It is that time of the year again to start to prepare for the challenges of avoiding costly downtime during the winter season. Carwash owners should enter the cold months with a good sense of preparation and readiness for anything that could go wrong with their dryer system.

After all, the cold and icy weather can do some damage, whether it is from a huge drop in temperature or an icy snowstorm that can slow down your business. No matter what type of dryer system is in place at your carwash, you should follow best winterization practices to help prepare your equipment for the harsh weather ahead.

Prepare a checklist for your dryer system

Start a maintenance checklist while the weather is still in good condition.  You want to give yourself enough time to order any parts or equipment that you may need so that everything gets shipped on time.  When creating your checklist, keep in mind your carwash’s drying system, equipment and any areas that needs to be cleaned, including the tunnel, floors, pits and walls.

The more you prepare with a checklist, the better chance of ensuring a proper operation without any downtime or lost income due to paying high repair and replacement costs.

Follow maintenance procedures

Before attempting any of the following recommended maintenance procedures be sure you are wearing appropriate PPE (personal protection equipment).

To secure your safety, you may want to ensure the electrical power is disconnected to the equipment you are handling (following lockout/tagout procedures). Following safety rules while working with electrical equipment is imperative. A best practice is to always turn the power off before plugging in or unplugging any piece of electrical equipment.

Inspect mounting components

When cleaning the floors, inspect the dryer’s mounting components. Carwash floors slope toward the pit drains, so most equipment has to be leveled when installed.

Inspect the mounting plates, shims, bolts and nuts for dirt and corrosion, and tighten bolts to factory specs.  You should also look for welds and seams in the dryer’s air handling components for cracks. Sometimes dark streaks will appear on the metal if air is leaking from a cracked weld or loosened component.

Examine intake drying system

Inspect the air intake routes to your drying system. With electrical power disconnected, inlet screens should be removed and any debris carefully cleaned out. Inspect the impellers for missing balance weights, damage to the blades, corrosion, debris and grime build up as well. These issues can cause balance complications with impellers. Noise and vibration are indicators of an out-of-balance impeller.

If not addressed as soon as possible, you may experience a catastrophic failure of the impeller, which can damage the associated motor, nearby equipment and possibly your customers’ vehicles.

Ensure inlet screens are securely replaced. Use only manufacturer-designed screens or covers; restricting the airflow to your dryer decreases efficiency, raises energy costs and can damage the motor.

Motor inspection and cleaning

Motors should be inspected, cleaned and greased. If the motor is making a whining or grinding sound, be sure to inspect the motor bearings.

Check the wiring connections for corrosion or loose wires. Have repairs done by a qualified electrical contractor.

Examine the motor’s cooling fan cover. The inlet and cooling fan should be cleaned of wax and grime buildup. Use the manufacturer’s recommended amount and type of grease for lubrication. Refer to the manufacturer’s maintenance manual for this information.

Check and clean other components

If your drying system has cloth components, nozzles or any other feature that touches the car, be sure that they are regularly cleaned of wax and soap buildup following the manufacturer’s recommendations.

If your blower has any type of inlet flow control system, the following components will need your attention.

Inspect air hoses and valve for cracks and leaks. Moisture separators should be inspected and drained daily.  Oil reservoirs should be filled, and any gates or other components in the airflow pathway should be cleaned.  Refer to your manufacturer’s maintenance manual for the required procedures.

Research cold weather-ready equipment

Carwash operators may find it beneficial to add heat to their carwash operations during extreme cold conditions by installing equipment such as a tunnel heater. The primary advantage of a tunnel heater is preventing frozen water pipes and ice buildup on the carwash equipment.

Adding heat to air already moving through the drying system can reduce the need for secondary heating systems in the tunnel, thus allowing for energy savings and less downtime.

Although wintertime usually results in a spike in business, it also often brings additional challenges in the form of ice, salt-coated cars and increased energy consumption.

Why wait until the last minute for proper maintenance and housekeeping procedures when you can minimize and prevent operational issues now?  When it’s 20 degrees outside and cars are lined up to the street, this is not the time to be replacing or repairing carwash components. Now is the time to order replacement parts and get your equipment in tip-top shape.


Christopher McElroy is president of Proto-Vest Inc. Family-owned and operated since its inception in 1970, Proto-Vest Inc. is the leading manufacturer of carwash drying systems, holding over 40 patents on various products with more pending. The company offers superior vehicle drying while helping reduce energy consumption, lower noise levels and save money for the customer.