Nothing brings a smile to the face of an in-bay automatic car wash operator quicker than climbing out of bed in the morning, opening the curtains and seeing a bright sun rising into a clear, blue sky with a forecast of hot temperatures and not a chance of rain. If these conditions present themselves on a weekend after a string of bad-weather days, then that smile becomes even larger.
But these types of days are the easy ones for the car wash operator, like getting ready to hit a 3-0 pitch delivered by a nervous pitcher who has just walked the bases loaded. It’s when you’ve got an 0-2 count with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and the bases loaded with your team trailing by three runs and Randy Johnson on the mound that you earn your money, i.e. for the car wash operator, those days when the weather is iffy and you’ve left the happy days of summer behind with the dark days of fall and winter looming ahead.
That’s the case for the majority of the car wash operators in the United States and Canada. Not every one can operate a business in San Diego or South Florida, where the weather tends to be car wash friendly for the majority of the year. Most operate in regions where the weather can be fickle, with rainy or snowy days stretching off into the future while the wash sits idle.
But while there’s nothing you can do about the weather, there are steps you can take to ensure that your in-bay wash is ready and able to answer the call when the weather breaks, or the season turns. Some of the busiest days for wash operators are those winter ones when the sun comes out, the temperature creeps over 40°F and the drivers are just itching to wash away that salt and grime that has been accumulating on their vehicle over the past few months. That customer base goes untapped, however, if you have a wash that isn’t operating properly.
Face the Facts
First of all, in-bay car wash operators can’t be intimidated or frightened by changing weather conditions. It’s a fact of life throughout the U.S. and Canada: for every long, hot, revenue-producing summer there will be a rainy or snowy season—and the other six months will be up to the whims of Mother Nature. So, while you know that winter is coming, there are a number of things that you can do to guarantee that your wash has been properly winterized and will be able to survive the change in weather conditions. In addition to the actual weather, each geographical region also has different types of dirt and soil that enter the wash, so you need to make sure your equipment is able to handle those types of contaminants.
First off, performing preventative maintenance is always a good idea, no matter the season. Keeping equipment in tip-top shape gives car wash operators the peace of mind and comfort level that comes with knowing that the equipment they rely upon will be operational when needed most.
Operators also need to treat the change of seasons not as a headache-inducing challenge, but as an opportunity to generate greater revenue per car. In colder and snowy climates, winter can be a much easier time to clean cars, so a simple modification to both the equipment and the chemicals used can dramatically increase the bottom-line return. Enabling a faster wash process to push more cars an hour through the bay will maximize the entire cost of a wash. In conjunction, a more efficient and faster wash will translate to lower operating costs as water, power and chemical usage are streamlined. Too often, however, operators do not make the simple adjustments in wash operation as the seasons change, leading to lower volumes and even higher costs per vehicle.
When winterizing your car wash, the first, and most basic, tasks are making sure that all equipment in the wash—things such as boilers, floor heaters and radiant heaters—are operating properly. While the equipment is the obvious top priority for operators, they should also take a complete inventory of their car wash site and the surrounding area. Are all of the snow stops in place on the roof of the wash? In the event of a large snowfall, is there an area where the snow can be moved that does not interfere with the wash entrance? Have you contracted with someone to remove the snow? Or do you have an in-house solution to snow removal? Do you have an appropriate amount of snow and ice melter on hand so the slip-and-slide risk to vehicles, customers and employees is reduced?
In many cases, the best tool an in-bay car wash operator can have as he prepares for winter can be a good distributor. A solid, reliable distributor can aid the operator as preparations are made for a change in seasons. Distributors who are on top of their game are familiar with the weather conditions that are coming and have the expertise to ensure that the operator is getting the most value out of his wash equipment, as well as operating the in-bay automatic under the most ideal efficiencies and conditions.
It’s a fact of life: the weather will change, so preparing for the change of seasons is very important for all car wash operators. If you do not adjust your washes to meet the immediate needs of the weather and your customers, you risk wash results that are less than satisfactory. While the weather may change, one thing is constant: a driver who leaves a car wash with a vehicle that he or she doesn’t think is as clean as they expect it to be will likely be hesitant to return.
Car wash operators can avoid these dilemmas when considering the changing weather. Perform a preventative-maintenance sweep to make sure that the wash is operating in top form. Make sure your site is adequately stocked with the necessities for snow and ice removal, and make sure your snow-removal plan is up-to-date. Then sit back and wait to see what Mother Nature has to in store, secure in the knowledge that your wash will be there to serve the needs of your customers no matter the severity of the weather conditions.
David Dougherty is the Senior Product Manager for In-Bay Automatics at PDQ Manufacturing, Inc., De Pere, WI. PDQ Manufacturing is recognized as the technological leader in vehicle wash systems, providing superior quality, outstanding support, and products that contribute to its customers’ profitability. Brands include WashTools Conveyorized Tunnel Systems, LaserWash® In-Bay Automatics, Tandem® RiteTouch Vehicle Wash Systems, Access® Customer Management Systems and MaxAir™ Dryers. Products are sold and supported worldwide through an extensive distribution network. For more information, visit www.pdqinc.com or call (800) 227-3373. David can be reached at David.Dougherty@pdqinc.com.