It will not come as a surprise to hear that a carwash is a wet environment. And as anyone with a basic knowledge of metal could tell you, steel and a wet environment do not make good roommates. Simply look at the photo above.

Within the wet car wash are a number of blowers, water system equipment, pumps, hydraulic machines, and many other twisty, spinning, swaying, and rocking devices of all kinds, many of which have tube and pipe lines connecting them to their various destinations. On these lines are cushioned strut clamps mounted to anchor channel strut. Because the clamps secure lines on valuable systems and machinery, choosing the correct clamps is essential and can prevent costly repair and replacement.

We spoke to Bob, Operations Manager at our local car wash, and asked him to describe his struggles with corrosion.

Bob told us that, because of the corrosive environment inside the car wash, he has to replace a typical mild steel cushion clamp every one to three years on average. But the stainless clamps at his car wash have a much greater lifespan, some of which date back to the 1980s.

And the rate of decay is different in different areas of the car wash. The clamps that are close to the ground, for example, are especially vulnerable. These clamps are exposed to direct contact with water, soaps, and solvents.

For locations that see snowfall, the winter months are especially damaging. The water splashes off the vehicles, mixes with the salt accumulated on the car, and leaves a sticky, corrosive residue on the clamps.

But the clamps residing on the ceiling and high points of the walls are safer than those on the ground. Those up high do not get as much direct water contact as their lower counterparts, and thus, their lifespan is greater.

As for appearance, Bob told us that his car wash will soon spend a considerable sum to replace the rusted and dated equipment. As we’ve discussed in our previous articles, “Lose the Glue, Foam, and Tape,” and “Improved Installation Appearance in the Brewing Industry,” appearances are important, especially in areas with heavy customer traffic.

Bob also described the process of clamp failure due to corrosion. A clamp holds down a tube or pipe on a specific machine, and the machine creates vibration along the lines, especially on lengthy runs. As the clamp begins to rust, the vibration grinds the legs of the clamp against its anchoring point on the channel, and the channel slowly files away at the clamp. See the photos below:

Eventually, the clamp legs with be whittled away to nothing and break away from the anchor channel.

This process is hurried when both the clamp and the anchor channel are mild steel because the rust occurs on both sides of the securing point, forcing the installer to tighten the clamps more often, hastening their breakdown.

During a busy month, Bob’s carwash can serve upwards of three-thousand cars a week, meaning the machines are constantly running, and the clamps are constantly degrading.

So what is the takeaway? If you are installing in areas that are exposed to moisture and corrosive elements, be sure to choose the correct stainless clamps. The additional cost at the beginning is worth avoiding the additional replacements and repairs that result when using standard mild steel. Stainless clamps will ensure a better appearance, and considerably improve the longevity of your installs.