The winter season can be the most challenging time of the year for car wash operators. As a car wash operator for the past 19 years as well as our family being in the business for 54 years, we have seen some very harsh winters and problems occur over the past half century. During that time we have provided service calls from our maintenance company, Vilco Supply, for other car washes in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and Kentucky. We also provide Cat Pump service, specializing in stainless steel inserts for Cat Pump owners across the USA and abroad. Having served customers from as far North as Alaska and the lower 48 we have seen the damage winter can inflict on the prepared seasoned operator as well as a new owner. So the importance of preparing your pumps and equipment prior to the first cold snap is imperative.
Properly preparing your pumps starts with you preparing your equipment room before the first cold snap. Your equipment room is like the core of your body, everything outside of it is affected when the internal heat source is not properly functioning. Not only is it important to heat you equipment room but keeping the room at an even temperature is important as well. Be sure to check your heat source prior to the first cold snap. Be sure the thermostat for your heat source is working correctly. If you are using gas heat with a pilot light make sure the pilot is lit. Also, check your thermocouple for proper operation. This can usually be tested simply by adjusting your heat setting at or above your equipment room interior temperature and be sure your furnace ignites and burns evenly. If your furnace will not light, check the gas source and be sure it is turned on, allowing enough gas to flow to your furnace. If the gas was shut off during the summer, the gas will take a moment to push the air out of the line while you have the pilot switch engaged. If your pilot light ignites but your furnace will not stay lit you may need to replace your thermocouple. If you are not comfortable with working on your gas furnace seek help from your local gas utility company or a licensed technician. If your equipment room uses electric heat follow the same thermostat procedures and be sure your electric heat comes on and cycles correctly. It is always a good idea if using electric heat to have a back-up source like gas in case of a power outage
If you are in an area that requires your equipment to weep water during freezing conditions, check your weep system before the first fall freeze. No matter what type of weep system you use be sure your thermostat is reading the exterior temperature correctly. You can do this by locating the bulb or sensor connected to your thermostat or weep control system. The bulb or electronic sensor can be checked by covering it with a bag of Ice for at least 10 minutes. When the temperature reading reaches approximately 34 degrees your weep system should activate. While the ice is covering the bulb or sensor check each spray gun tip to be sure you have sufficient water flow at the tip. Remove the ice bag after the system runs for at least 10 minutes, giving time to cycle if it is an electronic weep system. If you are using a bulb thermostat system you should allow the system to cycle several times to assure proper operation of your thermostat and solenoid. You can do this by covering and removing the ice bag from the bulb, allowing the temperature to fluctuate below and above 34 degree mark. This technique will activate the thermostat to open and close the solenoid. If your weep system is not coming on or shutting off you should check your solenoid for proper electrical current. Remember a weep solenoid, coil opens when the power is off. This allows the solenoid to remain open in case of an electrical outage. If you are getting the proper electric current to your solenoid coil and the solenoid is not allowing water to pass or you cannot stop the water flow, check your solenoid diaphragm, piston and disc assembly, depending on what type of solenoid you are currently using. Typically a diaphragm type solenoid is used in a weep system. Often the rubber diaphragm inside the solenoid valve can become non-pliable or crack allowing water to pass through the diaphragm, no matter if the power is on or off. Replacing the diaphragm or a diaphragm kit is necessary and can be ordered from your parts supplier simply by giving the solenoid brand, model number and pipe size.
When checking your weep system, be sure to inspect your check valves for proper operation as well. Often check valves can stick or not open and close correctly when not in use during the summer months. This is also a good time to check your trigger gun and boom swivels for minor leaks under low pressure. If these swivels are leaking, less water will reach your trigger gun, wand and spray tip. Without enough water flowing through your spray tip you risk the chance of the tip clogging with debris or ice buildup, which will eventually slow the water flow enough to freeze the tip and stop the water flow completely, allowing the wand, hose, swivels, and boom to freeze. Having enough water pass through the trigger gun, especially during extreme temperatures is critical. If you are not sure if you have enough water flow it is a good idea to replace the trigger gun with a new weep trigger gun. If you need additional weep water, check with your supplier for what is called an “extra weep” gun. An extra weep gun allows additional water to flow through the pump, hose, boom, gun and tip. Although they use more water than normal weep guns, this may help your system from freezing during extreme temperatures.
Now that you are sure you have no leaks in your exterior equipment and fittings, be sure to check the interior equipment room fittings and hoses as well. During temperature change your fittings expand and contract, allowing the Teflon tape or pipe dope to gap between the fittings. Repairing water drips can save money and future problems from occurring. To repair water dripping from a fitting, simply unscrew your fittings and reapply Teflon tape or pipe dope or a combination of both to reseal the fittings. If a swivel is leaking a repair kit can usually be installed or replace the swivel with a new one.
Also as winter approaches consider using winter formula foam brush soap or invest in a controller that works alongside your weep system that automatically changes your foam brush soap from a summer to winter formula. Separate holding tanks or an injector system can be installed to store or inject the winter formula as needed. A foam brush controller uses a thermostat or connects to your weep system and monitors the exterior temperature. When the temperature drops to around 34 degrees the system will activate a solenoid connected to your air supply and blow out the summer formula foam brush soap from your equipment room to the foam brush head. Once the line is clear the controller activates another solenoid to open and pump the winter formula into your foam brush system. The wither formula has an anti-freeze additive allowing lower temperature operation for your foam brush system. The winter formula foam brush soap can withstand lower temperatures, most likely keeping your hose from freezing solid.
These are just a few steps to prepare your pump’s, foam brush’s and weep system for the upcoming winter months. Doing a little preventative maintenance before the first hard freeze will save you time, money and a potential shut down for what can be a very lucrative season. If you have any questions or additional information please call 888-255-4181.