Past Issue

The Iceman Cometh Preparing for the Cold Winter Months

By Bobby Willis

07/01/16

Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today. Those are famous words instilled in me at an early age by my grandfather. Like the mama bear that prepares months in advance for her long winters nap, it pays to prepare your car washes well in advance of the winter season. Now I am not talking about all of the modern-day preppers out there storing gas masks, and 14 cases of beanie weenies in a foxhole in the backyard. (That is a topic for another article.) I am talking about crafting and executing an action plan to help you prepare for changes that may affect your business.

I always start the process by creating checklists, which I break down into different categories. Three simple categories are mechanical operations, purchased supplies or equipment, and outside vendors/contractors. I then break the checklists down even further based upon the wash location and type of wash. I operate self-service, in-bay automatic, and tunnel car washes so my checklists are pretty long.

MECHANICAL OPERATIONS

This includes anything pertaining to the day-to-day mechanical operations of the car wash.

Self-Service

1. The first item on my checklist is to inspect the water lines and valves feeding the weep system to each of the high-pressure pumps. I use an electronic system controlled by a thermostat mounted on the outside of the building at each of my self-service locations. I also have a mechanical system as a backup if the electronic system fails.
After the water lines and valves have been checked, I turn the electronic weep system on, and test it. I use a very high-tech system to check the thermostat. Get ready all of you NASA engineers! I climb up on a ladder, and place the thermostat in a cup of ice. I tried to use a slushy one time. It worked, but it turned the thermostat blue.
I wouldn’t recommend that one. I then walk to each bay to make sure the weep is working.
Once the electronic weep system is checked, and any necessary repairs are made, I inspect the mechanical weep system.
2. The second item on my checklist is to inspect the bay-floor heat system. I use a thermostatically controlled boiler system for bay floor heat at each of my locations.
After completing a visual inspection of the boiler, I check the antifreeze solution level in the reservoir. I add solution if needed.
The next step in the process is to manually fire the boilers and check for any leaks in the manifolds, piping, and bay floors.
Once any repairs to the boiler, manifolds, or piping are complete, I check the thermostats to verify they are working properly.
3. I then inspect the heat in the overhead trough that holds all of the chemical and high-pressure lines.
4. The fourth item is to check the equipment room heater(s) for proper operation.
5. Next, it’s time to check the interior insulation in the equipment room to verify there are no areas where heat can escape.
6. Finally, I check the exterior of the building to verify there are no areas of concern that may be impacted by snow, ice, or wind.

In-bay Automatics

1. The first item on my checklist is to inspect the water lines, and valves feeding the weep system to each of the high-pressure pumps. I use an electronic system controlled by a thermostat mounted on the inside of the automatic wash bay(s) at each of my in-bay automatic locations. This is used as a backup if there is a bay heater installed at the location.
2. Inspection of the bay-floor-heat system is next. I use a thermostatically controlled boiler system for bay-floor heat at each of my locations. I follow the same steps to inspect the in-bay automatic floor heat as I do the self-service floor heat.
3. I inspect any bay heaters and equipment-room heaters for proper operation
4. Next, I check the operation of bay doors, and perform any required maintenance.
5. I then inspect the heat in the overhead trough that holds all of the chemical and high-pressure lines.
6. The next item to check is the interior insulation in the equipment room to verify there are no areas where heat can escape.
7. Finally, I check the exterior of the building to verify there are no areas of concern that may be impacted by snow, ice, or wind.

Tunnel Operations

1. The first item on my checklist is to inspect the bay-floor and apron heat system. I use a thermostatically controlled boiler system for bay-floor and apron heat at each of my locations. I follow the same steps to inspect the tunnel floor heat as I do the in-bay automatic, and self-service floor heat.
2. I then inspect any bay heaters, and equipment-room heaters for proper operation
3. Next, I check the operation of bay doors, and perform any required maintenance.
4. The fourth item to check is the exterior of the building to verify there are no areas of concern that may be impacted by snow, ice, or wind.
5. Lastly, I check all customer spaces to verify there are no areas of concern that may be impacted by snow, ice, or wind.

PURCHASED SUPPLIES OR EQUIPMENT

These include any items purchased to deal with challenges due to cold weather. Here are a few items to consider:
1. Snow shovels. They go on sale in the summer. Do you have enough to clear your walkways, driveways, etc.?
2. If you own a snow blower or any other type of snow-clearing machinery such as a snowplow, make sure it is working properly.
3. Ice-melting solution for walkways, etc. I stock up in the fall because Murphy’s Law states that when bad weather hits there will not be any for sale within 500 miles.
4. Purchase any special wash solutions (chemicals) required for winter operation well in advance of cold weather in the forecast.
5. If you provide uniforms for your employees, do an inventory in the early fall and place any necessary orders. Some manufacturers’ lead times may extend into cold weather season.

OUTSIDE VENDORS/CONTRACTORS

Include in this group any person or company hired to perform a service to prepare for winter weather. Here are a few examples:
1. Schedule a company or technician to inspect your boilers, venting, and heating systems if required.
2. Schedule your equipment distributor or service company to perform any special winterization to your equipment before cold weather hits.

Do as my grandfather taught me: don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. It is important to prepare your car washes for the cold winter months. Proper planning will save you many headaches when the Iceman cometh. If you live in one of the warm-weather states, and this article doesn’t pertain to you, make sure to stock up on enough supplies to take care of the influx of the snowbirds coming to your area. Last, but not least, if you are one of the modern-day preppers and you do have 14 cases of beanie weenies buried in the back yard, I’m sure those gas masks are going to come in handy!

Wash on!

Bobby Willis has been in the car wash business for over 20 years. He owns and operates Cool Wave Car Washes in Virginia. He can be reached at bwillis@coolwavecarwash.com.



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