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Poll: The prep-less position

October 11, 2010
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Reader feedback is extremely important to Professional Carwashing & Detailing® magazine. The staff encourages readers to send letters to the editors whenever anyone has a comment, question or concern about the material printed in this magazine.

PC&D will try to include as many reader comments as possible if and when they bring up relevant carwash-related questions and subjects that are of an appropriate language and nature.

Recently, Bill Consolo, president of Chief’s Auto Wash and Chief’s Manufacturing in Cleveland, submitted a letter about an editorial piece that ran in the January issue, titled “Is it time to express yourself?”

His comments are as follows:

Letter to the editor
“Dear PC,

In response to the article in your January issue, ‘Is It Time to Express Yourself’ by Mr. David Wallace, he states in the section under express chemicals that ‘since there are no employees prepping vehicles this operation requires additional products and equipment to ensure a clean car.’ This statement is misleading at best and incorrect at worst.

While it is fine for a petroleum or c-store wash not to prep, as they are not totally dependent on customer satisfaction with the wash they provide, nothing could be further from the truth for the stand-alone express exterior operator that depends on customer satisfaction and repeat business.

If one is committed to not ever prepping vehicles, then one will inevitably derive a customer satisfaction rate of 80 percent or below. A rate that does not make customers want to pass up other carwashes to come to yours.

There is a litany of reasons why some vehicle prepping is essential to customer satisfaction. Many times vehicles will come in with extraordinary conditions or requirements that chemicals and equipment alone cannot address.

To name a few: heavy snow, ice or mud, bird droppings, bugs, tree sap, and even eggs; especially when these contaminants have had significant time to dry and/or bake into the surface.

Then there are the unreachable-areas on vehicles like recessed headlights, rear license plates, the area between the lip of the hood and the windshield, gravel panels under the front bumper, and behind the spare tires on SUVs to name a few.

Now, one can choose to ignore these conditions and hard-to-reach areas in the name of not prepping. However, to then expect customers with them (difficult conditions) to be satisfied with the quality of the wash process is penny-wise and pound foolish.

Sure, I hate to prep. We have a 150' hybrid tunnel with touchless equipment first followed by a three brush unit and a five brush unit. I doubt anyone throws more chemicals or equipment at a vehicle than I do.

Yet, to ensure that I get as close to 100 percent customer satisfaction as humanly possible, vehicle prepping, in some instances, is a necessary evil.

The decision not to prep is, of course, up to the individual operator. But, do not be disappointed when, in not doing so, you fail to develop customer loyalty so essential to every carwash operator.”

Bill Consolo
Chief's Auto Wash & Chiefs Mfg. & Equipment Company

Howco response
Chuck Howard, president of Howco Inc., the company which the author, David Wallace is an account representative for, had this to say regarding the topic:

“It was an article about the express wash concept that has become known and not really about prepping or not prepping. One reader took one sentence out of the article and created this prepping, no prepping debate.

In our industry there is no single system that is perfect for every situation.

Operators develop a system that works for them and I believe that if a person can perfect his/her system and pursue it diligently, he can be successful no matter what.”

Other wash owners weigh in
Several wash owners/operators visited Professional Car Care Online’s™ Bulletin Board area at to voice their opinions on the prep-less debate. The following comments were taken directly from the interactive area.

  • “I think we’ve had this conversation/debate before. We have not prepped a car for three years at our wash, and we are very satisfied with the results.

    Our first response is to send the car thru again, and this eliminates about 98 percent of the problems; extra mud, ice and bugs often come off, if not, we try and figure out with the customer why their car is not coming out clean enough for them.

    From infrequent washing, to parking under trees, etc., if after two washes stuff is still clinging to their vehicle we offer some time at our self-serve, where they can ‘prep’ the cars themselves.” Chad

  • ”Wow, myself and some others have been doing that for years. I think we started not prepping in 1983. We were in Michigan and lots of snow, bugs, mud and such.

    One friend has some washes that wash over 230,000 cars per year each: no prep, no guide on and no hand finishing. A total of 12 washes at different locations, all with no one at all in the tunnel. Four different owners in different cities. Wake up people, this is old stuff.” Michael

To join in the discussion, visit and click on the Bulletin Board area.

Should express exterior carwashes prep customer vehicles?

Due to the interest and discussion generated by this topic, Professional Car Care Online™ decided to conduct an unscientific straw poll on the topic, asking the question: “Should express exterior carwashes prep customer vehicles?”

The overwhelming response from the 452 people who participated in the poll was “No.”

A resounding 79.87 percent of respondents believe that express exterior-only washes should not prep customer vehicles.

That means that only 20.12 percent of respondents feel that this growing segment of the wash industry should be prepping customer vehicles.

Foam your opinion
What do you think? Is prepping a vehicle essential to a quality wash at express exterior sites?

If you have an opinion about this poll topic please visit our bulletin board at to make your voice heard.

Be sure to check out our next poll question to weigh in on the new topic.

The Professional Car Care B2B Trade Group’s™ online surveys are not scientific. The results simply reflect the opinions of those visitors to the Professional Car Care Online™ Web site.