Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Choosing a soil extractor

September 14, 2011

How do you choose which extractor is best?

The following are some guidelines to follow in choosing which extractor will work best for you:

Cost: Purchase the very best extractor technology you can afford. Be certain to purchase a professional unit, not one of the low-cost residential units. They simply will not stand up to the rigors of daily use in a detailing operation.

Size of the solution tank: How many cars will be processed per day? You do not want to have the detailer stopping to continually fill the tank. Purchase an extractor with a solution tank large enough to last all day without refilling. If your shop's only doing one or two cars a day at a single location, you can get by with a 2 or 3-gallon solution tank.

Suction: You can choose between a two-stage vacuum motor and a three-stage vacuum motor. The three-stage has the most suction or lift. A two-stage is good, but the three-stage is better. The comparison might be between a V-8 engine vs. a V-6; they both will function, but the V-8 has more power. Do not be misled by dual-motor units. From a detailing perspective, you do not get more suction or lift from dual two-stage or three-stage motors. These dual-motor units are for residential cleaning where you may have to increase the length of the vacuum hose to reach up or down stairs without moving the extractor. The dual-motors maintain the suction with a longer hose, but do not give you double the suction/lift.

Heat: You have a choice between a tank heater and an in-line heater. The in-line is the best because it gives instant heat. The tank heater has to heat up the solution, sometimes taking 10 to 15 minutes. The in-line heaters with higher watts are best: 1,000, 2,000 and 2,400 watts. The higher the wattage, the hotter the solution, and heat increases the cleaning ability of the chemical.

Pump pressure: The typical pressure of an extractor pump is 100 psi, but you will find some at 150 psi. There are others offering up to 375 psi. However, 100 psi is quite adequate.

Vacuum and solution hoses: Most vacuum hoses have the solution line tied to the outside of the hose. That is acceptable, but you can get an assembly called "hide-a-hose", which puts the solution line inside the vacuum hose for easier vacuum hose use. Much easier to use.

Nozzle: You want a stainless steel nozzle because they do not wear out or break like plastic. You also want a view window in the nozzle so detailers can see the extraction of the soil.

Prices: Professional units can range in price from $650 to over $3,000, depending on size and features.