Daily Preventative Maintenance
Avoiding unexpected breakdown and closure
By Anthony Analetto
Chief Operating Officer - SONNY'S The Car Wash Factory
WATCH NOW - Car Wash College
It is 30 minutes before your wash is scheduled to open. Either you or your manager has just programmed the wash for the top package. Four rollers are fired to represent the front and back of the car as well as each tire. Photo-eyes or loop pads are tripped to represent vehicle dimension. The tire switch is activated for the two rollers that represent them. As you follow this ghost car that doesn’t obstruct your view down the tunnel, observe correct operation of every piece of equipment. Immediate issues are addressed and replacement parts ordered. Suspected problems are documented for further investigation that evening or during the weekly preventative maintenance (PM) night scheduled for complete equipment and tunnel cleaning.
Does this scenario describe your wash? Have you committed the personnel and resources to ensure your wash is attractive to customers and will run right for years to come? Is your PM program scheduled and documented so that personnel are accountable and checks are performed as required?
Elimination of prep labor with many new equipment technologies has resulted in total reliance on equipment. This has brought PM into the spotlight. Car washing is a harsh environment and scheduled PM is vital to your business. In this article I will review the considerations that should be addressed on a daily basis. Part 2, next month, will examine weekly, monthly, and yearly components of a successful PM program.
DAILY PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE PROCEDURES:
The first hurdle to jump when creating a PM program is to throw out the assumption of common sense. Don’t leave anything to chance or thinking. Write out the entire PM program down to the last detail. Print check sheets with boxes to initial upon completion, and then post it on the wall. Nothing is more disruptive than scrambling to get ready for the day because someone forgot to do something the night before. It is much easier to ask an employee why they initialed that all trash was emptied when it was not, rather than listen to explanations of how they thought someone else had done it.
Observation and documentation are the two most critical aspects of a successful preventative maintenance program. The key words to drill into anyone involved in PM are observe, look, note, and confirm. The goal is to catch small problems early, before they cause a greater problem. Activities fall into one of two types; checks and services. Checks require visual confirmation and must be completed on a regular schedule without fail. Services are corrective procedures in the wash and are either scheduled or unscheduled. Records of all activities must be kept in order to hold personnel accountable; otherwise, eventually the checks will not be accomplished.
OPENING PM PROCEDURE:
Ideally, each activity performed 30 minutes or more before opening, simply confirms that nothing happened to disturb the perfect condition of the wash when left the night before. It is a series of procedures to verify that the wash is able to produce your best possible product with no risk of damage to vehicles or equipment.
Dry Checks: Small fluid leaks are easily masked in a wet tunnel. The following activities should be performed before running water.
- Check all hydraulic lines and connections. Confirm that all oil levels are correct and that there are no visible signs of fluid anywhere in the wash. Oil leaks can damage cloth and contaminate reclaims in addition to causing poor wash performance. All hydraulic leaks should be repaired before opening to avoid costly closure and repair.
- Close the valve on the compressor which should have been drained during closing PM.
- Turn on breakers to activate all electrical power.
- Check all fresh, reclaim, and spot-free water supplies. Instruct the inspector to both look and listen for leaks.
- Check gauges on the spot free pump for pressure and water generation. Check tank levels. It is often useful to post proper readings at the pump to avoid any confusion.
- Check water reclaim gauges for incoming and outgoing pressure. Makes sure filters are not clogged.
- Check your odor control system. Many units have sight glasses or gauges but you can always trust your nose.
Detergent Checks: Spikes and drops in detergent consumption can alert an inspector of problems in equipment performance. Detergent checks are performed during closing PM but the opening inspector should refer to notes from the previous day to direct attention to potential equipment issues to monitor.
Wet Checks: Before running any equipment, most controllers have a “wet down” function that is designed to bring all equipment online. The goal here is to soak the cloth in water and detergent, charge all of the foam tubes, and saturate the pads on tire dressing applicators.
- Inspect all nozzles. Weak spray patterns dramatically reduce the cleaning ability of any wash equipment. Clogged nozzles and weak spray may also indicate a more serious problem up stream. Your wash should have a nozzle replacement schedule based on the type of detergent and number of cars being washed. Unclog or replace nozzles as needed and record in the wet down portion of the daily log. This information is vital in identifying other potential problems.
- Activate all chemical pumps and check for leaks. Lines can drain back to the tank overnight. This procedure must be run prior to washing vehicles. It ensures all cloth is properly lubricated and that detergent and conditioners reach the first car in the proper quantity and dilution.
- Check the condition of all wash materials for damage or debris.
Operational Checks: Go to your entrance management system. Whether it is a greeter station or an automated attendant, you must start with how the first customer will activate the wash when you open. Program a wash for the top package. Activate the automatic roller up and extra rollers so that there are four rollers in total. These rollers represent the front, back, and wheels of a car. Activate the entrance switch at the first roller, tire switch on the second and third, and release on the fourth. This practice allows you to easily view all equipment operation without the obstruction of an actual vehicle.
- Check that the conveyor is operating smoothly with no jerking or unusual noises.
- Check that any wrap-around washers or brushes tied to the conveyor interlock are spinning properly. Listen for abnormal noises.
- Check that wheels are accurately located by detergent application and wash systems.
- Check that all wash equipment is moving properly without any abnormal noises.
- Verify that all wash, rinsing, application, and drying actions start and stop correctly.
- Perform a final check that all detergent and conditioner application is correct.
- Inspect the equipment room and all support equipment for indicators of proper adjustment.
- Verify all air dryers ramp up to full speed and that nothing is obstructing the inlet screens.
CLOSING PM PROCEDURE:
The purpose of the closing PM procedure is to identify everything that could possibly prohibit you from washing cars the next day. Below I will outline the most basic daily activities that must be performed. A common practice growing in popularity is to schedule a thorough “PM Night” at least once a week. In addition to the items below, the tunnel and equipment would be completely washed down as well as all weekly, monthly, and annual services performed.
Detergent Checks: Spikes and drops in detergent consumption can alert an inspector of problems in equipment performance. At the end of closing PM, everything in the wash should be ready to wash cars the following day.
- Check and transfer detergents as necessary to ensure that all levels are sufficient to wash 10% more than the maximum anticipated volume the following day.
- Inspect the condition of all barrels and tanks.
- Note any detergent use that has spiked. Excessive consumption may indicate a problem in the system. Log the condition and move on to other checks. If during the remaining checks there do not appear to be any worn nozzles, open check valves, etc, make a notation for the opening crew to monitor the condition throughout the next day. Order in potential replacement parts as the situation warrants.
- Note any drops in detergent use that are not directly related to wash volume. Inspect foot valves on the chemical suction lines. Note the condition in the log and move on to the other checks. The problem that has lead to the reduced detergent use should become clear.
- Check the salt level of the water softener system. The softener sets the wash water quality. If the softener is down, then every chemical and water system will suffer. Fill with salt as needed.
Operational Checks: Careful observation of equipment each evening can identify damage that may have occurred during the day. The ability to find potential failures before they occur provides the time to bring in replacement parts or make changes to items inventoried for emergency repairs.
- During last two hours of each day, begin cleaning the property
- Empty trash receptacles.
- Empty vacuum canisters
- Sweep all areas of the wash
- Clean Lobby area coffee machines
- Clean restrooms and windows
- Walk through tunnel during the last cars washed. Look and listen for any equipment that may not be functioning properly in both the tunnel and back room. This is the time to find problems. You can make emergency repairs and order parts.
- Walk through the tunnel after the last car and inspect for any damage that may have occurred during the day.
- Turn off and drain all air compressors.
- Wash down the tunnel, rinse the floor and equipment.
- Inspect and clean all filters on high pressure pump stations.
- Inspect and clean strainers on reclaim systems.
- Turn off all necessary electrical and water connections.
- Secure the building and have a good night.
Committing the resources and time to an effective preventative maintenance program can save tens of thousands of dollars per year. Have you ever tried to estimate what percent of equipment repairs could have been avoided through preventative maintenance? Try calculating the impact unexpected closures have, not only via lost revenue, but in terms of how customers perceive your business. Simply put, preventative maintenance is profitable. I hope you picked up a few ideas from this article. Please join me again next month when I outline weekly, monthly, and yearly PM. Good luck and good washing.
Anthony Analetto has over 26 years experience in the car wash business and is the President of SONNY'S The Car Wash Factory's Equipment Division. Before coming to SONNY'S Anthony was the director of operations for a 74 location national car wash chain. Anthony can be reached at 800-327-8723 x 104 or at firstname.lastname@example.org