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Benefits of control

Site controllers boost efficiency, sales and the “convenience factor” for carwash owners.

August 27, 2012
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Using controllers effectively

By Kevin Detrick

With new control technology, we can clean cars faster, better and eliminate human interaction for prep. New controller technology also allows more precise control of various areas in a carwash including chemistry, friction, pressure and revolutions per minute (RPM).


Problem: The biggest problem has been cleaning with the correct amount of chemicals without prep. Operators had to manually add more chemistry to the front and back sides of vehicles as these areas have always been the most difficult areas to apply the correct amount of soap.

Solution: New technology controls target chemistry exactly where it’s the hardest to clean and in the past received the least amount of chemistry. With the new technology, oversized vehicles can also receive more chemistry.

Further, reclaim water is used only on sides and wheels and not used after the first mitter, which improves the customer experience. The new technology dropped total fresh water to 14.5 gallons per car and reduced water and sewer expenses while soap is about $0.01 per application.


Problem: Not enough chemistry causes friction. The cars on slower days and the first cars of every day faced another issue: there was not enough soap on the brush materials. Customers would feel the materials grab on their car and shake it because of the friction. Then, on busy days, there was too much soap that could not be rinsed properly leaving cars with soap spots along with increased water and sewer costs.

Solution: New technology creates a repeatable quality wash and customer experience without human interaction. The controller provides light layers of soap or foam at every point of friction making cars cleaner, shinier and provides a better experience as the lubricity of the vehicle is completely slippery with the soap coverage, eliminating the grabbing of brush material. Targeted application of chemistry applies exact amounts of soap where needed by managing multiple applicators eliminating over-soaping of vehicles and then saving on rinse water, requiring less sealer and drying agent, and reducing water and sewer costs.


Problem: The biggest problem is the high pressure (850 psi) needed to clean the wheel and rims, but this pressure is too high for the body of the vehicle, damaging accents and pinstripes. Also, at this pressure, it’s too loud and hard on the car creating poor customer experiences as they hear the noises and feel the shaking on the door panel of their vehicle.

Solution: New controller technology allows for specific targeted pressure control and not just 850 psi throughout the entire wash. The pressure transducer (converts pressure into an electrical signal) on the high-pressure pump runs the pump at the pressure needed to keep the car clean: 1,200 psi to clean the wheels and 600 psi for the body of the vehicle. This new technology improves the cleaning process while providing a better customer experience with a quieter and gentler wash. The targeted pressure reduces operating expenses with more control of water and electricity.


Problem: The incorrect RPM of wash material causes the most damage at a wash and the bumps, bangs and drum rolls create a negative customer experience.

Solution: New controller technology sets a motor’s correct RPM. By having the VFD panel control the hydraulic pump and motor, the new controller technology improves shaking, drum rolls and noise on the vehicle. We took off all the proportioning equipment and flow control valves, which allows us to set the speed of the carwash equipment RPM electronically based on measuring the flow of the hydraulic oil to the washer. Amperage for each motor dropped from 18 to 12 amps resulting in a 33 percent energy reduction. Operating the carwash at the correct RPM not only lowers damages, but improves performance for a better customer experience while reducing costs.

Kevin Detrick is president of Innovative Control Systems Inc., and he presented the education session “The Future of Car Wash Control” during The Car Wash Show 2012. He may be reached at