Despite what a lot of sites on the internet tell you, there is a right and a wrong way to wash your fleet. If you use the wrong chemicals or even equipment, you could seriously damage your truck. And if you repeat the process with your entire fleet, you’ve potentially caused thousands of dollars of damage.
While DIY fleet washing might make the most sense for your business, we thought we’d help you protect your fleet by compiling a list of common DIY fleet washing mistakes and exposing some truck washing myths.
1. Turning your power washer up too high
It may sound pretty obvious to most of you but using extremely high pressure to wash your trucks could strip your paint and brand decals. This is especially true if you're using a commercial-grade power washer, which can easily generate pressures of 3,000 PSI or more. High-pressure water can strip away paint, remove decals, and could even damage underlying materials like fiberglass or aluminum.
Just about any machine size PSI can be used and adjusted with nozzle size, but 1000-2500 PSI is typically the most effective when manually washing trucks, and is still considered a safe range for paint & decals, although it may need to be adjusted based on the needs of your fleet.
If you feel you need to exceed that pressure for particularly stubborn grime or dirt, you should try a specialized detergent or cleaning solution designed for use with pressure washers and for that specific kind of problem. You could also use hot water, which can be more effective at removing certain types of soil. As a last resort, you can use a higher pressure, but be sure to test it in an inconspicuous spot before cleaning a larger area.
2. Not cleaning your brushes well
It's essential to keep your brushes clean when washing your fleet. Dirty brushes that have dirt or debris stuck in between the bristles can cause minor scratches and swirls on the vehicle's surface, something that can be very tough to remove and can decrease the resale value of your fleet.
To avoid this problem, be sure you don’t set your brushes with the bristle side down on the ground and rinse them thoroughly between each vehicle. You can also use special brush cleaners, or even a comb to remove any debris stuck in the brushes. It's also essential to replace your brushes regularly. Over time, the bristles on brushes can become worn and damaged, which can make them less effective at cleaning and increase the risk of causing scratches or swirls on the surface.
3. Failure to understand water quality
One common mistake we see all the time is neglecting to check the quality of the water you're using to wash your vehicles. There are two key factors to consider: the source of your water and the temperature.
- Water source - If you're using unfiltered, hard water or water with a high TDS count that's full of minerals or dirt particles, you could be putting your vehicles at risk of damage, or making your soaps much less effective. Those dissolved solids can leave unsightly spots and streaks on your paint, glass, and shiny metal surfaces. They can even damage the pressure washer pump, heating coil, and other components. That's why it's essential to know what water you’re using to wash, and possibly use softened water to provide a great clean.
- Water temperature - Most people know that hot water is better than cold for fleet washing. However, there is a range you want to stick to. If your water is too hot, it can actually cause damage to your vehicle's surface. We recommend keeping your burner between 100 and 130 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal cleaning power without risking damage. Anything higher could cause damage to the surface of your vehicle.
4. Using the wrong chemicals
Not all truck wash soaps are formulated the same. Some are more aggressive than others, others may be formulated for specific types of cleaning. Using the wrong chemicals on your fleet can be a costly mistake, not only in terms of potential damage to your vehicles but also the time and money spent re-washing and correcting the problem. It's important to use the correct soap for your specific vehicles, as using the wrong detergent could strip the paint and cause other damage to your fleet.
Diluting the soap to the correct ratio is also crucial. Using too much soap could leave a film on the vehicle, which is difficult to remove and could harm the paint or graphics. On the other hand, using too little soap will not clean the vehicle effectively, resulting in a poor wash and wasted water.
Our touchless 2-step detergents are specifically designed to be used in conjunction with each other, providing a low-pH presoak to loosen and remove dirt, followed by a high-pH soap to effectively clean and brighten the surface. Talk to one of our knowledgeable account managers to find the right soap and dilution ratio for your specific needs, ensuring that you achieve the best possible results while protecting your valuable fleet.
5. Neglecting your undercarriage
One of the most neglected parts of fleet washing is washing the undercarriage which can lead to significant problems over time. The undercarriage of your vehicle is exposed to dirt, grime, and road salt, which can cause corrosion and rust to build up. Not only can this lower the resale value of your fleet, but it can also lead to serious maintenance issues.
When you wash the undercarriage of your vehicles, you're not only helping to prevent rust and corrosion, but you're also ensuring that vital components such as your brake lines, axles, and gearboxes are cleaned and inspected regularly. This helps to catch potential problems early on before they turn into major issues that could put your drivers and other motorists in danger.
That’s why washing the undercarriage of your truck is so important. It cleans those vital parts so they’re more easily visible and helps prevent rust and corrosion that build up over time, lowering maintenance costs and extending the life of your vehicle.
6. Not washing your fleet often enough in winter
Every winter, cities are forced to lay down salt along as many roads as they can to keep them safe to drive on. The combination of road salt, snow, and dirt can quickly build up on your vehicles. If left untreated, this buildup can cause serious damage to your fleet over time, eating away at your paint and metal components, and leading to rust and corrosion.
Regular washing is essential during winter to remove this buildup and prevent further damage. Not only will it help maintain the appearance of your vehicles, but it will also extend their lifespan and save you money in the long run. Plus, washing your fleet regularly during winter can help prevent any safety hazards that may arise from salt buildup on your vehicles, such as reduced visibility.
While it might feel pointless, or really just uncomfortable in colder weather, regular washing is especially important during winter.
7. Leaving road film on your trucks
Ever looked at your truck after you cleaned it and noticed that there’s still a thin, gray layer of dirt on it? That's road film. As a vehicle moves at a high speed, it generates friction & static electricity, forming an electrostatic bond with the pollutants. These pollutants actually bond to your vehicle’s surface like steel shavings to a magnet, which is why they are so difficult to get clean over time.
Road film is a common problem for fleets, especially those that travel on highways or busy roads. It may seem like a minor issue, but leaving road film on your trucks can cause serious damage to your vehicles in the long run. The pollutants that make up road film, such as dirt, grime, and exhaust residue, can cause the paint to become dull and discolored over time. Additionally, if the road film is not removed, it can lead to corrosion and rust, which can be expensive to repair.
8. Wastewater and The Clean Water Act
One important aspect of fleet washing that is often overlooked is its impact on the environment and government regulations involving cleaning products and wastewater. DIY fleet washing can often result in harmful pollutants being washed into storm drains or local bodies of water.
The Clean Water Act passed in 1972, is a federal law that regulates the discharge of pollutants into the nation's waterways. However, many people who wash their fleets themselves may not realize that the wastewater generated during the washing process can contain a variety of harmful pollutants, including detergents, oils, heavy metals, and other chemicals. If this wastewater is not properly disposed of, it can easily make its way into storm drains or local bodies of water, leading to the potential of enormous fines from local governments.
An environmentally-friendly fleet washing option is to wash in an area where wastewater will not enter a storm drain or water source. You can also use equipment that will capture, divert, or filter the wash water. By adopting these practices, fleet owners can help protect the environment and ensure that their washing practices are in compliance with local and federal regulations.
9. Washing in very cold or hot temperatures
Washing fleets in extreme temperatures can lead to various risks that may not only harm the vehicle but also affect the cleaning process's overall effectiveness.
Hot weather can cause detergents to act aggressively, leading to whitened aluminum, browned metal, streaking, and patchy washing. It can also cause soap and water to evaporate too quickly, leaving behind water spots that are challenging to remove. We recommend washing in smaller sections or cooling the vehicle surfaces with water when air & surface temperatures become too high.
On the other hand, washing in cold temperatures can lead to water freezing on the surface, which could lead to cracked windshields, frozen door locks and seals, or possibly even damage the paint. The water may also puddle on the ground, creating a hazardous and slippery surface that increases the risk of injury. In extremely cold temperatures, your washing equipment can even become damaged if water freezes inside hoses or mechanical parts.
How to Wash Your Fleet with Confidence
In conclusion, although DIY fleet washing may appear to be a cost-effective option, it can result in more harm than good. Without the proper equipment, training, and experience, there is a risk of causing damage to the vehicles, the environment, incurring fines, and potentially endangering your employees.
Therefore, it is critical to consider the long-term costs and potential implications before attempting to wash your fleet on your own. We recommend consulting with fleet washing experts who can help you choose the best cleaning solution for your fleet; it could be hiring a professional fleet washing service, using chemicals that are tailored to your vehicles, or an automated wash system that can clean your entire fleet without the need for additional labor.
By doing so, you can guarantee that your fleet remains clean and well-maintained, while also saving time and money in the long run.