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Brushing up on traditional tools

Updates and new designs show brushes and wands are not immune to innovation.

October 22, 2012
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Today, it seems that more people than ever get carried away with technology. From LED and 3-D televisions to e-readers and tablet computers, many U.S. homes have become cluttered and crowded technical showrooms. Electronic devices of all shapes and sizes can be found in bedrooms, living rooms, dens and studies. The previously held hope that these emerging innovations would prove to be family-friendly time savers is long gone. Instead, many people interact with smartphones, tablets and laptops for hours and hours each day.

In the carwash industry, improved and updated technology has provides plenty of positive change. Modern carwash systems now use circuits, operating systems and automation programs to improve customer throughput and cleaning performance. The whirling soft-touch brushes, the colorful foam treatments and the glowing neon wax baths draw carwash customers of all ages to tunnels and bays around the world.

While automation has swept through some segments of the carwash industry, there are other car care locations that have stuck with tradition. As many express and full-service carwashes have added the latest and greatest improvements, most self-serve locations still operate using tried and true classic carwash tools. Two dependable cleaning tools that many carwashes have relied on for decades are brushes and wands. Both are still widely used in detail shops, carwash tunnels and self-serve bays. And, thankfully, brushes and wands have proven that they too are not immune to innovation.

Bragging on brushes

Daniel Pecora with Erie Brush & Manufacturing Corp. stated that nearly 100 percent of self-serve carwashes have brushes available for their customers to use when cleaning their vehicles. Today, most brushes are attached directly to a soap feed from the pump room, and they feature a flow-through design that moves the suds through the wash handle and directly into the bristles.

“Since high-pressure soap alone could not remove the film on the surface of the car, the appearance of the foaming brushes in the self-serve industry made a dramatic difference in the volume of cars being washed and the revenue to the owner,” Pecora said. These foaming brushes allow a customer to fully remove the film and dirt from windows and painted surfaces, thus leaving the car clean and shiny.

Making a selection

There are several types of brushes that can be effective at a carwash location. Owners and operators must know the differences between the brush types to help secure business and protect customers’ cars. Today, self-serve brushes are made mainly with four washing materials:

  • Hog’s hair;
  • Nylon;
  • Cloth; and
  • Foam.

In addition to these washing materials, customers can choose from different lengths of wash bristles. But, the selection process does not end there. Pecora said brush heads can be manufactured of plastic or aluminum. Also, flow-through, foaming brushes come in different colors, and most are available in round and rectangular shapes.

One current brush trend in self-serve washing is the selection of special brushes for specific uses. While the rectangular brushes with long handles have traditionally been the go-to selection for washing paint and windows, some carwashes now offer round brushes with shorter handles for wheel and tire cleaning. The addition of this service, and others like it, lengthens the wash time in the bays and improves customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Another new addition is wobble-headed brushes. Wobble-headed brush handles were designed to prevent non-paying customers from using a self-serve facility’s brushes. The specially-designed handles have a section right above the brush head that wobbles loosely when the bay is not in operation. The wobbling section ensures that the carwash brush cannot be used to clean a car unless a wash system is on and foam is moving through the handle.

Wands and their uses

Wands and trigger handles have provided years of utility for many phases of carwashing as well. Today, high-pressure cleaning rigs that utilize spray guns and wands are almost universally used by both mobile detail operations and detail shops. While the spray guns and wands have a myriad of uses in self-serve bays, many tunnel flex-serve and full-serve washes use them for pre-soak and wash prep.

Wands and their extensions are available in a number of different configurations. Two unique wand selections include a double-barrel design and flexible spray-gun extensions. The wands can be made using stainless steel and galvanized metal, and some are also urethane coated. Here, the urethane coating helps protect against gouges and scratches, and it also insulates the grip for customers or employees. Metal wands can be equipped and customized with separately purchased wand grips and handles that provide additional insulation.

In self-serve bays and tunnel carwashes, a mounted wand holder can be a smart investment. In the carwash environment, an expensive wand dropped on a bay or tunnel floor can be damaged if it is run over by a car or if it is stepped on by a customer or employee. Many of these holders are manufactured using stainless steel to help prevent damage from rust, and different designs of wand holders can be mounted on either floors or walls.

Making the right wand selection

Much like brushes, there are a number of special wands and lances available for carwash owners today. One unique lance on the market is designed to make different cleaning chemicals, polishes and disinfectants foam. This attachment can be used with an existing wand and injector. This design pulls air into the wand handle to mix with water and the chemical flow to create the foam. Sometimes these products include a stainless steel nozzle.

Another innovation here is the wands that can be adjusted to spray at different angles. In one design, an insulated grip can be moved backwards and forwards along the wand. This movement changes the wand from straight to a 90-degree angle. With the adjustable angles, this design can be used on hard-to-reach areas like wheel wells and underneath a car.

Another specially-designed wand acts as a steam gun. Using a steam gun is an easy way to clean and disinfect specific areas of a car interior or exterior without the use of harsh chemicals. These special wands are designed to handle the high-temperatures that are needed for proper steam generation.

As technology continues to sweep through the carwashing and detailing industries, it is interesting to note the improvements made to many traditional tools. Owners can no longer afford to ignore needed improvements, especially in the self-serve carwash market. With the economic slump and the rise of competition in the car care market, locations that leverage up-to-date equipment and provide customers the best wash quality will benefit for years to come.

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