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Maintaining Car Wash Tunnel Equipment: 15 Tips

Now more than ever, car wash businesses depend on their equipment for success. Every drive-through car wash now counts on dozens of fine-tuned machines, all working together in harmony to produce clean, dry vehicles each day. From pre-soaking to drying, car wash owners depend on this wide range of sophisticated machinery to function effectively, especially when dealing with a high volume of cars.

If just one of those machines isn’t working as it should, it can hit your business hard. Failing to prioritize maintenance can hinder the speed, efficiency, and quality of your car washes. Over time, the consequences can be even worse – costly repairs, damaged equipment or prolonged downtime or shut-down.

With so many pieces and components to keep track of, it’s hard to know what needs your attention and when. That’s why we put together this guide to walk you through the best maintenance tips to keep your car wash tunnel equipment in optimal condition. 

Importance of Maintaining Car Wash Tunnel Equipment

It’s easy to see maintenance as an added cost – one to minimize as much as possible. No car wash owner wants to waste money, and maintaining expensive pieces of machinery like those in a car wash tunnel can be daunting. But preventative maintenance is essential to protect your investment.

Even if you have the budget to handle catastrophic repairs, allowing equipment to break down can affect your reputation. If customers are turned away due to your tunnel system being out of service, they might look for a carwash elsewhere.

When you prioritize car wash tunnel maintenance, you save money in the long run. You ensure your equipment is safe, reliable and running at maximum efficiency to deliver the best customer experience. 

15 Tips for Maintaining Tunnel Car Wash Equipment

Car wash tunnel system maintenance starts before you ever open your wash. To cut down on maintenance required – and replacements – start with the best.

1. Invest in Quality Tunnel Car Wash Systems

The quality of your equipment plays a crucial role in your car wash quality. It’s simple: Better car wash tunnel systems can deliver better results for customers.

More than that, high-quality tunnel car wash equipment can save you thousands on repairs in the long run. Poorly made products are more likely to break suddenly or wear down quickly. Even if you save money buying cheaper machinery, you could spend much more fixing or replacing the cheap parts.

2. Follow the Manufacturer’s Instructions

The car wash equipment manufacturer knows what works and doesn’t work with a particular piece of equipment. Some of us aren’t great at following instructions – you know who you are! – but it pays to follow the manufacturer’s maintenance instructions. 

For example, certain cleaning agents and materials for car wash systems may not react well with all types of equipment. Some machinery might require tuning after a certain number of uses, while others might not need that for months or longer. To make sure you’re properly maintaining your equipment and preserving your investment, carefully follow the instructions.

3. Create a Maintenance Schedule and Checklist

Large car wash chains in the wash industry often have a comprehensive maintenance schedule based on their equipment type and wash volume. They also tend to have trained staff on hand and an inventory of spare parts or repair tools.

Smaller car wash businesses, however, don’t always have that luxury. What works for a big chain might not work for you. That’s why you may want to create a unique maintenance schedule and checklist – one that works for your business specifically.

Start with the maintenance schedules recommended by the manufacturer. From there, you can build a more thorough schedule and checklist to ensure all your parts are always working. Your time programs should include daily, weekly, monthly and yearly maintenance for each piece of equipment.

One thing to keep in mind here is that maintenance needs will increase as your car volume grows. If your business is growing and serving more wash packages for more cars per hour, your schedule will need to evolve too. 

4. Inspect Your Car Wash Tunnel System Equipment Daily

Even if your maintenance schedule says the equipment isn’t due for inspection, your car wash tunnel system could still benefit from a daily checkup. At least 30 minutes before the car wash opens, do a visual inspection of the car wash equipment. Be sure to perform any maintenance procedures according to the manufacturer’s guidance.

Then, run a test wash without a vehicle. This warms up the equipment and gets everything lubricated. It’s also a chance to spot any issues, like leaks or malfunctioning tools.

Finally, perform a test with a vehicle and do a walk-through inspection of the tunnel. This is your chance to assess how the equipment performs under pressure. For example, consider the timing of the wash conveyor, the pressure of the brushes and the quality of soap application. Take note of anything that seems unusual for later followup. 

5. Clean Equipment Regularly

Customers expect a clean, professional environment in the car wash – that extends to the equipment too. Make sure to clean your equipment daily to meet this expectation and improve the look and safety of your car wash. Removing accumulated grease, dirt, debris and rust will help equipment last longer and keep things running smoothly.

6. Use the Correct Chemicals and Fluids

Nothing will break a machine faster than the wrong fluids. While keeping fluids topped up is essential, ensure you use the proper chemicals for your machinery. Follow manufacturer guidelines when possible to avoid damage to your equipment.

The same goes for cleaning solutions. Ensure you aren’t using chemicals that could cause damage to sensitive equipment. 

7. Grease and Lubricate Moving Parts

Lubrication is essential for keeping your equipment working in top condition. Using the correct lubricant reduces friction, heat and wear, maximizing the life of your car wash parts.

Ensure you stay on top of your lubrication schedule – just a few minutes of running without proper lubrication can cause damage. 

8. Replace Worn or Damaged Parts 

Daily use can make car wash parts wear out over time. How quickly they wear depends on the volume of cars you’re servicing, meaning busier car washes must always stay on top of their parts. If you’re unprepared and lose a critical piece of the system you could end up without an operating car wash for days or longer while you wait for replacement.

Keep an eye on parts that may need replacing soon, and have spare parts readily available. This way, you can keep services going without disruption, even in case of an emergency replacement.

If you really want to get proactive, we offer a pre-stocked Spare Parts Cabinet loaded with the critical spare parts most often needed, so you can minimize downtime and keep your wash up and running.

9. Periodically Calibrate Sensors and Control Systems

High-quality automatic touchless car washes have complex control systems, not to mention sensors that detect vehicle exteriors without causing damage. If something goes wrong with these systems, you could end up with an entirely disabled car wash.

Regularly calibrating sensors can mean a world of difference between a safely running car wash and an out-of-service tunnel. 

10. Prepare the Equipment for Cold Weather

Depending on your location, you may need to make climate-specific considerations regarding your car wash tunnel equipment. Cold weather, in particular, can be a challenge for many car washes. Your maintenance schedule may need to include: 

  • Clearing snow from the tunnel openings 
  • Keeping the openings of the tunnel ice-free
  • Maintaining heaters
  • Applying rock salt when needed
  • Having a snow blower or snowplow

11. Have Equipment Serviced by a Qualified Technician

While you can train staff members to perform minimal maintenance, nothing compares to the input of a professional. In addition to your in-house maintenance cycle, it helps to set up appointments with a third-party professional.

Instead of only calling for help when something goes wrong, take preventative action by having a professional assess your car wash every six months or more. Qualified car wash technicians receive specific training for servicing car wash tunnels. They can spot signs of issues long before they become major repairs and can replace parts before they compromise the rest of the car wash. 

12. Keep Records of Maintenance and Repairs

Whether you’re doing a routine maintenance check or a major repair on your car wash tunnel equipment, keep a record of your work. Detailed record-keeping will help you track the health of your machinery over time. It will aid you in staying on top of inspections, repairs and replacements as your tunnel wash takes on more wear and tear.

Documented inspections also help show customers your commitment to delivering a safe and enjoyable car wash experience. 

13. Train Employees on Proper Maintenance Procedures

Most car wash businesses will call professionals for help when something goes seriously wrong. Besides emergencies, however, the responsibility of day-to-day operations falls to the on-site employees. Staff should be well-trained in proper maintenance procedures, including cleaning and minor repairs. 

A great way to get this valuable training and experience is to join a College of Clean tunnel maintenance course. Specialized courses cover important ground and offer hands-on training experience. 

14. Regularly Test and Maintain Emergency Stop Systems

While a tunnel car wash may not appear dangerous, it’s also not suitable for direct human contact. In an emergency scenario, the equipment could cause serious harm.

Customers expect a safe and reliable experience, which means your safety systems should be in perfect condition. The emergency stop button allows employees to pause the wash process in the case of an emergency, like a customer leaving their vehicle mid-wash.

Keep up with a schedule to regularly test and maintain emergency stop systems. Don’t wait for an emergency to find out if the stop system is working – ensure it’s 100% safe before customers drive through the entrance. 

15. Implement Water Recycling Systems

While they’re more economical than at-home washes, commercial car washes still produce a large amount of wastewater. A quality water recycling system allows you to clean this wastewater for reuse, so you can save money on water bills and help the environment. Using contaminant-free water can help prolong the lifespan of your car wash tunnel equipment.

Carwash 4.0: The Future of Car Wash Maintenance 

Investing in high-quality equipment and keeping up with a dedicated maintenance schedule is just the start for car wash owners. With a combination of connected equipment, remote monitoring and artificial intelligence (AI) technology, a Carwash 4.0 system can revolutionize how you maintain and operate your car wash.  

A Carwash 4.0 system paired with the NCS Lens App lets you monitor your car wash equipment in real time using your smartphone. You can track, adjust and report accurately on all sorts of systems and parameters, making your wash more efficient and consistent. 

Carwash 4.0 also integrates powerful Condition Based Maintenance technology that uses sensors and data to anticipate equipment failures long before they happen. Managers or owners can get automated alerts ahead of trouble, and schedule maintenance or replacement during off hours. No surprises, no downtime – and you don’t even have to be onsite to manage it.

Maximize Quality and Longevity With a Trusted Equipment Provider

A car wash tunnel is no small investment, but it can yield significant returns – as long as you start with the best equipment and parts and keep up with car wash tunnel maintenance.

Find the fastest, safest, and most reliable equipment on the market with National Carwash Solutions (NCS). Also look to us for maintenance help and consultation when needed. Just fill out our contact form and someone will be in touch. 

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