Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Vacuum machines

October 11, 2010

Even with the change in technology, vacuums are still an important asset to carwashes. They range anywhere from your standard industrial vacuums to different combination machines such as air-vacuums, air-water-vacuums, shampoo machines, and even fragrance machines.

Many carwash owners wonder what type of a vacuum is the right fit for them.

There are generally three types of vacuums: standard industrial vacuum, air-vacuum combination, and an air-vacuum-water machine.

A heavy-duty vacuum is typically composed of higher gauge stainless steel. Machines of this type are typically used in areas where crime and/or vandalism are a concern.

The standard industrial vacuum is the most widely used vacuum in carwashes today. This vacuum is a stand alone unit that can be either free or coin-operating.

Combination units
The air-vacuum combination machine is also becoming more popular in the industry. Carwash owners like offering their customers the option to fill their tires while cleaning out their car. This service adds value to a carwash that may set it apart from competition.

The combination unit also saves space. Owners do not have to worry about finding two separate locations for installation: one for the air machine and another for the vacuum.

A tri-combination machine consists of air, water and a vacuum. This machine is popular at convenience stores.

Advancements made in vacuums
With the rise of technology, much advancement has been made and the units are continually being improved. Advancements range anywhere from computer based programs to vandal resistant options.

There are many computer based timers companies are using to add additional control of vacuum. These programs can tell the customer a wide range of things such as: machinery problems, usage numbers, and how much money is in the machine. These programs are widely used by customers who are not always present at their location.

Bill acceptors and token acceptors are two more changes that have increased with the rise of technology. Paired with the increase in technology is the increase in costs. This creates an increase for consumers to use the machine. Token acceptors are also available for carwash owners who want to give out free carwashes or vacuum service through a token. Many gas station/carwash combination stores use tokens.

Theft and vandalism prevention
Theft is always a concern with vacuum machines. Many options such as hanging reels, different locking systems, vault-ready vacuums, and heavier doors are available to help eliminate successful theft attempts.

Hanging reels are cabinets mounted to the side of the vacuum machine that would house an air and/or water hose. A customer pulls the hose out to use it and when finished, the hose retracts back into the reel cabinet. This not only helps eliminate the theft of the hose but it also helps balance the cost of replacement hoses. Hoses tend to last longer if it is inside a reel cabinet rather then just wrapped around a hose hanger.

In addition to the lock that is already included in the vacuum, extra locking systems are also available to help secure both the money box and the control box. Lock bars and padlocks seem to be the most popular choice with vacuum machine owners. Internal locks on coin boxes are also an option on vacuums. These locks provide more internal control in companies.

Vault style vacuums seem to be popular among the high crime areas. This style of vacuum has a vault built below the unit where money is stored. The money is then located in the ground below the vacuum. Usually, a cement base is built to help elevate the vacuum where it houses the vault from vandals.

Reinforced steel doors and cover plates are another option to help deter vandals. Many heavy-duty doors composed of reinforced steel are available cover the money box to offer additional protection. Steel covers for the latches on the clean-out doors of the vacuums are also available to deter thieves.

The installation process on a vacuum machine can be rather simple.

Many different choices exist for base building options. There are single bases, canopied islands, and even steel islands. The simplest is to build a single concrete base. A good rule of thumb to follow is to have the base at about the same level as a car bumper. This helps increase vacuum visibility, thus eliminating cars backing into machinery.

Money, dirt, and debris need to be emptied frequently from the machine. If the money box is not emptied frequently, the coin box could fill to capacity making it difficult for coins to travel through the coin acceptor. If this is allowed to happen, the machine will not be able to start.

If the dirt and debris is not emptied consistently, it will fill up in the machine and get into the vacuum motors. The motors may become clogged and stop running or even burn out.

Finding the right vacuum for your carwash involves some marketing research and understanding your consumer’s behavior.

What does your competition offer? What do your customers want? What type of geographic location are you in? What are the demographics of your customers? What is going to be the right fit for your company?

Once you have researched your customers, you will be able to better identify what type of machine will be the best fit for you and your company. Once that machine is in place, just sit back and reap the rewards.

Tiffany Williams is the marketing and sales director of American Products Inc., a P.E.I. member celebrating their 25th year in the industry. Williams, who has held the position for five years, can be reached at