Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Tire shiner Q&A: Just the FAQs

July 29, 2013

What are the advantages of using an automatic tire shiner in tunnel carwashes?

Around the year 2000, tunnel operators began to show interest in automating tire shining, removing the labor cost by mechanizing the application of tire dressing. The first commonly adopted tire shine machines used a simple ‘flat pad’ design that pressed a flat foam applicator against the tires as they rolled past. Imitating pump-fed hand applicators, these units injected chemical into the pad from the rear.

Automatic tire shiners were originally considered a necessary ‘compromise’ ― not as good as hand-applied, but faster and cheaper to provide. Since then, the technology has advanced dramatically ― and the application quality is much improved. In fact, today’s most advanced ‘independent roller’ designs offer ‘better than hand applied’ results, smoothly rolling dressing onto the sidewall for ‘rim to tread’ shine.

How are modern tire shiners better than older automatic shiners? What were the improvements?

Through the evolution of automatic tire shiner designs, many different media types and configurations have been tried. But the central question remained ― how could we best emulate the careful hand application that might occur in a driveway, with an expertly controlled foam sponge? In 2008, a new type of tire shine machines debuted that addressed these issues. This newer design uses 15 dense foam applicator rollers per side that rotate independently in response to the moving sidewall, delivering a true ‘rim to tread’ shine.

In addition, the applicator rollers rotate one-quarter turn in unison at a user-defined interval, keeping tire dressing in the applicators, and off the bay floor, walls and vehicles. Because these ‘independent roller’ tire shiners use a ‘cascade’ manifold to supply dressing from above, then cycle the applicators to hold the chemical in, they use half the dressing of the older ‘flat pad’ designs ― as little as one ounce per vehicle.

What are the different ways that an operator can package this service with a wash?

Tunnel operators who have historically offered a la carte ‘upsell’ items such as triple foam, wheel cleaner, total body protectant (and even hand tire shining) may do well to offer automated tire shining in the same way. As an a la carte menu item, we typically see this service priced at $2 to $3.

For tunnel operators who favor a simpler ‘package’ menu approach, or who do a lot of volume, then adding automated tire shining to the top package (or creating a new top package) may be the best bet. In this case, the operator is in the best position to decide whether to adjust package pricing, or use the service as a ‘value add’ to drive a higher percentage of top package sales – thereby increasing revenue.

How much space is needed in a tunnel for a tire shiner system? How many computer functions are needed?

A tunnel tire shiner typically requires just over 15 feet of space to accommodate the full travel of the machine, although it may be installed partially under other compatible pieces of equipment to save room. These units normally require just one controller function, an air line, and a 120 volt connection, making them easy to add to an existing tunnel.

How much dressing chemical is used per car by an automated shiner? Is this more or less than would be used by an employee?

Now that ‘independent roller’ tire shiners offer an application quality that is ‘better than hand applied,’ chemical savings have become their big benefit. As mentioned above, these units can deliver outstanding results with as little as one ounce of chemical per vehicle. Compare this to three or four ounces that could be used shining tires by hand, and you can see that the savings very quickly add up.

How long does it take an automated tire shiner to add shine to tires? Is this more or less time than it would take an employee?

Since an automatic tire shiner is an ‘online’ service, it is designed to apply tire shine to the sidewalls as the vehicle moves down the conveyor. This means it adds no additional time to the wash. By contrast, hand-applied tire shine is typically done right after the wash, and can easily cause a ‘bottleneck’ at the end of the tunnel that chokes off production and limits an operator’s wash volume and profitability.

Why has this add-on proven so popular with carwash customers?

For carwash customers, wheel and tire appearance is hugely important. Specifically, shiny black tires are a ‘hot button’ for many consumers ― a service they will gladly pay a premium for. That’s why savvy car wash operators have offered tire shining for years. Typically priced at $2 to $3, this ‘extra service’ often sells to 30 percent or more of customers, depending on application quality and how well it’s marketed.

How can an owner promote the tire shiner option to carwash customers?

First, add the service prominently to all menu signage ― and consider new signage that promotes just the tire shine as a great new addition to the wash. Second, talk up the service if you have any attendants on site that interact with customers. Third, promote the tire shine in any external advertising or couponing done by the wash. Lastly, consider offering the service free for an introductory period.

For many customers, you’ll find that once they’ve had tire shine, they have to have tire shine. And they’ll gladly buy it at full price on subsequent visits. For some, this might even become the key differentiator that causes them to choose (and remain loyal to) your wash over your competitors. It’s that important.

Marcus McLaughlin is a Marketing Manager at Belanger, Inc., and was formerly marketing director of one of Michigan’s largest carwash chains.