October/November 1998 (Second of two parts) In the September 1998 issue, we discussed the structure, floor and lighting of a perfect school bus garage. In this second and final part, we take care of the rest of the facility. In our hypothetical garage, clean-room areas are vital for engine, transmission and component building and repair. These areas will need extra lighting, electrical outlets and air hose connections. In addition, work benches need to be set up along the perimeter of the space. Each bench should have a drain to collect fluids from the part being repaired. A flammable liquids cabinet should be included to store solvents. Compressed gas storage areas are usually required by local fire codes. A dedicated area, preferably along a wall, is desirable to store refrigerant and welding gases. Each cylinder of gas should be chained to the wall so it doesn’t fall and get damaged. A centralized parts-cleaning area with parts washer is always handy. Along with the parts-cleaning machine should be a draining area to allow fluids to run off the part. Of course, the fluid should be continually collected and either reused or disposed of properly. Eye-wash stations should be located within every maintenance area. Demarcation of this area is advisable to guide the mechanic or a rescuer in a crisis.
Leave your junk outside
Parts salvage and junk can accumulate quickly in any garage. Dedicating space, usually outside, will eliminate the need to use valuable interior space. Putting the salvage outdoors also assists in building security when outsiders come to remove the waste. With this plan, it’s easier to restrict access to the building. Body shop space should meet all current EPA standards. Roof-mounted suction fans should be in place to remove airborne paint spray. A flammable liquids cabinet is needed to store paint supplies. Check your local fire code for specifications. A water hose outlet should be located along the wall of the body shop. That will aid in shop cleanup, but, more importantly, it will allow the body shop mechanics to wash the vehicle and remove paint stripper or other substances. Make sure there is adequate lighting on the ceiling and along the walls. The critical point here is to create shadowless lighting.
Where to raise the roof
If you use wheel hoists, you must raise the roof in that area to accommodate the elevated vehicle. If you plan properly, you may only need to extend the roof in a dedicated location, instead of raising the entire roof. If you build an in-ground pit, proper drainage should be in place. Next, an oil drainage capture system should be plumbed directly to the used-oil storage tank. That will aid in the direct disposal of used oil. Install covered fluorescent tube lights, preferably recessed into the wall, in an evenly dispersed pattern providing light to the entire length of the pit. Stairs with handrails at each end of the pit are helpful to mechanics. They allow them to enter the pit without jumping, keeping them safer and less fatigued. Finally, install waterproof electrical outlets along the pit wall and air hose outlets. Local building codes may require a removable cover during dormant periods. Also, a small platform to cover either end of the pit is handy to assist mechanics in repairs that require the vehicle to be over a pit but also allowing a mechanic to be at floor level in front of or behind the vehicle. An important but indirect pit item is mirrors. Mount mirrors from the wall or ceiling at the back of the pit area to assist a single mechanic in checking the function of brake lights while in the driver’s seat.
Parts room can vary in size
The parts room has become a difficult area to specify. As a result of the acceptance of just-in-time delivery, parts rooms no longer need to be as expansive as they once were. However, they must be large enough to accommodate an inventory adequate for your operation. Parts rooms are best served by having a pedestrian door along with a parts window. That will control the traffic flow while assisting with parts and material accounting and security. Tool storage is another area that needs to be controlled. Floor-mounted, cage-like walls can be installed and attached directly to the concrete floor. Again, one door should be used to control traffic and tool movement. Mechanics can also store their tool boxes here. A tire storage area is required when storing more than a dozen tires. This needs to be a dry area with good lighting to allow for selection and inventory. Wheels should also be stored in this area. Wheel racks can be custom made or purchased to facilitate wheel integrity.
Reserve space for clerical tasks
Office space should be set aside in two groups: one for mechanics and one for drivers. Mechanics need clerical space to review manuals and process paperwork. Computer terminals may also be put here to assist with record-keeping and parts inventory/distribution. This space should be at garage temperature to prevent mechanics from body temperature swings. However, on extremely hot days, air conditioning may be provided. A public-address system can be wired throughout the facility to page and make announcements. A base station radio can be installed in the mechanics’ office along with a few external speakers. That will not only help with communications but allow mechanics to monitor vehicle progress in the event of a vehicle failure. As with any building project, the general contractor and architect should comply with relevant building codes before any work begins. As a final note, instruct the architect to provide enough space for the boss’ car. Believe me, this will become the most important addition to your new facility.
Author Christopher Ferrone is vice president of fleet logistics and engineering at American Sightseeing in Chicago and president of Americoach Systems, a transportation consultant.