Clean equipment in good repair is the key to avoiding costly downtime especially during high-volume season. Create a maintenance checklist to help you address all potential issues while the weather is on your side. After cleaning all those cars, the equipment in the car wash needs to be cleaned, too. If your tunnel and equipment are dirty, the air being drawn into the drying system will be dirty as well. Keep the tunnel, floors, pit, walls, and equipment clean.

Equipment Mounts

While cleaning the floors, inspect the dryer’s mounting components. Car wash floors slope toward the pit drains so most equipment has to be leveled when installed. Inspect the mounting plates, shims, bolts, and nuts for dirt and corrosion and tighten bolts to factory specs. Inspect welds and seams in the dryer’s air handling components for cracks. Sometimes dark streaks will appear on the metal if air is leaking from a cracked weld or loosened component.

Before attempting any of the following recommended maintenance procedures, make sure you are wearing appropriate PPE (personal protection equipment) and ensure that electrical power is disconnected (use lockout/tag-out procedures) to the equipment you are handling.

Air Intake

Inspect the air intake routes to the drying system. With electrical power disconnected, inlet screens should be removed and any debris carefully cleaned out. Inspect the impellors for missing balance weights, damage to the blades, corrosion, debris, and grime buildup. These conditions can cause balance issues with impellors. Noise and vibration are indicators of an out-of-balance impellor. If not addressed as soon as possible, the impellor will experience a catastrophic failure, which may damage the associated motor, nearby equipment, employees, or possibly customers’ vehicles. Ensure that inlet screens are securely replaced. Use only manufacturer designed screens or covers. Restricting the airflow to the dryer decreases efficiency, raises energy costs, and can damage the motor.


Motors should be inspected, cleaned, and greased. If the motor is making a whining or grinding sound be sure to inspect the motor bearings. Inspect the wiring connections for corrosion or loose wires. Have repairs done by a qualified electrical contractor. Inspect the motor’s cooling fan cover. The inlet and cooling fan should be cleaned to remove wax and grime buildup. Use the manufacturer’s recommended amount and type of grease for lubrication. Refer to the manufacturer’s maintenance manual for this information.

Flow Control

If the drying system has cloth components, nozzles, or any other feature that touches the car, make sure that those are regularly cleaned of wax and soap buildup per the manufacturer’s recommendations.

If the blower has any type of inlet flow-control system the following components will need your attention:
• Inspect air hoses and valves for cracks and leaks
• Inspect and drain moisture separators daily
• Fill oil reservoirs and clean any gates or other components in the airflow pathway
• Refer to the manufacturer’s maintenance manual for the required procedures.


Car wash operators may find it beneficial, even essential, to heat their tunnels during extreme cold conditions. The primary advantage of a tunnel heater is preventing frozen water pipes and ice buildup on the wash equipment. Adding heat to air already moving through the drying system can reduce the need for secondary heating systems in the tunnel thus allowing for energy savings.

Chris (Woody) McElroy is president of Glendale, AZ-based Proto-Vest Inc. With many years of experience in the car wash industry, he oversees the day-to-day operations of the business. You can visit the company on the web at