When a carwash is constructed or redesigned, the focus tends to be on the workhorse equipment inside the tunnel or bay. However, as significant as this equipment is to achieve customer satisfaction and results, carwash doors also require their own set of procurement considerations. In fact, if you are currently in the market for a carwash door, answering the following initial questions will get you started down the right path:
- What type of door is best for your wash and location?
- How much security will the door provide?
- Can the door withstand impacts?
- Is speed of operation a critical factor?
These specialty doors serve an important purpose at carwashes. For instance, modern polycarbonate and vinyl doors, which are specifically manufactured for carwash use, help insulate and protect tunnels and bays — including the wash equipment — from extreme temperatures. Attractive, new carwash doors are also underrated in the role they play in enhancing the customer experience. Customers and passersby notice the smooth, quick operation of a colorful, vinyl roll-up door. And, at many locations, a carwash door is one of the first pieces of equipment the customer sees when entering the tunnel or bay.
Increasing door value
Several other reasons to install quality carwash doors for your wash, employees and customers include:
- Reducing noise: Noise is a key reason some municipalities might require the installation of carwash doors.
- Promoting traffic flow: Doors provide a physical barrier from customers entering or exiting the wash too early, which is especially important in self-serve and in-bay automatic (IBA) locations.
- Reducing the wind tunnel effect: This ensures that bay and tunnel wash equipment are operating properly and chemicals are being applied consistently and effectively.
- Limiting water run-off: Doors help promote proper drainage.
While properly functioning doors can offer these benefits and others, the wrong door or a door that is malfunctioning can cause delays and possible damages as well as present other negative outcomes. In addition, new carwashes are being constructed throughout the country, and this trend is expected to continue. If your wash looks run-down, starting with its door, you could be losing business.
“Operators replace their doors because of operational reasons,” notes Kevin Baumgartner, president of American Garage Door Supply Inc., “but sometimes it is because of its appearance. If the door is unsightly, operators must remember that is the first presentation to customers.”
Baumgartner’s company and other reputable door manufacturers work with operators to ensure door longevity, including through educational maintenance videos. The longer the door stays in operation at a wash, he adds, the more value the customer receives. Doors are an investment, and with proper care and attention, you can put off complete replacement until needed. As such, the initial purchase and ongoing maintenance are of utmost importance to increase the return on the initial door investment.
Proper maintenance checks and procedures as well as regular cleaning help doors maintain appearance and proper function. Let’s look at some common maintenance requirements for today’s carwash doors.
All eyes on doors
Visually inspecting equipment throughout each and every day helps operators stay ahead of issues, and doors are no exception. The carwash is a wet, high-volume environment with moving vehicles and equipment. Therefore, an incident could occur without the operator’s knowledge.
“Maybe someone bumped your door, and they didn’t realize it. With roll-up doors, they reset themselves. So someone might have hit your door, and it goes back into the track, and you would never know it. So, looking to make sure that there are no cracks, damage or tears is a good idea on a regular basis,” says Sabrina Shrack, sales representative and installation coordinator for Airlift Doors Inc.
Visual inspection should include seeing if the vinyl door is operating smoothly and as expected. “If operation is not smooth, the windbars could be catching on something, or maybe there is something in the track that needs to be cleaned out,” explains Shrack, adding that a vinyl door’s bearings, windbars, panels and weather strip should all be included in a visual inspection.
For polycarbonate doors, the operator needs proper re-oiling, and moving components need lubrication on a scheduled basis. Visual inspections of these doors should include looking at hinges to make sure they are properly attached to the panel and sitting flush; they should not be broken or bent. Replace these hinges as needed. You should also inspect and replace rollers as needed.
Many leading carwash doors also work in conjunction with photo eyes. Photo eyes are used as a safety measure to eliminate the possibility of a door closing on a vehicle. Most doors utilize one set of photo eyes just inside the building next to the door, but additional photo eyes can be used for added protection against collision, if needed. Maintenance of the eyes is critical, since if the eyes fail or are not aligned properly, the controller will think the eyes are obstructed, and it will hold the door open. So, in cold climates it is extremely important to make sure your eyes are operating properly and allowing the door to close between cars to protect your equipment from exposure to cold and freezing.
According to Baumgartner, there are a number of maintenance steps you should perform on a routine basis for any type of carwash door. “This includes,” he continues, “balancing and adjusting the door so it is plumb and level and travels through the track properly.”
Doors, which are designed to be adjusted, must be checked periodically, even if impacts do not occur. Similar to a house settling, buildings move and shift with time and environmental changes.
“Making sure that doors are level is the number one routine maintenance step,” opines Baumgartner. “Buildings move, expand and contract as the temperatures change, and they crack too.” In addition to making these adjustments, he also recommends lubricating and cleaning doors regularly.
“For counterweight doors, you do not need to do as much in the area of balancing your doors on a routine basis, unless you changed the weight of the door, such as adding hardware, after installation,” notes Baumgartner.
If your door has a torsion spring, you need to check it habitually, since these springs can lose a little bit of tightness over time and usage. Following any spring adjustments or replacements, you must balance the door again.
During routine maintenance, operators should also check chains, making sure that they are tight and properly lubricated. As mentioned, you should check the track for obstructions or damage on a regular schedule as well. Also include checking and replacing fasteners, bearings, rollers and hinges on a routine maintenance schedule.
Your regular maintenance of doors should include the inside and outside areas, including photo eyes and weather-stripping. If a proper seal is not present, you are not maximizing the benefits that your door has to offer.
“Check the outside weather strip, and make sure it is touching the door and that no sections are ripped or cracked,” advises Shrack. “Also, if utilizing pneumatic model openers, make sure that there is no water in the air lines. Sometimes, the compressors get water in them, so you want to make sure you check them and drain any water regularly, so it does not get in your lines.” In-line air dryers are also available to mount before your regulator to further reduce the amount of water in the lines.
Shrack also recommends checking the control box frequently. In particular, there is a valve in the control box for the pneumatic operator, and over time the seals may wear, resulting in air leaks from your control box. To ensure proper operation of your door and reduce stress on your compressor, be sure to repair or replace leaking valves immediately.
What you can control
The variables of weather and natural building shifts, as examples, are out of the operator’s control. However, there are variables, such as adhering to strict routine maintenance, that operators can control. Purchasing the right door for the wash and making the needed upfront investment is another factor operators can decide. Baumgartner also says that operators can and should control the timing of their doors to make sure they are in sequence with the wash cycle and traffic.
But, what about sudden malfunctions or breaks? If the wash has to shut down because of a sudden door malfunction, how can operators limit the loss of business? Stocking key door replacement parts, such as hinges, rollers and fasteners, can make a huge difference in this scenario.
“Always have an extra cable set available for your particular door,” asserts Baumgartner. “Cable sets are inexpensive, and if you buy them at the time of purchase, you know that they are the right type for that specific door.”
Many of these replacement parts for doors are relatively inexpensive; however, they become invaluable when needed in a pinch. Baumgartner also advises that customers consider purchasing an additional first two sections of hardware for the door, including the hinges and bottom brackets. “This will protect your business from being shut down by the ‘wayward driver,’” he quips.
The experts also recommend replacement parts for wear points, such as chains, seals, pulleys and idler wheels.
Cleaning is another factor that operators can control. Shrack recommends using a mild detergent or cleaning product specifically intended for use on vinyl or polycarbonate surfaces with a soft cloth — especially on polycarbonate doors, which can scratch when cleaned with an abrasive material. In addition to maintaining an attractive appearance, cleaning requires close inspection, which can help you spot larger issues.
“The more operators pay attention to and clean their doors, the higher the likelihood of noticing buildup and finding any potential issues,” states Shrack.
As noted, operators can control their initial purchase and door manufacturing partner. Today’s leading carwash door manufacturers have the technical knowledge to support your maintenance efforts and provide technical service as needed. These manufacturers also offer doors and components that are suitable for wet environments where moisture and chemicals become airborne.
As the door cycles with use, natural wear and tear will occur. Proper maintenance can extend the useful lifespan of your door, but if operations malfunction, the door may need replacing. By using the expert tips noted in this article, you can ensure value and increased door longevity through maintenance.