Driving on ice is no easy task. Over the years we’ve dedicated countless blogs to driving safely in cold conditions, preparing your car for winter and even thawing out your ride ahead of time. One vehicle, however, was specially invented to smoothly sail about—and smooth out—ice in skating rinks all across the globe.
“Zamboni,” is actually a colloquial term for the ice resurfacing machine invented by Frank Zamboni. In 1940, Frank and his brother built an ice rink in Paramount, California, but found that the resurfacing process was labor intensive and began to concept various solutions. In 1949, the Zamboni Model A was invented. Since then, the company has produced 11,000 machines, tailoring each model for its customer over a 6-month period.
How exactly does the ice-smoothing machine work? Through an 8-step process, the Zamboni rides along the surface of an ice rink and continuously takes in, filters and redistributes the ice.
Step 1: The bottom of the Zamboni features a sharp, wide blade that shaves off a thin layer of the ice’s surface for collection.
Step 2: The shaved ice is spun into a horizontal screw, also known as an auger, that directs the snow towards its central point—another vertical screw.
Step 3: This vertical screw then collects the shavings upward through a tube and into the snow tank, the bulky backend of the Zamboni.
Step 4: Within the snow tank, a quick and intensive wash gets the ice ready for redistribution.
Step 5: Water from the wash-water tank is filtered onto the ice below to fill in any deep cracks and prepare it for a new layer.
Step 6: The conditioner in the bottom of the vehicle then rinses the ice. The resulting dirty rinse water is collected in front of a squeegee to be vacuumed, filtered and returned to the wash-water tank.
Step 7: Clean, hot water from the ice-making tank is then applied to the ice. The hot water (usually 140-145°F) enables the top layer of ice to melt and refreeze evenly with the new water to create one solid, strong layer.
Step 8: A towel is dragged along the back of the Zamboni, to evenly distribute the new ice and create a pristine, mirror-like surface.
Each Zamboni differs based on the unique needs of the rink and user preferences. Some run on propane, others on a large battery and some are even powered via an extra-long extension cord. Models are equipped with metal studs embedded in the tires to allow the machine to make smooth turns and prevent it from sliding across the ice as most vehicles would. Many also have a brush on the side to clear out snow stuck between the rink and the boards around the edges.
In addition to maneuvering the Zamboni, the drivers are responsible for adjusting the cut-depth, lowering the conditioner, turning on and off the hot and cold-water supply, plunging out excess snow stuck in the vertical auger and maintaining the machine between uses. Every ride around the rink is different depending on the ice’s level of use, time of day, driver’s style and other factors.
The latest Zamboni technology takes a page out of the connected cars book to bring ice skating rinks Zamboni Connect. Through this WiFi feature, ice maintenance teams are able to connect to their Zambonis and crew members via an online dashboard and mobile app. Data reports allow rinks to monitor water and energy consumption, fuel levels, resurfacing trends, maintenance needs and more. As cars get smarter on the road, vehicles of all types are following suit and carving new innovations out for the future.
Whether on ice, trails, roads or racetracks, vehicles are evolving at a faster rate than ever. When it comes to collision repair, our teammates are keeping pace and adapting with innovations in order to stay ahead of the industry and keep our customers safe. Always on the ice-cutting edge, our teammates are here, Restoring the Rhythm of Your Life®.