Today, doors can be multifaceted contributors to the success of a carwash business. Doors attract customers, keep employees and equipment safe, and help organize wash traffic. From first impressions to on-site safety, a full list of the ways different doors assist a car care business is both long and varied.

First, wash appearance is an important consideration. Clean, maintained carwash doors provide visible curb appeal while showcasing upkeep practices and site cleanliness. Next, doors provide safety and security for both the carwash and patrons. During cold weather, doors keep wash areas inhabitable and protect equipment, employees and customers from the elements.

As carwash doors have proven important for a number of reasons, carwash owners should select doors based on their specific site needs. Once doors are selected and installed, operators should include regular door inspections and maintenance in their set upkeep schedules.

Types of construction

Durability is definitely an advantage of the newest generation of carwash doors, according to Tom Zimmerman, national sales manager with Wynd Star Doors by Rytec. “Todays carwash doors utilize materials and construction far better suited for the harsh carwash environment than in the past,” he explains. “Extensive use of heavy-duty fiberglass, vinyl and PVC is more resistant to damage from carwashing chemicals than traditional polycarbonates and aluminum.”

Even so, less expensive metal or insulated industrial doors are often installed in carwashes, William Stokes, senior sales representative with Ultimate Supplies LLC, states. Yet, these options are not designed for the wet and corrosive wash environment. “These inexpensive doors typically rust very quickly making your carwash look ‘run down’ and are constantly requiring expensive service calls, resulting in downtime and lost business,” he notes. Thus, the most common types of doors recommended in the carwash industry are polycarbonate doors and vinyl curtain roll-up doors.

Stokes says polycarbonate doors especially designed for carwashes come equipped with hardware such as:

  • HDPE hinges
  • Bearingless rollers
  • Rust-proof shaft bearings
  • Kevlar belts to support the counterweights and lift the doors
  • Other hardware that will not be affected by the chemicals in the carwash.

Polycarbonate overhead doors are fabricated with five-wall polycarbonate that is UV protected in an aluminum frame. This construction will not corrode, repels water, allows increased visibility and offers a more appealing appearance to increase traffic to a carwash, Stokes notes.

The high-speed curtain door systems offer a flexible choice that is weather resistant and waterproof with a faster electric motor system, Stokes continues. These doors are lighter weight, flexible and will not suffer damage or damage a car if there is a vehicle strike. Roll-up doors generally come with an automatic reset, are easy to maintain and clean, and they are easy to service.

Wash type and selection

Functional doors offer advantages for all types of carwashes. In express and flex-serve washes, the tunnels can act as a wind tunnel accelerating airflow. In colder weather, this phenomenon often robs a tunnel of heating and reduces the effectiveness of presoaks and chemicals. In tunnels, a fast-acting door will greatly reduce this effect helping to lower heating costs and produce a cleaner vehicle, Zimmerman notes.

For bay carwashes, the doors serve the same heat conserving and wind reduction functions as they do in tunnels. Doors on bays also have the added advantages of controlling site traffic and preventing ice at bay entrances. Even so, doors have been slowly adapted at self-serve locations, according to Zimmerman. “The operator who does install high performance doors finds customers will spend more time in the self-serve bay, therefore increasing revenue.”

To improve carwash appearance, doors now come in a wide variety of eye catching colors. Most doors have three to four clear vision panels with a color border to allow light into the bay and let customers see out while in the bay, Zimmerman says. The number and location of these panels can be changed to match your site, and door panels can be a great place for instructional and promotional signage.

Stokes states that a door investment will ultimately be made up of the initial price of the door and the expenses incurred for an operator to service and maintain the door system. He recommends buying the doors once an owner understands what he or she is looking for in a door and what is important to the business.

“If you are looking for a reliable, rust-proof door providing insulation, security and visibility that is also inexpensive to maintain, I would recommend a polycarbonate door,” Stokes says. “If you are looking for a fast, flexible and simple door, I would recommend the high-speed curtain door systems with an electric waterproof motor that can operate your door smoothly.”


Stokes suggests keeping doors on a regular monthly schedule of service and inspection similar to what is performed on all of a carwash’s equipment. Operating doors on a regular basis — several times weekly or bi-weekly depending on the maintenance plan — keeps all operating hardware and motors or operators lubricated.

If a door or operator has chains or cables that can rust or break, it is preferable to address the maintenance or repair when the doors are not a vital working part of the carwash, Stokes continues. Often, failing parts can cost an operation due to lost business caused by extensive downtime. “I believe getting a door that has hardware that is well designed to ease or reduce any maintenance issues … is always preferable.”

The biggest challenge with high performance doors is regular cleaning of the panels, Zimmerman states. The PVC and vinyl will resist staining and fading, but residue can build up on the panel. Here, regular cleaning will prevent buildup and keep light shining into the bays. In the worst case scenario, panels are individually replaceable at a low cost.

Zimmerman agrees that another best practice for preventative maintenance is to cycle doors regularly throughout the year. “If you aren’t operating your door in the summer, operating a few cycles every two weeks will help the door be ready when the winter comes.”

Cold weather

For many operators, the temptation is to open the doors in the summertime and forget them, Stokes says. Doors can be left sitting until the last minute before the first spell of cold weather.  Again, the importance of inspecting and addressing any concerns with the doors on a regular basis during the summer — when doors are not used daily or behind each car — cannot be overstressed.

Before cold weather arrives, Stokes suggests inspection of hinges and roller tracks, testing of the operators and checking for any hardware that may need service.  Caught in summer or fall months, any issues can be addressed without an emergency call to a service company or before there is an equipment failure.

“We recommend having employees that are familiar with how the doors operate perform preferred maintenance on the doors before the cold begins. In addition to being familiar with how the doors operate, I would recommend keeping in stock some of the most common items for the door and operators that will need replacement due to normal wear and tear,” Stokes concludes. Being familiar with basic door operation and repair could save an owner hundreds of dollars on a service call from a professional door installer or service tech and save thousands of dollars from lost business.