Doors: Finding the perfect fit
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Doors: Finding the perfect fit

The type, features and functions of a door are critical for productive operations.


When deciding which door is best for a carwash, owners might think the selection is simple since there are only two main door types: polycarbonate or vinyl. But there are a number of important factors to take into consideration when making this decision.

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Josh Hart, president of Airlift Doors Inc., says choosing a door comes down to security, speed, breakaway ability, appearance and reliability.

Security: “If vandalism or theft has been an issue at your location, it may be one of the most important factors in deciding what door style to use,” Hart explains.

Polycarbonate doors provide more security than vinyl doors alone. Hart asserts, “[They] offer an impact strength 200 times that of a glass door…and will not crack or shatter if impacted, offering a security level similar to that of a steel door.”


Vinyl doors, however, can be cut or knocked out of the track compromising wash security, Hart says. “Operators who choose the vinyl rollup style door but still need security may choose to add an overhead door which is only used to close down the wash during nonbusiness hours,” he adds.

Speed: “Most washes are set up to open and close the door between every car. The faster you can do this, the more heat you can retain in the bay, in turn reducing your overall gas bill,” Hart reminds us.

“A typical overhead poly door with a pneumatic opener will operate at speeds of 18 to 24 inches per second, whereas a vinyl door can operate at speeds up to 34 inches per second.” But, Hart says, “It is important to note that when the doors are closed for an extended period of time, the poly door will offer a slightly better insulation and r-value for your bay, so it may even out in the end.”


Breakaway ability: “Upon impact, [polycarbonate] doors will be damaged and most likely need replacement of the panels and hardware impacted,” explains Hart.

“The vinyl door is constructed so the sections will flex and pop out of the track on impact with no damage to the sections,” he adds. “On the next door cycle the panels will automatically pull back into the track and reset itself for continued operation.”

Appearance: There are style options for each polycarbonate and vinyl door type. Hart notes, “Both doors look very professional, and choosing a door based on appearance really comes down to individual preference.”


For polycarbonate doors, the first and standard style is a five-wall 5/8-inch panel. “This style panel allows approximately 80 percent of the natural light into the bay and allows limited visibility into the bay,” he continues.

Another option available for polycarbonate doors is the solid 1/4-inch panel, which offers a glass look, Hart explains.

People are generally unaware of appearance options for poly doors, Hart says. “Anodizing of the aluminum rails is one way to make your door stand out. Bronze, black and silver are a few of the most common, but there [are] a variety of shades available with anodizing,” he continues.


“Another way to differentiate your poly door from others is to change the actual polycarbonate material. The standard material is a clear polycarbonate, but bronze, opal, green, blue and red are a few of the other options available,” Hart adds.

The standard style of vinyl doors can be customized to match the color design of a wash. Hart says, the rollup door “comes with three or more full-vision sections depending on the height of the door. The full view panels allow a customer to see if a vehicle is in the bay as the vinyl does not allow any visibility.”


Reliability: Hart considers the reliability of doors to be the most important factor in the selection process, but says it is also probably the most overlooked factor.

“Some companies specialize in applications such as dock doors or dry environment doors. Be sure you choose a manufacturer that specializes in the carwash industry,” Hart warns. “Although the panels may look the same, a company that understands the corrosive nature of the carwash will use hardware options that the other companies do not offer.”

This hardware is essential to choosing a successful door package, says Hart, and includes stainless steel shafts and bearings, plastic or stainless steel hinges and tracks, and plastic rollers with stainless steel shafts for polycarbonate doors; and fiberglass tracks and wind bars, as well as all stainless steel hardware for vinyl doors.


“These unseen items are the key to reliable performance of your products as well to longevity of your overall door package.”

You can find more on what to consider when selecting a door here.

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