9 Questions for Kevin Baumgartner
The president of American Garage Door Supply Co. in Bemidji, MN makes an
Proper maintenance can keep doors operating smoothly for many years.
1.What is the most important step in acquiring a dependable, cost-effective door and opener system?
Whether it's a new design, a renovation or a retrofit, the most important step is to seek expert advice in the design stage and properly consider all options. Pay special attention to products that have improved material and operational designs and to suppliers who have experience in carwash environments.
2. What sort of power or motor makes sense for a carwash door?
Door openers suitable for use in carwashes can be either electric or pneumatic. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Electric openers can offer years of maintenance-free service if matched with the correct opener modification for a carwash or when placed in drier areas. Equipment rooms or even outside the building are ideal spots to locate these products. Locating in these areas will result in a significant reduction of problems due to the effects of high moisture, corrosion and vandalism. Electric openers traditionally have more mechanical components exposed, but with good design and adequate maintenance can give years of dependable service.
Pneumatic openers give the advantage of speed to door operations as well as the benefits of using air over electric power. Pneumatic openers have fewer mechanical components exposed in the wash but require more periodic maintenance and adjustment. Selecting products with sound design and using proper accessories such as air dryers help reduce some of these issues.
3. What are the basic types of doors suitable for a carwash environment?
Depending on the building size, layout, construction and geographic area, carwash owners have used polycarbonate sectional doors, insulated thermal doors, rolling steel doors, strip-style doors, air curtains and other specially designed and modified products. Polycarbonate doors combine aesthetics, visibility, insulating value, security and, most importantly, functionality and durability. Whichever type you select, it is crucial in a carwash to always upgrade to the product with the highest corrosion resistant materials offered. This is a good preventive measure to reduce future service and maintenance. A slightly larger investment up front will pay back with substantial savings in downtime, repair and maintenance.
4. What types of features or upgrades are especially worthwhile?
Materials such as high-density plastics, aluminum and stainless steel will outlast cold-rolled, galvanized steel or other products susceptible to corrosion. Components used to assemble the door sections or panels are of the utmost importance. Door framework, panels and fasteners should all be constructed of the most corrosion resistant materials available. All hardware such as hinges, bearing plates, shafts and fasteners should be constructed of stainless steel. Rollers should be designed for high moisture and high cycle use, normally constructed with a U.H.M.W. plastic tire, stainless steel stem and sealed bearing design. These rollers are designed specifically for carwashes and will keep doors running smoothly long after products designed for residential or standard commercial use would fail.
Shaft assemblies should be a solid stainless steel design to combat corrosion and allow ease of future adjustments. Bearings should be a greaseable type for ease of maintenance.
Galvanized torsion springs are an excellent choice for preventing drip-down, reduced cycle life and other problems associated with oil-tempered springs. Choose them for additional cycle life and the reduction of corrosion problems. Counterweights are also an excellent option but demand that the system balances the door properly, before the installation of the opener. Doors should always balance at mid-cycle and should seal at the threshold and clear the header. An unbalanced door will result in damage to hardware and may reduce opener life.
Hi-lift track is recommended on any carwash door. It will prevent cable-jumping and allow smoother operation. Whenever possible buildings should be designed with adequate headroom to accomplish this, and products should be specified for the maximum highlift available.
Openers and accessories should be treated in the same manner in respect to material combinations as door products. Products with the most corrosion resistant elements such as aluminum or stainless steel will undoubtedly decrease repairs and downtime and increase overall profitability.
5. What types of maintenance requirements are there?
Maintenance for sectional carwash doors should include periodic inspection, adjustment of the door itself, lubrication of all greaseable components, cleaning and removal of worn parts.
Doors should be balanced and aligned properly in the track to ensure smooth operation and ease of travel. Worn hardware should be replaced immediately to prevent damage to other working parts of the system. Greaseable bearings need to be filled periodically to prevent freeze-ups, and hinges should be lubed lightly for ease of motion. Galvanized springs can be lightly lubed with teflon-based spray, and counterweight systems should be inspected for damage to cables or straps. Replace these immediately. A broken weight strap or cable could cause the door to free fall, possibly damaging a vehicle, the opener or worse.
Cleaning door panels is important to the appearance of the wash. We suggest cleaning polycarbonate panels with Plastolite Plastic Cleaner to keep the wash looking professional and inviting. Aluminum framework should be buffed with ScotchBrite buffing pads to keep corrosion from chalking on the frame.
Openers also require a routine maintenance schedule. Proper alignment and adjustment are important. Limits and chain lengths should be adjusted to ensure openers are properly mounted. Chains, whether standard, nickel or water-resistant, should be periodically lubricated with a synthetic lube such as Hi-Tek or Chain Life. Chains should be aligned properly with their mating sprockets.
Pneumatic openers require periodic adjustments of air flow rates and breather vents to ensure proper operation. If the pneumatic opener has oilers to lube the system, oil reservoir levels must be maintained to ensure constant lubrication of o-rings and seals. Failure to do this results in shorter life spans for o-rings and seals and increases repair costs and downtime.
Water filtration systems separate the moisture from the air in pneumatic openers. For units that do not have automatic water drains, water bowls must be drained frequently. Failure to do this will speed seal damage and prevent the check ball, breather vent and exhaust port from freezing in cold weather. Also, sagging air lines can trap moisture and limit pressure. These should be drained whenever possible.
During time of the year when the doors are left open the door should be cycled periodically to ensure that all parts remain free from corrosion forming on moveable components. Neglecting this can cause the parts to tack or seize from non-use or cause other mechanical problems when the door is needed for continual operation.
6. What are the most common problems associated with motorized doors, and how can operators avoid them?
The most common problems normally result from poor design, application or installation of the system. This can result in the improper balancing of the door, misalignment, cable spooling, seized parts, vehicle impact and other problems.
Common problems with openers are usually corrosion or water-based, causing inconsistent, erratic or unpredictable performance.
Proper attention must be given to the doors and openers in the initial design stage to ensure a system that has excellent corrosion resistant qualities and is efficient, reliable and safe. The project should be discussed thoroughly with the supplier who should be provided with as much information as possible. All products that make the most sense for the project should be considered and long term performance kept a priority. Manual door projects should be designed with future opener use in mind. When choosing pneumatic openers, proper air-line dryage is vital. Always use products that have good water separation devices and coalescing filters. The extra money spent will be good insurance against future problems related to damaging moisture and contamination entering the cylinder and valves.
7. How do operators deal with freeze-ups and cold weather operation?
Cold weather always increases the risk of equipment failure. Doors should be properly designed and field-tested for cold climate carwash use. Distribution of heat is important to keep the doors in proper working condition. Door thresholds, jambs and headers should be properly weatherstripped to prevent cold air infiltration. Vinyl, brush or other suitable weatherstrips should be installed and replaced when worn or damaged. Floor heat, heat tape, heated water tubes are all solutions that have been used successfully to keep these areas free of ice. Increase service and maintenance schedules in cold weather, and keep frequently replaced parts on hand to speed up service.
8. Is it just as easy to retrofit doors to a location, or are there real advantages to including doors in new construction?
Including door needs in the planning of a new facility allows the luxury of designing the building around the carwash equipment. The required clearances such as sideroom, headroom and backroom for the door of choice can be provided for at that time, allowing for a well designed system. Many existing carwashes can be retrofitted with the proper door. However, some research is required to acquire the clearances necessary for the fit, form and function of the door of choice. Some changes in the building or equipment configuration may be necessary.
9. Doors can make bays dark and intimidating or even make a carwash looked closed. What can an operator do to overcome this impression?
Polycarbonate sectional doors have become a very popular solution to this problem. Corrosion resistant and tough, these doors allow light to pass through with enough visibility to enable an observer to determine if a bay is occupied or not. During the day they allow natural light to flood the bay adding to customer comfort and satisfaction. At night interior lighting passes through the door and attracts passing customers. In addition, polycarbonate doors have become a recognizable icon of a quality carwash to many customers.
Kevin Baumgartner has been designing carwash doors and openers since 1991. He can be reached for further information at (800) 233-1487.
And Now, Behind Door Number One...Increased Winter Profits!
By Lisa Arnseth
To prevent a "winter-storm feel" inside the self-serve bay and keep the comfort level high, many operators in colder climates have installed doors.
In New Holland, PA, Ed Hollinger says he has doors on his Leisure Living locations because, "it keeps the bay a lot warmer for the customer and the overspray doesn't blow on them." Other operators use them to keep equipment from freezing overnight. Also, having locking doors on a facility can cut down on vandalism and illegal activities when a wash is unattended.
Depending on whether the door is installed at the entrance or the exit end of the bay--or both ends--the benefits and drawbacks are variable. Exit-end doors make a big difference in cutting down on wind channeling through the bay at Hollinger's locations. "Primarily we try to put them on the exit side and it works effectively even if the prevailing wind is blowing in the entrance side. We put them on the exit side and not the entrance side because the bay still looks open and inviting, and nobody hides behind the door," he says.
Having closed doors on the front of a facility does carry a certain risk: the risk that potential customers will drive on by thinking the wash is closed. This very fact is sometimes enough to keep operators from using doors at all--such as Ray Williams of the Spray Beach Carwash in Manahawkin, NJ. "I have a problem with doors because of visibility...I think a lot of my customers would assume that I'm closed." But the potential problem can be combated in a few ways.
Lighting goes a long way. John Johnson of Johnny On The Spot in Altoona, PA says he has "gone way above and beyond when it comes to lighting" in an effort to offset the negative impression closed doors could make. Inside the bays, he typically runs about four 170 watt metal halide lights, and on the outside 25-foot tall light poles keep the lot bright. He has also painted the walls with a highly-reflective white coating and makes an effort to keep the facilities meticulously clean.
Ample signage can help as well, and Johnson uses large illuminated roadside signs to pull in customers as well. "We've taken a lot of interest in making things bright in appearance so people feel safer and it's more light," he says.
Windows in the doors themselves is another way to open up a "closed" appearance. "We've put window sections in for the sake of the customer waiting. That way they know what's going on inside the bay," says Hollinger. He also notes that by being able to peek in the window, he can sometimes catch customers doing things they shouldn't be doing, such as hand washing or vandalizing the equipment. Five years ago, Bennett caught a customer actually painting his car inside a bay with the door down. "After that, in the summer we keep the doors locked in the up position at all times," he says.
At Johnson's wash, customers do have the option of closing down both ends of the bay and possibly breaking not only carwash rules but laws as well. While he notes that his wash has been the victim of only one act of vandalism with the doors down (someone tore all the signage off the walls of a bay), some of his employees have caught teenagers smoking marijuana inside a closed bay. But more often than not, what goes on behind closed doors is standard carwash fare. "Sometimes we'll have landscapers that have a lot of dirt or mulch in their trucks. They'll feel guilty about cleaning it out with everyone watching so they'll pull the doors down," says Johnson.
Hollinger admits that having a closing door on the bay can invite illegal dumping, especially of waste oil, but like most operators, he hasn't had a problem with that so far.
Rolling with the punches...and dents...and freeze-ups...
Anytime there is a barrier in place in an area where cars are constantly moving in and out of, the possibility of collisions is greater. Operators who have doors have come to expect the occasional "bang up" in the bay.
Johnson says about once a winter at each of his facilities, someone will run into a door. When it happens, it is either due to the fact that the customer drove the car directly into the door or did not pull the door back up all the way. "We have a truck bay and last winter we had a truck driver go through with his stacks. As he came through, he tore the bottom door panel off and it was over $600 in repairs," says Johnson.
Often a customer will misuse the doors when lowering and raising them. Johnson says customers do tend to get "carried away" and will slam the doors too hard, causing the door to come off the tracks. Since this happens most often when the facilities are unattended, Johnson has made an effort to have attendants on-site up to 12 hours a day on busy days and about four hours on slower ones. He estimates that alignment problems crop up about once a month in the wintertime on average, but he and his crew can usually handle the repairs themselves.
To keep the metal rails from freezing up--a common problem in the winter--Johnson has radiant heaters in the bays. He says he only encounters frozen rails if a customer leaves a door open overnight. His solution is a common one: he hooks a garden hose up to hot water and sprays the track down to thaw it out.
Bennett says he saw bay usage go up in the bays at one of his locations after he replaced doors on the rear of the bays. "People will wash at night, in 15 degrees, if you have doors," he says. Yet it still may be easier for a new location to install them than it would be for a retrofit job.
Hollinger configured his bays so that they were long enough to accommodate both an up-positioned door and the boom. He also mounts the door track as close to the ceiling as possible and in some cases, has blocked the boom mounting down a bit so that it comfortably swings under the door.
Tom Townsend of Bay-Watch Controls in Northglenn, CO says the company manufacturers a PLC-driven, programmable door control that is activated when a customer drives over a floor loop. Not only is the system capable of keeping the doors shut and opening them again, but it is "fail-safe" so the doors can still be moved manually in the event of a power failure. The system, which was originally developed for in-bay automatic door use, has been designed just for self-serve use. "It's a neat feature," says Townsend. "You don't have to depend on your customers to close the doors behind them."