Maintaining your automated wash system should be considered the same as protecting other parts of your operation. If you aren’t managing your organization’s schedule and workflow well, it will take a lot of time and effort to get everything back on track.
Similarly, if you aren’t maintaining your automated wash system, it can slowly deteriorate over time — and the cost of repairing it will increase.
While it is not really possible for any type of equipment or system to be completely maintenance-free, you can definitely limit the amount of upkeep by choosing the correct wash for your fleet. That really comes down to one basic concept — limiting the number of moving parts.
With that being said, drive-thru touchless truck wash systems typically will require much less maintenance than a system with brushes or gantry systems.
But even if your wash system uses brushes, maintaining it isn’t completely up to you. There are many things that the system manufacturer will check for you.
Fortunately for you, we narrowed down what you need to know about maintaining your automated wash system below so you aren’t having large repairs on an annual basis.
Conduct Regular Maintenance Inspections
Ideally, you want to complete an inspection of the system at least once per week. But at the very least, you should be doing it at least once per month. This will prevent any small issues from turning into expensive big issues.
There are two main types of wash system inspections you should conduct regularly:
The quickest type of inspection is a drive-thru inspection. This can be done while in a vehicle or watching a vehicle drive through the wash. Some of the things you will look for are:
- Clogged nozzles
- Nozzle spraying patterns
- Correct spinner rotation
- Timing of the equipment
- Pace light sequencing
This inspection is commonly done once per week or bi-weekly. During this inspection, you are focusing on the individual parts of the system. Some of the things you will look for are:
- Soap dilution ratios
- PSI and GPM for the rinse pump
- Air pressure to equipment
- Checking for soap or water leaks
- Check the salt level in the water softener brine tank
- Check the water heater temperature
- Wash Counts
- Soap Levels
Be Proactive About Resolving Maintenance Issues
Many different situations arise that can cause maintenance expenses to grow. Just like any piece of equipment, including your personal vehicle, some expenses are preventable while others are normal wear and tear.
When picking the truck wash that is right for you, know that some features are much more expensive to maintain than others.
Here are some of the features that require much more maintenance and will cost more on a yearly basis to keep operating properly:
- Gantry-style washes: A gantry-style wash has many moving parts and typically will cost much more to maintain than a drive-thru system as there are more places for something to wear or go wrong.
- Standard wash systems: Most systems contain brushes and will need to be regularly greased and adjusted to ensure it is working properly. As a brush module ages, the bristles will shorten until they have to be replaced. Also, if it uses a chain drive system, it will need to be adjusted regularly to account for stretch in the chain.
- Water reclamation systems: A wash that utilizes a water reclamation system will need to be regularly cleaned. The systems typically use some sort of settling tanks that allow for sediment to fall out of suspension. As these tanks fill up with sediment, the system loses its ability to clean water as efficiently. Depending on the types of vehicles and the level of dirt on them, the tanks will need to be emptied from monthly to quarterly.
While there are a number of things your wash system manufacturer should be responsible for, there are still a number of ways you can protect your automated wash system. You can avoid most major repairs by quickly identifying small issues and properly addressing them before they become large issues.
For example, cleaning clogged nozzles immediately prevents heavy-duty detergents from crystallizing in the manifolds and plugging the entire detergent arch. By spending a couple of minutes cleaning the nozzles you will prevent spending hours cleaning an entire section out.
What you can take care of yourself:
- Greasing motors
- Cleaning clogged nozzles
- Adding salt to the water softener system
- Replacing check valves on the detergent system
- Installing new seals on detergent dilution pumps
- Cleaning filters for detergent systems
How To Maintain Your Wash Bay Walls And Equipment
The wash bay walls will become dirty throughout the year with a combination of dirt, grease, vehicle exhaust, and detergent residue. The walls are typically cleaned annually using an aggressive low-pH wash tunnel cleaner.
Wash bay equipment should be designed to withstand the corrosive effects of a wash bay. However, even with the best equipment, you will still have parts that need to be treated and/or replaced.
- Overhead Door Motors - Even the best overhead door motors will typically only last around 5 years if left in a wash bay. We always recommend that overhead door motors be jack shafted into an adjacent equipment room. This will easily more than double their life expectancy.
- Electrical Conduit - At Hydro-Chem Systems, we always recommend electrical conduits be PVC. PVC conduits will typically last the longest and do not corrode like all of the rest.
- Electrical boxes - Electrical boxes should all be NEMA 4 rated to prevent water intrusion.
- Fasteners and Unistrut - Stainless steel is often the best option to prolong life.
Why it’s Important to Keep Spare Parts
It may seem obvious to have spare parts on hand in case something needs to be replaced. These can vary based on the level of importance you have in not allowing for downtime.
A truck wash that is designed to clean an over-the-road fleet can be down for a couple of days without undue stress on the company.
However, a biosecurity truck wash that is needed to prevent the spread of viruses from farm to farm does not have the luxury of being down for more than hours or a day max.
So a wash that can not be down for long will have to keep many more parts on hand to quickly repair any issues.
Common Spare Parts
- Nozzle fittings
- Air Cylinders
What to Look for in an Automated Wash System
When it comes to low-maintenance automated truck wash systems it really comes down to one basic concept, limiting the number of moving parts. Depending on your fleet’s needs, you may also want to prioritize a wash that can run even if there is an occasional problem requiring a section to be turned off.
This will not only limit your repair costs but make it easier to maintain the whole system and keep it running without issue.
Another important factor to consider is partnering with a supplier that manufactures both the equipment and the detergent. This holds one company liable if the wash isn’t performing correctly.
But at the end of the day, if you inspect your system regularly, keep an inventory of spare parts handy, and ensure you have someone available to help with the quick fixes listed above, you will notice a significant decrease in downtime and an increase in lifespan of your automated wash system.