Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Surveillance and security

October 11, 2010
A ccording to a survey conducted by Professional Carwashing & Detailing in late 2007, over 40 percent of participating self-serve carwash operators reported their typical location did not have a surveillance system in place. Nearly 70 percent of the participants in the same study reported a crime at their self-serve carwash in the last year, yet some operators had yet to realize the importance of surveillance and security at their unattended business.

Owners of these carwashes are losing money and customers due to vandalism, illegal dumping of hazardous materials, vacuum theft, fraudulent claims, and customer insecurity.

Resolution & location
The heart of the camera is in its chipset and image sensor, the CCD (charged coupled device). Two types of focal lengths are common: 1/3” or 1/4”. A focal length of 1/3” gathers more light and has a wider view, but a 1/4” works well for high resolution models in well lit areas.

When deciding on the resolution of the camera, it is best to stay somewhere between 480 and 500+ TV lines for high-resolution and 380 to 420 lines for medium-resolution.

The location of each camera at the carwash will determine what type of camera will be adequate for the job. Cameras that will be placed directly in the carwash bay or tunnel need to be waterproof. Waterproof cameras are usually constructed with tight seals able to keep any kind of moisture, condensation, and/or chemicals out.

There are numerous cameras specifically designed for carwashes that can easily be mounted either on the ceiling, wall or used for a vehicle rear viewer system.

Other types of cameras recommended for use in a carwash are submersible cameras, due to the fact that they can handle large amounts of water without any damage to the camera itself.

Choosing a lens
Choosing your lens is very significant when deciding which camera you want to install in your carwash. The two most common types of lenses are fixed and varifocal.

A fixed lens means that the view you see cannot be changed. A 3.6 mm is usually the standard size, but other options are often available. This type of lens is best for shorter distances and wider angle views.

A varifocal lens has room for adjustability that enables you to get the distance and width you are looking for. A 3.5-8 mm is what most people use, but when trying to capture license plates and other small images, it is best to go with a more wide range lens, such as a 5-50 mm.

With the advanced remote viewing technology we have today, you have the option to watch your carwash 24/7 via the internet from the comfort of your own home.

Choosing a DVR
A DVR (digital video recorder) allows you to monitor your carwash from anywhere through a static IP address or software. Other prominent features include motion detection, audio recording, scheduler, multi-user capability, and PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) support.

All digital video recorders are different, but most high quality recorders give you a multi-viewing option allowing the user to view just one camera at its maximum size, a four-pane view, or even up to a 32-camera view if the DVR contains that many channels. Many DVRs feature a CD-writer and USB for backup, jog shuttle for easy rewind, VGA and S-video output, and user password protection.

It is always best to go with a DVR that has a high resolution of at least 640 x 480 and a frame rate of no less than 120 fps (frames per second). This will ensure that you are getting a high quality DVR, yielding a crystal clear picture to help capture any unwanted activity at your carwash.


Melissa Foster has been in the surveillance industry for two years, and is currently the sales and marketing director at CCTV Imports. She can be contacted at 1-888-315-1219 or emailed at melissa@cctvimports.com .