Unfortunately, however, a lack of maintenance is not the only threat to your doors.

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out

“Common causes for carwash door damage usually fall into two categories: customer error and lack of properly installed and working safety equipment,” Johnson claims.

In terms of customer errors, most such damage usually occurs when a vehicle impacts the door, adds Stokes. “The typical strike occurs when a vehicle passes into the door area while the overhead door is in motion to open or close as told to by the carwash programming,” he notes. “It is also not uncommon for a ladder rack or some accessory to a vehicle to strike the door if it is too tall to be washed in the carwash.”

Unfortunately, customer error is something largely outside of your control, but there are measures you can take to lower the risk of such an accident occurring. Johnson recommends that the best safety feature to install is photo eyes, which sense motion near the door and will prevent it from closing on a vehicle.

However, even photo eyes will not be a fail-safe if improperly maintained. Part of the aforementioned door maintenance program we covered should include cleaning photo eyes. Simply using a solution of soap and water will clean them efficiently, Johnson indicates. In addition, Stokes says, door sensors need to be tested regularly to ascertain that they are functioning properly; if they are not, they need to be repaired or replaced as needed.

“It would benefit each door to have its own safety device independent of the carwash computer control to operate the door in the event of a vehicle getting too close or striking the door,” Stokes suggests.

Furthermore, Johnson claims, “Having an emergency open on your carwash door will also help to prevent damage. If [you’re] in a power outage and the door becomes stuck in the down position, installing an air-powered operator will easily allow your door to open with air only. Some vinyl doors come with a counterweight system that allows for a simple pull rope to release the motor and allows the door to open with the counterweights. Both of these options allow the customer to exit the carwash, and the door can remain open until repairs can be done.”

However, Baumgartner notes that having door openers in general will only cause service issues to increase in severity and frequency if a door is unbalanced, improperly installed or poorly maintained. “If the actual carwash door is not functioning properly at any point, an operator and control system will only magnify the problems and increase the likelihood of additional safety issues, damage and cost,” he says. Thus, while door openers and controls are essential to efficient wash operations, it’s imperative that you keep your doors in proper working order at all times to prevent a chain reaction of damages.

As if all this wasn’t enough to keep in mind, winter brings with it its own set of issues for carwashes in general and doors in particular. For instance, with snow and ice in the mix, part of your door maintenance regimen will require deicing the door. As such, it’s critical to make sure your door is in proper working condition now while there’s still time to beat the winter before it arrives on your doorstep.