Wheel Wash Buyer’s Guide

Like eating with chopsticks a wheel wash looks easy until you try it and end up making a mess.

We’ve tried every method out there and had the benefit of visiting wheel wash systems all over the world to see what works and what doesn’t to ensure we can deliver the best value to our customers – here’s what we’ve learned.

The Basics

Shaker GridsShaker Grid

Shaker grids – a heavy duty grating that ‘shakes’ the wheels of the vehicle do encourage the loosening of attached mud and debris. Can be helpful in the right situations but are best used in conjunction with a pressurised system, here’s why: the best shaker grids are made of angle irons and the angle irons of a shaker grid open the vehicle’s tires and allow the water jets to flush the grime out. The two complement each other well.

Opening Tire TreadsOpenTreads

Any wheel wash system worth its salt will use angular bars for the vehicle tires to drive over.
The reason for this is two-fold

  1. The pressure from the angular bars opens the tire treads, allowing solids to be sluiced out
  2. The angular bars allow solids to drop through into the catchment tray, below

Vehicle SpeedVehicle Speed

Whatever system you use, the more you can get drivers to slow down through it, the more effective it will be.
To build a system that will wash wheels with trucks rolling through in 3rd gear is technically possible but will cost a lot more than getting drivers to slow down and take another 20 seconds.

Pressure and FlowPressure Flow

The first thing people think about a wheel wash is that it should have plenty of pressure. This is not the case. Too much pressure will upset electronics, seals and other delicate components on the vehicle. The trick is to have plenty of flowrate. This sluices around the wheel treads and other places where dirt clings. In our experience, any wheel wash system using less than 1000lpm doesn’t work well. However, these higher flowrates mean water recycling is necessary – see below.

Tire Rotation vs Compactnesswheel dimension

In order to wash tire treads thoroughly, the ideal scenario is to have the tire rotate multiple times across the washbay. However, with the average truck tire needing at least 3m to complete a full rotation, this means the wheel washbay has to be longer. For portable wheel wash systems this impacts compactness of the system making it more expensive to manufacture and to move between sites.

For this reason, a good portable wheel wash will remain compact and have downward pointing side spray bars to clean the tops of the tires despite not making multiple rotations. These downwards spray bars need to have good flow and reasonable pressure. If you’re looking at a system with less than a 10kw pump; it’s not going to move much dirt!

Water RecyclingWater Recycling

Because a certain amount of flowrate is required, recycling that water is very important from an environmental and practical point of view. Therefore, all systems provided by Transport Wash Systems have a water recycling component. Some freshwater topup is always required to compensate for evaporation but a good system will reuse as much as possible. This is achieved by passive settling of solids in the water which can be augmented with flocculation. 

Your Main Options:

The CowboyCowboy

Break the rules and hope you don’t get caught dragging mud on the road and making a mess….a bad idea but you wouldn’t be here if this is what you planned to do. Read on!

Manual Washing

Pressure washer or hose and get some enthusiastic soul to wash the wheels manually

Pros
  • Sometimes cheap to setup
  • Fine for short term sites
Cons
  • Ongoing cost of someone washing wheels
  • Personnel tied up who could be doing more productive things
  • Requires something to wash on like a concrete pad (expense)
  • Unless you put in a lot of infrastructure it is unlikely to be environmentally compliant
  • Takes time and slows vehicles down leaving site
Manual Wheel Cleaning

The Birdbath

A flooded basin that vehicles drive through in the hopes that the sluicing effect of the water will clean the wheels. Sometimes it kind of does. Variations include counter-current channels where water flows down channels toward oncoming vehicle wheels.

Pros
  • Cheap on some sites
  • Looks like it will work well, on paper
Cons
  • Costs of setting this up properly generally outweigh simply getting a mobile wheel wash
  • Generally doesn’t work as well as you think
Truck Wheel Bird Bath

Mobile Wheel Wash

The most common automated wheel wash system
In this category we offer the Explorer Mobile Wheel Wash

Pros
  • Can be moved to other sites easily
  • Washes wheels quickly
  • Lower capex than more comprehensive systems
  • Recycles water
  • Contains waste products
Cons
  • Doesn’t have as much hitting power as larger systems
  • Needs additional water settling capacity for high throughput sites
Mobile Wheel Wash
Explorer System Dimensions

Modular Self-cleaning Wheel Wash

This type of system requires more setup than a mobile system but has a built-in conveyor to help clean out settled solids and can run a higher pressure pump due to the concrete apron’s ability to retain over-spray (if any). More on our offering in this category here.

Pros
  • More hitting power than a mobile system
  • Less manual cleanout than a mobile system
  • Ideal for longer term sites with moderate vehicle throughput
Cons
  • Requires some civil works to set up properly
  • Has a higher power requirement
Sentinel Wheel Wash Running
Sentinel Overview

Heavy Duty Wheel Wash

Designed for sites with high vehicle throughput and/or high amounts of soiling on vehicle wheels. These systems can be anywhere from 4 to 15 meters long (allowing more tire rotations) and have the power to shift a lot of heavy grime very fast. Water recycling is a priority as is vehicle throughput. More on our offerings here.

Pros
  • Most thorough of automated systems
  • Can remove a lot of mud
  • High throughput of vehicles
  • Long working life
  • Custom designed to meet site/customer needs
Cons
  • Requires more capex than other systems
  • Takes up more site space
Heavy Duty Wheel Wash
Mine Site Wheel Wash

Large Mobile Wash Systems

Popular with the military, mining contractors and other large fleets that move around a lot, these systems require a certain level of engineering input to meet customer needs. We can certainly make it happen – talk to us today about how

Mobile Military Wash
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