Dear Venus and Mars,
When do you start gearing up for your winter volume and what specifically do you do?
We typically know when to expect extra wash volume and that is normally when the colder weather approaches. However, there have been late October snow falls that bring us some salty vehicles. With that in mind, we start to gear up about late September to early October.
First and foremost, we make sure that all our employees know we are coming up on a busy time. Our suppliers/distributors all know that we are headed into the busy season so we pray they are well stocked and prepared as well because as we all know, the bigger the wash load, the more problems we see with equipment. We try to be proactive and do maintenance prior to the busy times of year. Take advantage of the slow times to make repairs.
We also check in with other operators at this time to make sure we haven’t forgotten anything. Association meetings are great opportunities in which to do that as well.
Mike and I like to make sure that we have plenty of fresh vending inventory and try to have large shipments sent just weeks before expected volume. In addition, we like to check our soaps and have plenty on site to switch out quickly as needed.
We also clean up all the bill validators and make sure we have spares and spare parts for all coin-related equipment. In addition, we double check our surveillance and computer equipment and replace anything that is not working well and make sure the outdoor cameras are clean and mounted securely.
As hands-on owner/operators, we find ourselves at our locations on into the evening hours during high-volume times. But in the long run, the colder it is the busier we become.
It’s hard to believe we are talking about winter already. Thoughts of last winter with the bitter cold and huge snowdrifts are still fresh in my mind. But fall is here and it is inevitable that the cold winter months will be upon us sooner than later. Preparing for the season is very important and as the equipment and property take the most abuse in the cold months. My benchmark for having everything ready is right around Halloween. I want to be ready just in case we experience an early season or snowfall.
There are several things in which you should be prepared. It is best to make a checklist of everything that needs to get done or verified to be working properly. First and foremost, my conveyer needs to be in tip-top shape for the abuse it is going to take over the next four months or so.
I always inspect every inch of the chain for wear. Are there links that are worn out and need replacing, or is the whole chain in need of replacement? The conveyer links usually wear out first right in front of and right behind the rollers. This is where the most pressure is put on it. When it is very cold, the chain becomes more brittle and a weak link can break sooner than it would when it is warm out.
When checking the chain you want to inspect each and every roller as well. The rollers have links on them that tend to wear quicker than the rest of the chain. The plastic on the rollers should be in good shape with little signs of wear. Some rollers allow you to just replace the plastic without having to change the whole roller. But in some cases, the steel on the roller is worn out as well and it would be best to change the whole thing.
Of course you want to make sure that all the heat is working in the tunnel and fires up quickly and remains running. Thermostats should be checked for accuracy and proper functionality. Think back to last winter and try to remember if there were any areas in the tunnel that were freezing up or didn’t seem to receive as much heat as other areas. If so, you may need to reposition some of the heaters or add more. Also check the gas valves and igniters to ensure that they are operating properly.
The fall is also a good time to replace any worn out cloth or foam. With the salt and sand that will hopefully be present most of the winter your equipment will need to be at maximum cleaning potential. Also, new cloth needs a little time to break in so replacing it in the fall gives it enough time to break in properly.
Many carwashes in the Northeast use wind doors to keep the warm air in the tunnel. In my carwash I don’t use the wind door during the warmer months so it is not in operation. I always run it for about a week in October to make sure all of the moving parts and air cylinders are working properly.
A wind door is a very good investment in that during operating hours it helps to keep the warm air in the tunnel. It also helps to keep heating costs down since the heaters will not have to work as hard as the heat is not escaping the tunnel so quickly. If you don’t currently have one, it may be a good idea to research it now.
Another important thing to put on your checklist is ice melt. The fall is a good time to shop out the best pricing on ice melt. Usually you can get a better price by pre-ordering in the fall rather than waiting until the temperature actually dips below the freezing mark. Once that happens the demand goes up and usually the prices follow suit.
If you provide your employees with uniforms you want to make sure you are prepared to supply them with jackets or sweat shirts. It never looks good when that first cold week arrives and half of your staff is out of uniform or wearing worn-out and dirty clothes from last winter. Make sure you have a full supply of winter clothing for all employees.
Let’s hope it is a prosperous winter and one that is not too cold but provides many dirty cars. The Northeast Regional Carwash Convention (NRCC), which is October 5-7, at the Atlantic City Convention Center (nrccshow.com) is the perfect place to shop for all of the things I mentioned above. Usually, these items are on sale and the products are on display so you can see exactly what you are purchasing.
Venus and Mars, aka Heather Ashley and Paul Vallario, are carwash industry veterans. Heather Ashley is the President of the Mid- Atlantic Carwash Association. She is also co-owner of Virginia Car Wash Industries, Inc.and Shenandoah Valley Coin Laundries, and Ashley’s Shenandoah Valley Rental Properties in Toms Brook, VA. You can reach Heather at email@example.com, as well as Linkedin and Twitter @hrashley. Paul Vallario operates Westbury Personal Touch Car Wash in Westbury, NY, and is the President of Urban Avenue Carwash Distributors and Consulting. He is a board member of the New York State Car Wash Association. You can reach Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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