“What keeps you up at night?” This is a question we often ask the readers of Professional Carwashing & Detailing in our quality assurance surveys and during reader visits. And, equipment maintenance is almost always brought up as a top concern for car care business owners and operators.
While strong-performing equipment can help increase car counts and enhance results, poor-performing equipment can slow down, and even shut down, production. “Equipment failure can come in many forms and happen on just about any piece of equipment if not properly cared for,” explains Robert Andre, vice president of training and education for SONNY’S The CarWash Factory. “And, some failures can shut your carwash down at the most inopportune times.”
Any equipment that can cease overall operations needs the most attention when it comes to maintenance, adds Andre.
A shutdown carwash in turn will shut down profits. Carwash owners and operators must take time to implement an effective maintenance program to safeguard their facilities from profit-hindering downtime and ensure prolific operations.
“Maintenance is the key to high-volume sites. Not only will it keep your carwash open during peak times, but it will also set the tone for what customers come to expect,” says Andre. “The reason a customer comes back to a business is because he or she liked what happened last time. In order for your customers to get the same experience every time, you have to have and [uphold] high maintenance standards.”
Creating a system of “checks and services” will keep equipment working like new for years to come for any business, asserts Andre. Furthermore, he continues, carwashes should start a maintenance program as soon as the equipment is purchased and installed.
“I think when the equipment is new, or you’re doing a good job of maintaining it, you don’t see any problems; and you tend to forget about it,” reports Andre. “Once the maintenance stops, it’s only a matter of time before the problems start.”
Once you have developed an effective maintenance program, Andre suggests having all team members involved in the process to establish a work environment where everyone is responsible.
“As an owner or manager, your biggest challenge is keeping your team on course with the required checks and maintenance,” he explains. “Having the proper checklist and putting systems in place that require the checks to be done, and consequences when they aren’t, are key.”
Moreover, continues Andre, motive and praise employees when they successfully perform necessary maintenance tasks.
“Let’s face it, maintenance is not very flashy or exciting,” notes Andre. “So be sure to tell your team what a good job they are doing when you do not have any breakdowns or maintenance issues.”
Establishing a team-driven maintenance program is not the only consideration carwash owners and operators must keep in mind regarding their wash equipment. Today, factors such as current drought conditions and a more on-the-go customer base are driving more and more cars to commercial carwashes. This influx in business can take a toll on the wash equipment, asserts Andre.
Manufacturers are looking for innovative ways to make wash equipment last longer. And, many are also working toward producing products that can extend the time between service intervals, thus creating more uptime for carwashes.
Uptime is one consideration that should weigh heavily when deciding to purchase new equipment, notes Andre. Any immediate loss of sales from downtime associated with poor maintenance or under-performing equipment could be avoided by installing long-lasting equipment geared toward optimizing uptime.
Moreover, Andre advises evaluating the availability of parts for the equipment you plan to purchase. “This can play a big role in the ongoing cost to maintain the equipment,” he adds.
After all, malfunctions and failures can cost carwash owners and operators hundreds, and even thousands, of dollars to repair and/or replace the equipment.
“I saw an article recently about a U.S. Air Force plane that [caught fire] due to a nut that was not properly tightened. If the proper maintenance was done, this should have been caught. The loose nut endangered the lives of the 27 people on board and cost the Air Force $62.4 million in damages. Keep that in mind when looking at issues in the carwash,” reports Andre. “Even a small problem could shut down [operations] for the day, costing you thousands of dollars.”
Sidebar: Maintenance tips
In the CarWash Safety 101 with Mike Benmosche blog post “Avoid accidents related to improper equipment maintenance,” McNeil & Company National Carwash Program Specialist Mike Benmosche provides ways carwash owners and operators can create a successful maintenance program. Below is a sampling of these guidelines. You can read more effective maintenance tips at www.carwash.com/avoid-accidents-related-to-improper-equipment-maintenance.
- Identify the pieces of equipment that need to be maintained, and determine their average lifespan. Design your schedule of maintenance around this time frame.
- Be sure all employees tasked with maintenance duties have access to the manuals applicable to each specific piece of equipment.
- When performing maintenance on some of the more common items (i.e., mitters, nozzles, hoses, etc.), it is often a good idea to replace them all simultaneously.
- Keep your maintenance log in a convenient and easily accessible location. Something as easy as a composition book hanging on each piece of equipment will work.
- Categorize items by daily, monthly and annual service checks. This will create an easy-to-follow schedule of maintenance for all equipment.