Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Checking the Timing in the Car Wash

CarWash College™ Preventive Maintenance Tip of the Month

October 27, 2008


At CarWash College™ we teach preventive maintenance. This month we are going to talk about the timing of the car wash process and how, if managed properly, it can save you thousands of dollars a year on chemical and water cost. What is timing? It is the process that is controlled by the tunnel controller to start and stop each piece of equipment in the car wash as a vehicle progresses down the tunnel. In this article we will talk about this in a general way as there are too many types of controllers on the market to get into specifics.

The first thing that affects the timing of the car wash is the equipment placement itself. After all the equipment is placed into the car wash tunnel, the measurements must be taken and all put into the controller. Any measurements that are incorrect or put into the computer incorrectly will affect the timing of that piece of equipment. The timing on any application is critical to the cost associated with running that application. This is especially true of chemical applications. In the car washes I’ve seen, the timing is usually off the most in the application of tire and wheel chemicals. The tire and wheel applicators being off by as little as an inch per wheel can add up fast over one year’s time. Another area that can be costly, depending on what type of water the car wash uses in the process, is any high pressure water applications. Aside from the amount of water being wasted on the application, there is also the extra electricity used to turn the application on prematurely, as well as the added wear on the pump itself. Though both the electrical costs and the wear on the motor are small, the cost and wear does add up over time. Once it has been determined that there is a problem with timing, the first thing to do is check the number in the controller as to the placement of the equipment in the tunnel, as well as when the equipment is set to turn on and off for each cycle. Before making any changes to the controller, always note the starting point that the equipment is set at so you can easily return to the original setting should the changes made make the setting worse. Some controllers work on inches while others work on feet. After determining whether you have to adjust the controller in feet or inches, you can adjust the equipment in small increments and look at the changes over several vehicles to determine if the changes made are effective. The idea is to have the application turn on and off just at the start and end of the intended function, thus saving cost. And always remember, that after the changes have been made and are working right, to save the new changes and make a backup.

To illustrate the cost savings from getting the timing right, let’s look at an example. Take the wheel cleaner and assume that the application is using 3.7 ounces per car and the CTA is timed wrong. By reducing the timing by an extra two inches you bring the chemical usage down to 3.0 ounces, and that’s a saving of .7 ounces per car. If the chemical costs 7 cents per ounce, by reducing the chemical usage an extra.7 ounces per car, the savings would be roughly 5 cents per car or $2,500.00 at 50,000 cars a year.

Robert Andre is the President of CarWash College™. Robert can be reached at For more information about CarWash College™ certification programs, visit www.carwashcollege.comor call the registrar's office at 1-866-492-7422.