Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Self-serve drying

October 11, 2010
There is a new wind blowing in the bays at Dr. Huggs Car Wash in Tonawanda, NY. Our self-serve dryers are popular with customers and increasing revenue with every blow.

I have always thought that drying a car should be an important part of the self-service carwash. The sale of paper and cloth towels served that purpose for the most part, but I felt we could offer more.

We tried automatic dryers a few years ago. They were free-standing units we placed near the vacuum islands, but they were used very little and we finally were forced to take them out.

The search begins
Not one to be discouraged, we started looking for equipment to allow the customers to dry their own cars with blowers pretty soon after taking the dryers out. Our search didn’t turn up much: only a few manufacturers produce these units.

We found one unit with its own coin acceptor and a button on the nozzle. But from the experience we had in the past, we wanted our system to be on the rotary switch and part of the time purchased.

Electrical consumption was not a concern because the high-pressure pump is not running when the blow dryers are being used, therefore it doesn’t increase our electrical demand.

We knew we wanted a trouble-free operation. A couple of the systems we looked at had “on” and “off” buttons at the nozzle or gun. From our experience with rug shampooers, we did not want any buttons or switches that could cause problems.

We narrowed it down to a select few manufacturers; one had a wand/blade that stripped the water off the car. Their unit appeared to be a good product, but only had two motors to the airflow.

My wife always says, “Go big or stay home,” so we decided on a dryer system manufactured by Diskin Systems. It had everything we were looking for:
  • Three motors to produce the airflow;
  • A gun with a gate trigger; and
  • A pressure-relief valve to ease pressure when the trigger is not being pulled. (Thereby eliminating the possibility that the nozzle could fly around if it gets away from the customer.)
Most importantly, when the customer turns the selector switch to “Air Dryer,” the motors start running at once so the customer gets instant gratification and knows the unit is working. The air only starts moving through the gun when the customer pulls the trigger. No electrical switches involved.

The Diskin enclosure in the bay has an attractively lit dome that the customer can see immediately. We used Mosmatic booms mounted on the sidewalls.

Now the big question: Does it make money and is it used? All I can say is it is almost as popular as the foam brush was when it was first introduced. Customers love the ability to dry their cars. At least 80 percent of our customers use them and are buying more time.

Did it hurt towel sales and was the loss in revenue from towel sales a concern? We came to the conclusion that towels costs anywhere from .25 to $1. The electrical cost for the dryer is pennies per use. So we did not lose.

As it turned out, our towel sales have gone up too. More customers are spending more time blow drying their cars and are doing their “fine detailing” when they are finished with the air dryers. For an investment of less than $2,400 for equipment, materials and installation per bay, we feel these units will pay for themselves in 12 to 18 months. More importantly we offer a complete wash and dry for the self-service customer.

As an operator you have to be thinking: “Should I consider this equipment?” In my opinion, the question is not if you are going to install these units in your bays, but when.

Paul Christian has been in the industry since 1967 and opened Dr. Huggs Carwash on Valentine’s Day in 1973. At one point, Christian operated six tunnel locations, two gas stations and two self-service locations. Presently, Paul and his wife Carla operate two tunnel locations and one self-service site. Their daughter Denise, and son-in-law, Brian, joined the business in 2000 and work with the day-to-day operations, offering a profitable boat and car detailing service out of their Grand Island, NY facility.