Cold Weather Car Wash Prep

Aug 14th 2018

Winter can be really tough on vehicles of all kinds. If you live in an area where the temperature drops to bitter levels and precipitation becomes frozen, you have to take all kinds of steps to prepare your vehicle. Many of those same elements need to be kept in mind when operating a car wash in cold weather so that your facility is properly winterized and able to remain profitable even during a particularly frigid onslaught.

While there are shorter daylight hours and more dangerous conditions during the winter, that doesn’t mean your business should see a drop off in customers. In fact, there are many areas where customer volume increases for wash facilities during the winter. Tough road salts and other chemicals used to keep roads safe can actually damage vehicles, too. Because of harsh additives, drivers often flock to their preferred car wash to keep their vehicles clean and well-maintained. With that in mind, it’s important to be prepared with the right car wash repair maintenance routines depending on the weather you’re expecting. To ensure your facility is ready before winter sets in, here are some useful tips:

Prep Before the Cold Weather

As you begin weather preparations at your facility, timing is important. Consider what you need to do at your facility long before the weather turns chilly. Start off by testing all of your facility’s wash systems – including tunnel and bay heating equipment – to make sure they are in proper working order. Waiting until the first cold days to test out heating equipment can result in some inconvenient downtime and money spent replacing parts if something doesn’t work.

While preparing your car wash to operate in cold weather, don’t just focus on equipment: employee preparation needs to be done as well. OSHA standards have guidelines for the outdoor work your employees are likely to be involved in. This training can include knowing how to operate engineering controls and other equipment that may be exposed to the elements.

Make Sure Employees Dress for Weather

Speaking of employees, it’s important to make sure they are properly protected for any cold conditions. While it seems like common sense to have your employees bundle up, layering for insulation is always recommended for any worker who may be exposed to wind and precipitation. Other employee recommendations from OSHA that you should keep in mind include:

  • Wearing loose clothing to encourage blood circulation
  • Ensuring clothing is water resistant, including gloves and waterproof boots
  • Ensuring clothing also accounts for visibility, like bright neon safety vests, to account for fewer daylight hours.
  • Keeping a hat that covers the ears, or a knit mask to cover the face and mouth if needed

Having guidelines for all employees to follow when it comes to proper winter wear can ensure your facility is well staffed during busy winter periods to avoid downtimes from labor shortages as you run your car wash in cold weather.

Protecting Equipment with Proper Heating

Another way to keep your facility running smoothly during the winter is by providing adequate protection to all necessary equipment. Take note of what equipment inside of bays and tunnels may be exposed to the bitter cold and provide appropriate protection. It is essential to have the proper heating system for your facility, so you can avoid frozen water lines and ice buildup that can result with potentially devastating results.

A stainless-steel infrared system is generally considered the most cost effective heating option when it comes to car wash facilities. This type of system is also a more effective option to keep all essential equipment properly heated. Stabilized temperatures inside of tunnels and bays – which can ensure equipment is kept running at peak performance regardless of outside temperatures – is also an advantage of infrared systems. Before you invest in a heating system though, it’s best to research options to find the best fit for your facility.

Invest in Equipment with Maintenance & Upgrade Plans

It’s important to adopt proper car wash repair maintenance procedures before the cold weather sets in. You want to be proactive with any issues, rather than reactive, to minimize any weather related breakdowns. Unless you are a new operator, you are likely familiar with the weather patterns in your area and know what to expect before winter arrives. Avoid running any vital equipment close to their failure point during winter months as this can be costly; especially if parts or technicians can’t come to your facility promptly due to inclement weather. You can also take advantage of unusually warm stretches or even dry periods during the winter to perform additional inspections on all of your equipment to stay on top of potential issues. Despite any initial costs that come with scheduling additional maintenance checks the potential savings in preventing a breakdown can be huge when you are running a car wash in cold weather.

As you perform inspections make sure to get an accurate inventory of all your equipment and parts to see where improvements can be made. Older facilities may benefit from technology upgrades – especially if there is new equipment that has been designed to better handle cold temperatures and snowy conditions. Your facility can potentially see major gains over its lifetime if you stay on top of upgrades as well as maintenance.

Note Chemical Location to Avoid Potential Freezes

Every facility deals with a lot of cleaning chemicals. Many modern day operations even go beyond the simple soaps and waxes that have been traditionally used to clean vehicles by offering customers a full-service experience. If you plan to operate your car wash in cold weather, be sure you take note of any chemicals you routinely use before winter approaches.

Certain chemicals can freeze in really low temperatures. This is problematic if your facility is in an area that often sees sub zero days throughout fall and winter. As you go about routine car wash repair and maintenance checks, take note of where chemicals are stored in relation to areas where any cold air might seep in. Frozen chemicals can often cause serious damage to sprayers and other equipment. Worse yet, if chemicals come out in frozen chunks there is the potential to damage customer vehicles as well; leading to costly complaints and potential safety and legal issues. Avoiding these problems is easy when you pay extra attention to chemicals at your facility ahead of time.

Keeping All Areas Clear of Snow & Ice

One of the biggest winter storm issues is buildup from snow and ice. Facility operators tend to focus their snow removal efforts on parking lots and sidewalks so that employees and customers alike have easier access. But when it comes to cleaning following a storm, you need to pay attention to more than just these obvious spots. Removing snow from the roof of your building is also essential to avoid structural damage caused by the weight of a heavy snowfall. Electrical hazards may also be present if ice builds up around environmental controls or other equipment. And of course keep an eye on sprayers, as excess water may freeze and create slip hazards. Making sure all areas are clear of snow and ice can promote a safe work environment, as well as present a more inviting facility to customers.

Other Safety Considerations

Improve the safety at your facility this winter by setting up work zones with signs, barrels, and other barriers. This protects employees from skidding vehicles that may hit a patch of ice as they try to come onto your property.

Operating your car wash in cold weather can be easy and stress-free with the right preparation – along with thoughtful car wash repair maintenance – you can keep things in running order throughout the year. If you need more ideas or help getting your facility ready for the winter, the professionals at N/S Wash are here to help. For more tips or to speak with our experienced team members, call (800) 782-1582 or contact us online.