Carwash Door Trends 

By Josh Hart

When people think about carwashes, doors are almost never the first thing that pops into people’s minds.  However, doors play a very important role in a successful carwash.  They are literally the access point to your business.  Doors control traffic flow, provide security, keep chemicals in the bay, keep heat in the bay, block wind, let natural light into the bay, and enhance the appearance of your building.  

Airlift Doors has been manufacturing doors for car washing for 40 years so we have seen it all when it comes to trends and changes in the market.  Going back 40 years if you had doors on your carwash, they most likely consisted of a steel insulated door with some type of electric opener.  No products at this time were designed or engineered for the extreme wet conditions and constant opening and closing between cars.  

To combat some of these issues, the air powered garage door opener was introduced.  This style opener was designed to withstand the corrosive environment and operate at high daily cycles to accommodate high volumes of vehicles passing through the bay.  Although this was a great improvement to the openers in a carwash, the doors the openers were operating were typically still the steel insulated model.  Over time, the steel doors would absorb the water from the wash and would become heavy and unbalanced.  On top of this, the hardware would corrode and break down and doors would require constant maintenance and repair or break down completely.

The introduction of the polycarbonate door virtually replaced the steel doors in a matter of a few years.  At one point, just about every wash you saw had a polycarbonate door and an air powered opener.  That was until the introduction of the vinyl style roll up door.  Vinyl roll ups have been utilized in the carwash market for almost 15 years now.  Vinyl roll ups became popular because they have less wear parts, operate at higher speeds, and can take the impact of a vehicle and reset in the tracks to continue operating after impact.  The interesting part is that the vinyl roll up door is operated with an electric opener.  The big difference is that the new electric openers are modified to withstand the corrosive environment of the carwash.  Modifications such as stainless-steel components, coated internal windings, and waterproof housing are a few of the improvements that have been made to electric openers resulting in IP65 rating.  The IP65 rating is given to motors that have been tested and passed the standards based on dust and moisture protection.  Currently, about half of the carwashes in the industry have polycarbonate doors and the other half is the viny roll up style. 

One of the newer trends in the carwash door industry is utilizing electric jackshaft openers on overhead doors.  With the new modifications to the electric opener, it has become an equal alternative to air powered openers.  

There are a lot of different options when it comes to choosing the correct electric operator for your overhead door.  Many controls have a basic model and then upgraded versions.  Some of the key features available with electric operators and controls are listed below.  My recommendation is to discuss your specific application with your door provider to determine what type of system is best for you.

Corrosion Resistance:  This is one of the most important things to consider when choosing an electric operator for your carwash.  Make sure to verify that the operator has an IP65 rating and that all your controls are Nema 4X rated waterproof enclosures.

Power Supply:  This can vary, but most models require 110V power supply with a designated 20-amp breaker.  Many controls convert the 110V power to 3 phase 240V to the motor through a variable frequency drive.

Opening and Closing Limits:  Some models have built in limit switches to determine open and close positions.  These are easy to set and can also be used to monitor door position and act as a floor cut off so the door will not open if the safety eyes are blocked when the door is in the closed position.  Other control models offer electronic limits.  This allows you to set the limits from the open and close buttons without using the internal limit switches.  Some models of controls also have a programed adjustable cushion built in where the speed will be reduced prior to final open and close positions.

Controlling The Doors:   Many carwash doors are controlled entirely through the carwash equipment.  Signals from the equipment at various stages of the wash process let the door know when to open and when to close.  You should consult your carwash provider to determine what the carwash is capable of and then determine what you need your door controller to do.  Many people use closing timers in the door controller to close the door after the vehicle has passed through the safety eyes.  Some door controllers have this as a standard feature and with others it is optional.  Temperature control options are another option with door controls.  Using temperature probes, the controller can hold the door open when the external temperatures rise above a designated level.  The doors will then automatically close and operate normally if the temperatures drop below the designated level.  Time of day is another feature with some door controllers.  Simple programming can activate your doors at a specific time in the morning and shut the door off at night if you are not a 24/7 operation.

Emergency Open:  All overhead doors are balanced with either torsion springs or a Strapeze Counterbalance System.  My recommendation is to make sure your electric opener has a quick release system in place to disengage the motor from the shaft allowing you to manually operate the door.  One example of this is a pull cord release on the motor.  If someone were to become trapped in your bay for any reason, the customer could easily pull the cord on the motor to disengage it and then manually open the door to exit the bay safely.  Another option to provide an emergency exit option is to install a battery backup system tied into the door controller.  This type of system has reserve power to operate the door temporarily in case of power failure.

Remote Monitoring:  Newer style door operators and controls have capabilities to monitor your doors remotely from a computer, phone, or tablet, or any internet connected device.  There are a lot of different variables to consider with this type of system and you will want to discuss with your carwash equipment provider as well as many carwash controllers provide this option as well.  With this type of control option, you can monitor door position, bay temperatures, safety eye communication, and general error codes.  

Self Diagnostics:  Newer controls have self diagnostic capabilities.  They are constantly monitoring the performance of the operator and will diagnose and display any errors on the screen.  These touch screens allow you to change control settings on the screen without accessing the internal controls.  

In summary, whether you are using a polycarbonate overhead door or a vinyl style roll up door, there have been a lot of advancements in the operator and control options associated with carwash doors.  Talk with your door supplier or the manufacturer of the product to customize a control package that best fits your wash application.

Josh Hart has been with Airlift Doors, Inc. for 23 years.  He has held positions in production, service and installation, and sales.  He spent the majority of his career with Airlift in sales prior to taking over as company president in 2014.

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