One of the most important functions of vinyl or polycarbonate carwash doors is the ability to keep cold weather out of a tunnel or bay so equipment and chemicals can stay at peak performance. However, if your carwash door has been up during the past few months of warm weather, you might be in for a cold surprise or worse.
We checked with carwash door experts to find out some best practices to follow during inclement weather as well as year-round.
Visual inspection is one of the critical practices to follow when it comes to the proper operation of carwash doors, regardless of type. In addition to the large façade that customers see, leading carwash doors also include many working components, including tracks, rollers, torsion springs and more. And, even if you purchased a door specifically made for carwashes, which is highly recommended, critical pieces are made from various metals, including corrosion-resistant stainless steel and aluminum, as well as plastics that can be worn over time and use. As the door is used, these components might show some wear and tear and ultimately, affect door performance.
“Ahead of winter, you should inspect doors and operators,” confirms Bob Kowalski, sales for Airlift Doors Inc. “Are the galvanized tracks rusted out? Do they need to be replaced? Be sure to check rollers. Give it a complete visual inspection, just to make sure everything is in tip-top shape.”
This visual review should also include a close inspection of door operations. Especially if your door has been up for the summer, cycling operations a few times can help spot an underlying issue that may grow into a problematic situation down the road.
“A lot of doors have a torsion spring so you’ll want to make sure those are functioning properly and not binding up,” advises Kowalski.
Some carwash doors operate using a counterbalance mechanism, adding another item to the pre-winter checklist.
Seeing clearly through winter
In addition to inspecting and fixing any issues associated with the physical door and its components, you will also be wise to check any systems or technologies, such as photo eyes, that work in conjunction with the carwash door.
“Especially in-bay automatics, the door will work with another piece of carwash equipment to signal that it’s time to open and close the door,” notes Kowalski. “Is that still the case? Make sure to check that photo eyes and/or sensors are doing what they are supposed to be doing.”
According to Kowalski, now is the time to make sure your doors look good and work well. Operators can also stay ahead by ordering replacement parts on critical wear pieces. With a solid maintenance plan throughout the year, operators can help minimize any lost profits and customer angst.
“Maintenance is key,” insists Kowalski. “Cleaning your opener, lubricating when and where needed, ordering replacement parts — these are all best practices to follow. Be prepared now and it will reduce waiting for parts and service — leading to significant downtime — when you need them the most.”
In addition to a visual inspection, Kevin Baumgartner with American Garage Door Supply Inc. also suggests listening for any issues, such as air leaks, when cycling doors daily. Some other regular carwash door maintenance tips from Baumgartner include:
• Lubricate the door as well as the operator according to the manufacturer’s recommendations
• Routinely clean the door and operator
• Apply a light coat of oil to torsion springs monthly
• Monthly inspection of the door’s weather stripping.
What goes up must come down
Even in warmer climates throughout the year, it’s best to operate carwash doors frequently and not just leave them in the up position. As mentioned, simply operating the door can help identify trouble spots. Opening and closing the door at least a few times a week will also help to make sure important components stay lubricated and properly functioning.
In the long-term, this practice will help extend the longevity of the door, adds Kowalski.
“For vinyl roll-up doors, if you leave it rolled up, it has a tendency to hold in moisture and mildew can start to develop, which aesthetically does not look pleasing,” comments Kowalski. “With an overhead door, if you leave it up, it basically becomes a ceiling for your wash and it will collect moisture and debris. Then, when you close it for the first time in months, you will be in for a big surprise and you’ll have a tough time cleaning it.”
If your carwash door has been up for months, visual inspection for proper operation is again recommended. As buildings settle and environmental factors contribute to things on your lot slightly shifting, you may notice imperfections in operations if it’s been a while since the last cycle.
“For the vinyl doors, they do have limits and sometimes, as things shift, the limits might slip. So, for example, if the door doesn’t go all the way to the ground by a foot, at 10 feet across, that’s a lot of cold air getting in,” says Kowalski, adding that due to their quick operation, more colder climate operators are installing vinyl roll-ups to conserve more heat in the bay.
Winter is coming
Prior to winter in late summer or early fall, if your tunnel or bay is heated, it’s also best to make sure those systems are functioning properly and as expected. Indoor heating can help prevent equipment and system freezing, including carwash doors. Operating in an environment where water is omnipresent, the possibility of ice forming elevates.
“Excessive ice buildup can cause additional wear and tear on doors and strain the operators. Adequate heat and attention are necessary to prevent this,” explains Baumgartner. “Additional condensation occurs during the [cold] weather months, which can affect the operation of air-powered operators. Inline liquid separators can help with the removal of excessive moisture, but they must be checked as well as maintained frequently.”
Another key piece to check ahead of winter and during it are the door’s weather seals. It is advised to check these weather seals in order to make sure they are not worn, stretched, cracked, off the track, etc. A weather seal’s main function is to keep doors sealed and to prevent cold air from entering.
As costs increase, and considering some of the issues associated with freight, especially during the holiday season, it’s not a bad idea to include some replacement weather seals when ordering other replacement parts from your door manufacturer.
For some operators, this might be their last winter with their current door. If that’s the case, when is the best time to buy and install a carwash door?
“If you’re going into the New Year thinking you might need to replace your carwash door, you should definitely get the ball rolling then so you’re ready for a spring/summer installation,” notes Kowalski, adding that operators should use the winter months to secure an installer as new builds slow down.
Winter is coming and with it brings unpredictable weather, including long stretches of freezing cold in some parts of the U.S. Be prepared now and protect your business and customers from the effects of the cold season.
“It’s best to follow these best practices now and throughout the year. These small efforts will save you a lot of headaches down the road,” concludes Kowalski. “If you don’t do it now, be prepared to get in line behind all the others who put these checks off.
Listen to a reading of this article on Wash Talk: The Carwash Podcast below!