Spare parts play a HUGE role in the car wash industry. There are a lot of durable or high wear and tear items involved in running a car wash. Having the right inventory of car wash parts and understanding how quickly you can get critical components locally will help you maximize up-time and keep the cars coming!
What Should I Stock?
Trent Walter, of National Pride Equipment, gives some tips on what parts he recommends stocking and why.
The list of critical parts recommended to keep on site will vary depending on whether you have a self-service, automatic wash, or a tunnel wash.
“Start with a big picture question”, says Trent. “If this breaks, am I’m shut down?”
Figure out what components you absolutely need to be up and running and work backwards from there. Then, think about what the plan of action is to replace each part if any do break down.
Two questions to ask yourself are:
- Do you keep a spare part on the shelf? Maybe it’s too high of an investment to own two of something. Is there a local store that you know carries that part at all times? Make sure you are aware of who they are and how far they are from you.
- Can you ask a vendor to stock it for you? Don’t be afraid to ask distributors to stock items for you. They may be willing to maintain an inventory of a couple items in case of emergency.
Common Parts to Keep On Hand
For any wash, an air compressor is a critical component. Many wash owners keep two on site in case of emergency, or know of a big box store where they can access one quickly if needed.
With automatic washes, photo eyes and proximity switches (which are used to measure where the vehicle or machines is in the wash process), are great parts to keep on hand. They can typically run about $30-$60, so keeping some extra ones around is a fairly small investment that allows for a quick and easy fix.
Similarly, many car wash owners also keep splice kits on hand to make temporary repairs to hoses. Some low-pressure lines and hoses are also inexpensive to keep in stock. A roll of hose can go for around $50-$60 for several hundred feet, making this another small but good investment.
Some tunnel wash owners stock an extra conveyor hydraulic motor or gear box because if those go out the wash becomes inoperable. However, they may not stock a wrap or top brush motor because while it’s important to have on hand, you can still run your wash and put out a clean car for a day or two without it while you wait for one to come in.
Trent recommends that if you are running a high-volume site, you should carry more parts because there will be more wear and tear on your machines. For a lower volume wash you can probably get away with less on hand and rely more on planning to know when you need to start thinking about purchasing replacement parts.
The Expected Life of Your Parts
Really understanding the expected life of each component is a great way to plan ahead. Work with your supplier to make a list of every part you have in your wash and its life expectancy. Then create a system to track this data.
If a motor typically lasts 10,000 cycles, you can keep track of its use and when you get to 60-70% of the life expectancy, purchase a new one to have on hand. Some owners use this method to replace parts before they fail, too! No need to wait until an emergency – if you are tracking properly you should be able to gauge when to make the switch.
This method will also help you understand if you have a faulty part. If a piece only lasts 50% of its expected life you know there’s a problem. Understanding these kinds of metrics can help you grow your bottom line and make better decisions when it comes to purchasing new parts.
General tips for Ordering and Maintaining
Creating a relationship with your supplier isn’t just a nice thing to do, it’s a great business move. If you cultivate this ongoing relationship your supplier can be a helpful partner in keeping your business going and your wash running smoothly. Take the time to understand their technicians, their capabilities, and what inventory they keep in stock.
You can do this by checking how much inventory they keep on their service trucks, understanding what they keep in their warehouse, learning and asking about on-call procedures, and setting and understanding expectations from both sides. This will help create a strong relationship and allow you some flexibility to best utilize the supplier as an asset to your business.
Car washing in general can be very reactive. Planning can help you save money and be more productive, leading to a better wash for your customers and more up-time for you and your team.