Choosing the right dryers - Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Choosing the right dryers

Looking to install a new dryer system? There are a few options you will need to consider.

As is the case with most automated carwashes, dryers are an integral part of the in-bay automatic operation. There are many different manufacturers and styles, the most common being on-board and free standing drying systems. However, the consistent differences, no matter the manufacturer, are the housing materials and the fan types.

Choosing a dryer

There are two dryer systems that can be used for an in-bay automatic carwash: Onboard and free standing.

Onboard dryers are attached to an arch and at the end of the wash cycle the vehicle drives underneath the arch while exiting the carwash bay. Although the dryers usually have a set time limit, dictated by the controller settings, motorists usually drive slowly underneath the drying system in order to maximize the dryer capabilities.

Many carwashes display a timer showing customers how much time they have to dry their vehicle.

Free standing drying systems allow the dryer to be set up away from the wash equipment allowing for another car to begin the wash cycle as the previous car is finishing.    

Another thing to consider when choosing your drying systems is which fan style to use: axial or centrifugal. Centrifugal fans are more basic than the axial fans and therefore generally cost less per fan because they cost less to build.

Arthur Stephens, president of the International Drying Corporation manufactures and sells dryer systems with both fan types.

“For an in-bay automatic you can get away with a 30 or 40 horsepower centrifugal dryer system,” Stephens explains. “Although axial is a much more efficient design. It’s designed kind of along the lines of a jet engine. It creates a substantially higher amount of airflow than a centrifugal will.”

According to Stephens a 10 horsepower axial fan will create about 9600-cubic-feet of air per fan compared to the 4400-cubic-feet of air created by a centrifugal fan of the same horsepower.

“When you look at what someone might recommend for a 100 foot tunnel with an 80 car-an-hour line speed with a centrifugal fan they might recommend something like a 75 to 90 horsepower range. We’d recommend a 40 horsepower axial fan.”

Because of this output difference axial fans use less energy than their centrifugal counterparts. The advanced design of the axial style drying systems and high-quality level of manufacturing required because of the speed in which the fan moves; drying systems that use axial fans are often more expensive than systems that use centrifugal. Depending on which system you choose you can expect to spend anywhere from $7,000 to $25,000 on a drying system.

Your drying system needs should not be based so much on price as on the size of your in-bay automatic space. For example, International Drying Corporation offers five different drying systems depending on the size of the carwash and needs of the carwash owner. Their systems are offered with both fan types, and also different materials for the base – resin or stainless steel.

Because you will certainly be spending a pretty penny on your drying system it’s important that you keep up with all of the associated maintenance – basically, keep it clean.

  • Keep the inlets clean
  • Make sure you don’t have any obstructions due to dirt or grime buildup
  • If you fail to keep it clean you might obstruct your airflow and impact your output speed therefore impacting your drying quality
  • Most contemporary motors are enclosed and fan cooled therefore no greasing is required.

Dryer setting options

Many owners and operators in the last few years are using dryers with an air-gate system. This system allows the inlets of the dryer to be closed off so when it starts in order to reduce the load on the motor when it’s starting up. Once the motor gets up to speed you can open the gate giving you full power on the discharge.

This feature makes the start-up of that motor very low – almost like a simulated effect of using a variable frequency drive using an air-gate. Though most dryers can be programmed with VFD’s enabling carwash owners and operators to set how fast the fans are spinning and how long they run for each wash.

Fan speeds can be adjusted through the use of controllers. If you need to save some money during the slow summer months you can slow down the dryers because you might not have the long lines and wait times. Also during the summer the hot air helps dry vehicles as they are leaving the bay. That’s another reason why during the summer months it is important to set your dryer speeds according to the climate.

Dryer settings can also be configured depending on the wash option the customer chooses. If a customer chooses one of the lower tier packages you can set your dryers to run for a shorter time and slower speed. If they choose a middle tier package you can set your fans to a faster setting and longer dry time. If they choose your best package you can run your dryers at the normal speed and for a longer dry time. It is not recommended that you run your, axial or centrifugal fans at an output speed higher than the manufacturer recommends.


For an in-bay automatic space is always an issue. In-bay automatic owners should avoid a dryer system that is going to take up too much room. Owners should also try to avoid any dryer systems that will cause long waiting times for customers as that will severely decrease your gross profit. In-bay automatic customers demand convenience.

Many in-bay automatic owners are putting free standing drying systems outside of the bay. That way once customers have made their way through the wash the next customer in line does not have to wait for the drying cycle to complete before they can enter the bay.

Putting the dryer system outside is an efficient way to keep the line moving and allows for two cars to be using the service at once.

Putting drying systems outside also has an added benefit of catching the eye of potential customers driving by.

However if you choose to put the drying systems outside make sure you do not do so in a residential neighborhood. High speed dryers are loud and residents in the area could find the noise disturbing. Inside or outside, you should always make sure the dryer decibels always fall under the limit allowed by your local codes. 

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