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Carwash by design: Creating the perfect carwash

October 11, 2010
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Professional Carwashing & Detailing magazine asked its readers to design the perfect carwash using the perfect plot of land.

This plot of land, which was exactly one acre (209’ x 209’), was adjacent to a health club and fast food restaurant and was bordered by two roads, one with a traffic count of 65,000 cars a day and the other with a traffic count of 45,000 cars a day.

The wash had no competitors within a three mile radius and a population of 800,000 within that same radius. The community had an average annual income per home of $75K, and the average home cost $175K.

There are mostly homes in the community with the exception of two apartment complexes and a senior citizen facility.

Find out what some of PC&D’s readers created with this plot of land commercially zoned for gasoline, carwash, lube, and any ancillary car-care services.

A multi-service site with a fast food partner

Chuck Lundberg designed a site with a covered self-service gasoline area, and two islands with eight pumps at the top left of the lot. To the right, there is a small convenience store connected to the quick lube office and waiting area.

Lundberg’s quick lube has three bays available — the top is 15’ wide x 15’ high in order to service large trucks. The second and third bays are 12’ wide.

Below that is the 120’ all cloth automatic exterior-only carwash. The equipment room is connected to the south side of the carwash; it also operates the one touch-less automatic wash bay at the bottom of the lot.

The fenced in dumpster area is tucked next to the cut, out of the carwash equipment room, and the wash office is located on the north side of the wash building.

Along the east edge of the property are seven self-service vacuum islands with lighted canopies. Every vacuum has a fragrance and air option attached.

The business sign is located in the top right corner of the lot. It’s on a 20’ island that is landscaped with bushes and flowers. The sign is neon and is motorized to slowly turn 360 degrees.

The bill changers and vending machines are located on the east wall of the quick lube office under a decorative lighted canopy.

The lot is designed so that all traffic will enter and drive counterclockwise. There is enough space so that the occasional lost customer can easily be corrected.

Lundberg was also able to strike a deal with the fast food restaurant to the west; the owners loved the idea of making an access from their business to the wash and vice versa.

Cars exiting the quick lube can turn left to exit. Cars leaving the tunnel wash can turn right or left as well as the people who use the touch-less automatic.

The tunnel wash is staffed with three men at peak hours, the touch-less automatic has an automated cashier and one attendant runs the c-store and gas but can always get help from the staff of 12 working at the quick lube.

The lane for the tunnel wash allows plenty of room to stack cars without disrupting the other operations on the property.

Chuck Lundberg is the manager of White Duck Car Wash in Milford, NH, and has been in the carwashing industry for 14 years.

Judges’ comments on Lundberg

Robert Roman, president of Clearwater, FL-based RJR Enterprises:

Lundberg recognized that the location would favor a business model that offered convenience services like carwash, gasoline and c-store and high-margin, value-added services like express lube.

It appears that Lundberg did not recognize the significance that demand would have on design and layout. There are not enough gasoline pumps to satisfy demand.

It is not physically impossible to fit a 120’ conveyor within the confines of the property without using the diagonal. It is inadvisable to have c-store parking spaces that are perpendicular and too close to the property entrance.

Chuck Howard, owner of the Charlotte, NC-based Autobell Car Wash chain:

Lundberg has a busy lot.

Gas pumps are in an awkward place and there is hardly enough parking for a c-store. The money maker, which is the 120’ tunnel, is somewhat hidden. Parallel parking for the vacuums is a little difficult for customers; angled parking would have been better.

The lot could use some landscaping and it I would not recommend that Lundberg provide lube service to oversized vehicles on this lot, it’s too busy.

An all-in-one package

John M. Forrest created a one acre proposed site ideal for multiple use applications including a high-volume exterior carwash tunnel, three-bay express detail center, four-station self-service vacuum area, three-bay quick lube, up to 24-pump gas station and, if approved, 1,320-square-foot convenience store with easy access from both highways.

A pro-forma based on the demographics presented suggests that the carwash alone should process over 500 cars a day.

The site is both highly-visible and easily accessible and the presence of the traffic light brings the average speed down, making entry into and exit from the site comfortable.

A reasonably priced exterior wash with self-service vacuums should provide the type of high-quality, yet affordable, wash facility for which these customers will be looking.

Competitively priced gas, cross-marketing of the carwash with the lube and detail shops, and the traffic generated by the convenience store all will conspire to make this an exceptionally profitable site.

During peak hours, the entire location can be staffed with as few as a dozen employees and during nighttime hours as few as two, keeping operating costs relatively low.

The attached layout features gas and express detail areas that are highly visible from both roads, and a carwash, self-service vacuum area, quick lube, and convenience store that will also draw well from both sides.

Two nicely appointed waiting areas for the quick lube and express detail customers help make extended stays enjoyable.

Every service offered can be performed in 20 minutes or less. The neighboring health club offers opportunities for programs to be developed to perform a variety of services for members while they exercise, helping to generate volume in the evenings and on weekends.

Forrest’s carwash is equipped to offer a variety of payment options, allowing for around the clock operation.

Customers will view a large, backlit menu board on their approach to the entrance.

Tire washers, two mitters, wraps, and low side washers will clean the car thoroughly before the triple foam sticks apply a wax coating for those who have purchased it.

An undercarriage rinse, tire shine system, and a CTA followed by set of high-pressure wheel blasters will also contribute to the upgraded package sales.

A full arch applies drying agent to every vehicle and is followed by two rain arches, one providing the optional clear coat protectant and the other a spot-free rinse.

Customers may elect to exit directly or turn back into the facility for vacuum, gas, lube or detail services.

With room for up to 18 cars to be stacked, and the equipment package presented, this facility is equipped to meet the demands of over one thousand cars a day if necessary.

The wash is designed to be environmentally friendly with a high percentage of reclaim water being used in the wash process.

John M. Forrest works for Reston-VA-based New Dawn Distributing, LLC.

Judges’ comments on Forrest

Robert Roman:

Forrest recognized that the demography would favor a business model that offered convenience services like carwash, gasoline and c-store and high-margin, value-added services like detailing and express lube.

However, Forrest failed to realize the significance that demand would have on the design and layout. I tried to duplicate Forrest’s layout according to his scale of 1” = 25’ and found a number of design issues.

Moreover, the general layout does not exhibit the qualities necessary to ensure balance and flow throughout the queues.

A 30’ wide space is needed to separate the gasoline islands. There is not enough clearance between the gas canopy and the entrance to the property leading to the carwash line-up area and there is not enough area to permit vehicle stacking at the lube facility without blocking refueling area.

The exit end of the tunnel does not have enough linear space to permit a 21’ to 23’ inside turning radius to make a left-hand turn out of the carwash.

Chuck Howard:

Forrest has created a good, high-volume gas station but I would recommend getting rid of the detail bays — they block the view from the intersection. Use this space, instead, for more self-serve vacuums with angled parking for easier access.

I would convert the lube to more c-store space and a deli. Drive-in/back-out lubes might be dangerous in this setting and the c-store will generate more revenue.

Forrest needs to allow for landscaping and planting buffers required by most communities.

High-volume washing with ample stacking room

Joseph Biello determined that this location has the potential to produce a substantial volume of cars washed yearly, at great dollar average per car, with a potentially huge detail business.

Starting with the requirements of a potentially high-volume carwash and lube center on a four lane highway, with two way traffic and the average speed at 40 miles per hour, Biello felt it was very crucial to create adequate stacking room for vehicles onsite. A minimum 32 cars for the wash bay and minimum six car stacking for the lube bays.

The exit detail area of this site would easily accommodate 12 cars with the potential of an additional six cars.

Another concern for Biello was the traffic light at the east intersection of this site. It was extremely important to keep the entrance as far from the intersection as possible.

At peak traffic hours the traffic waiting for the light would have the potential to block the cars entering the location.

From the traffic light going west, it would take more than eight cars stopped for the light before the entrance driveway is blocked. The intervals of traffic leaving the site would be adequate for cars exiting the location from the exit driveway.

The wax bay and lube area would have a basement approximately 2025 sq. feet with outside access. The concrete slab would accommodate two floor cut outs, one for each lube bay not shown on the plan.

One option would be the installation of a motorized lift to accommodate deliveries. This basement would also house the oil tanks and lube supplies.

Separate rest rooms are designed for the customers, office personal and a locker room with a rest room for the employees.

A huge retail area is included, creating the potential to install a mini-convenience store along with the sale of accessories.

A dedicated electric room, equipment room and huge store room compliments the remainder of this carwash building.

Joseph Biello is the owner of Joseph Biello Co. LLC, an East Northport, NY-based company that specializes in carwash consulting, builders and carwash resale.

Judges’ comments on Biello

Robert Roman:

Biello correctly identified that a multiple profit center would be necessary to maximize the return on this site.

He also recognized that the demography would favor a business model that offered high-margin, value-added services like detailing, interior cleaning and express lube.

Biello also appears to have configured the business model prior to layout. The design and layout makes fairly good use of available space.

The site should create a positive experience for consumers because it combines three popular express car-care services on the same site. The general layout of the site exhibits most of the qualities necessary to achieve balance and flow throughout the production queues.

However, there is not enough room to permit two car-wide stacking prior to the entrance of the conveyor carwash. Cust-omers would need to make a three-point turn out of the detail/express lube bay closest to the carwash entrance lane because there is not enough space for a 180 degree turning movement.

The equipment room is too small and is not well placed (the air compressors would be heard in the observation hallway, bathrooms and lobby). There is not enough room at the exit end of the conveyor for final detailing without causing grid lock on the Road B side of the property.

Chuck Howard:

If the demographics indicate this is a high-volume full-service market then this layout gets the job done. There is plenty of room for stacking and e finishing and employee parking.

The only changes I would suggest are to move the vacuum manifold a little closer to the entrance and consider tandem vacuum arrangement and to provide windows from display area to lube detail area.

Moolla’s 10 escapes

The plan is drawn to the approximate scale of 1mm =1.35ft.

Yusuf Moolla left escapes in his plan for any contingencies which would arise by the planning dept.

  1. He allowed a two car stacking for each coin-op and, if more is needed, he can change it to three bays and squeeze another car in the line up to allow three cars per bay.
  2. He allowed for a two car stacking for the lube bay.
  3. Normally, he has to show the gas tanks on the plan; however, he allows the delivery truck easy access and exit.
  4. If the exit from the coin bay is tight, he can shift the equipment room into the convenience store and add another 10 feet to the exit.
  5. There is 13 car stacking room for the touch-less or rollover automatic. One can also note that the autowash is designed to accommodate the 45’ conveyer wash manufactured by Sonny's.
  6. Two vacuum machines can also fit in the site.
  7. There are four parking areas and handicap parking and also a refuse area.
  8. There are two pylon signs on the northeast and northwest corners.
  9. There is a 10’ landscape patch with 21 trees around the property which it can be reduced to 5’ in some sides depending on the planning dept.
  10. There is a place for light poles on the 10’ landscaped area.

This plan functions without congestion, especially the gas canopy area. It also allows easy entry and exit for gas customers only. And also lube customers or carwash customers only.

All traffic on this site is well organized and functions effectively. The design works effectively and fits a gas bar, lube shop, convenience store, auto wash and four coin operated bays.

Yusuf Moolla works with Cisco’s Super Carwash Systems in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.

Judges’ comments on Moolla

Robert Roman:

It appears that Moolla did not recognize the significance that demand would have on design and layout.

There is not enough space for stacking or exiting the pull-in/back-out wand-bays given the proximity to the line up area for the carwash. There are also not enough gasoline pumps to satisfy demand.

An in-bay automatic or 45’ conveyor does not have the production capacity to service the high demand potential of this site. It is inadvisable to have c-store parking spaces that are perpendicular and too close to the property entrance.

There is not enough clearance at the gas pumps to allow lube customers to get to the carwash without leaving and then re-entering the property. The layout works but navigation within the site would become extremely difficult (and perhaps grid-locked) during peak operating periods.

Chuck Howard:

Car queues that are in different direction can be confusing for the customer, so Moolla might want to reconsider that aspect of his design.

Also, gas islands between lube shops and c-stores are not the most ideal for building volume — this design might be better off without them.

Moolla could also stand to add some more vacuums to this design.

Car/dog wash that’s easy and fun

Craig Hoffer designed a wash to with maximum stacking room, easy traffic flow, pull-in pull-out vacuum islands, parking for dog wash customers, and a walking area for the dogs and to be customer friendly.

His wash is complete with a picnic area/rest area for children or passengers while drivers are using the vacuums and detailing their cars.

Hoffer incorporated the Ginsan Express Key System and Bill Acceptors for all equipment and vending to avoid customers worrying about getting change or being rushed while using the equipment.

The vending area features the Express Key Dispenser and Revalue Station with credit card and bill acceptor. The wash will have three PDQ G5 automatics, five Ginsan self-serve bays, three Ginsan dog washes and three Ginsan dual vacuum islands.

Hoffer added floor heat in all bays — automatics and self-serve — as well heated entrance and exit mats for the automatics and a heated four foot sidewalk in the front and back of the self-serves.

The vending area will have a glass skylight located between the automatics and equipment room. There will be a camera system covering all equipment as well as music in all areas.

The PDQ G5 automatics will be loaded with all options to include tri-foam and an on-board dryer. The entry system will be the PDQ Access with credit card, bill and express key activation.

The automatic bays will all have ultimate illuminator polycarbonate automatic doors.

The self-serve bays will be powered by the Ginsan Ultra System. All bays will have a 360 high pressure boom, 180 bubble brush boom and 180 tri-foam conditioner booms. The coin boxes will be the Ultra 12 Function Door with bill acceptor and express key.

All vacuum islands will have a lighted canopy and combo vacuum/fragrance and vacuum/shampooer, with bill acceptors and express key.

The Ginsan dog washes will have coin boxes with a bill acceptor and express key. They will also have several vendors for towels, rain coats and dog treats.

In Hoffer’s design, the vending items for detailing will be under the glass skylight vending area and will contain the Ginsan Express Key Dispenser and Revalue Station.

His site will also have two D&H 18 item multi-vendors with bill acceptors and express key, along with two Unitec single bill changers.

The wash will have a Ginsan spot-free rinse system for the automatics and self-serve as well as a Con-Serv partial reclaim for water conservation.

The wash will use CSI soap and wax products and will provide the people of this town with a state-of-the-art, high-tech carwash, quality safe cleaning for their automobiles and dogs, along with being easy to use and fun to go to.

Craig Hoffer is the sales rep for WASHTECH NORTH, SE PA & S NJ, and was assisted by The GINSAN Graphic Design Department.

Judges’ comments on Hoffer

Chuck Howard:

On the whole, Hoffer’s self-serve layout is pretty good.

I would, however, move the pet wash building to some other spot, possibly the picnic area. The vending corridor should be eliminated for security reasons and replaced with a vending island near the vacuum area, which should be near the street for security and eye appeals.

This design, though good, could also use room for plantings and buffers around the edges of the property.