Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Wands and guns: maintain a superior site

October 11, 2010

It is important for self-serve carwash owners to choose appropriate wands, brushes and other equipment to maximize the benefits of the pump.

Owners also need to inspect and maintain this equipment to ensure optimal usage.

Pull the trigger

As self-serve equipment evolved and pumps became more powerful, the flow-through, or always-on, designed handle became unsafe and obsolete.

If a customer put his money in the meter box without grabbing the gun first, the result was often a hurt car or injured customer, as the wand thrashed and waved around the bay.

The creation and utilization of the trigger gun allowed the customer to start the bay without having to hold the gun.

Not until the customer pulled the trigger would water flow through the wand and nozzle with any pressure.

Guns galore

There are several types of trigger guns on the market today; they range from inexpensive, throw-away styles to more expensive rebuildable styles.

Some styles include guns with:

  • Adjustable trigger pull tension;
  • Water inlets through the back strap of the handle; and
  • Water inlets in the front of the trigger guard.

These options are important when considering which gun should be used at what type of wash facility.

For instance, a truck bay may require a sturdier gun to handle the additional gallons per minute (gpm) and pounds per square inch (psi) provided in these bays, as well as for the additional rough usage it may receive.

A more expensive gun with better balance and easier trigger pull should be used in regular bays, where more women will likely be using it.

Whatever type of gun is used, owners or operators should inspect it daily. No customer will want to use a bay where the gun leaks and they get more water on themselves than their car.


To alleviate the problems associated with older model, easily bent wands, many operators started using a short piece of hose with a spring around it.

This allowed the end user some flexibility when cleaning those hard to reach areas, but forced the user to use both hands. The flopping of this wand when being used with only one hand scratched many a hood and deck lid.

The addition of heated water meant insulation was required to protect the hands of the end user.

While some wash operators still use one or more of the above variations, most are using what is commonly called a flex wand.

This wand is about 18" long and consists of short pieces of pipe on either end with a hose in the middle covered by a hard rubber, flexible insulator over the hose.

This allows the wand the flexibility to get under wheel wells when used with two hands and it returns to an almost straight position; it can be used with one hand without flopping around and damaging the vehicle.

Wands should be inspected daily for damage and cleanliness. There is almost nothing worse than when a customer goes to clean their car and gets filthy from the hose and wand attachments.

Nozzle protector

The nozzle protector is usually a rubber or plastic cone shaped piece that is secured to the end of the wand before the nozzle is installed.

Its primary job is to protect the car's finish when a customer inadvertently drags the gun along the car, or his or her wrist gets weak and they allow the tip of the wand to fall on the hood.

A secondary benefit of the nozzle protector, when used with a fan-type nozzle, is that the sides of the water-spray hit it and make a sound like the roar of Niagara Falls, thus creating the perception of more power.

Necessary nozzles

The nozzle has one of the most important jobs at the wash: it creates the restriction that produces the pump pressure.

Nozzles wear away over time. It is not uncommon to find orifice sizes twice their original diameter in a poorly maintained location.

Owners may often rebuild pumps one or two times before finally scheduling a service call, only to discover that their nozzle has been worn to the point that it can no longer provide pressure.

This is the first place every operator should look when troubleshooting a pressure problem. Nozzles must be sized properly (correct size of orifice) for the pump gpm and motor horsepower being used.

A nozzle that is worn or is initially too big will not develop pressure, but a nozzle that is too small will create excessive pressure, causing circuit overloads or— worst case scenario— catastrophic pump failure.

Nozzles come in many materials including:

  • Plastic;
  • Brass;
  • Stainless steel; and
  • A hardened stainless steel called Meg.
Nozzle sizing

Nozzles are gauged not only by their orifice size, but also by their spray pattern. The most common spray pattern used in the self-service carwash industry is the fan type.

The main points to remember are to use the proper size nozzle for the application and to change it when it is showing signs of wear.

It is one of the least expensive but most important parts at the carwash.

Foaming brush

Foaming brush wands come in many different materials, such as:

  • PVC;
  • Aluminum;
  • Copper;
  • Galvanized;
  • Rubber coated;
  • Plastic coated and more.

When purchasing a foaming brush wand, a self-serve owner wants a product that is lightweight and durable.

Most wands average about 32" long and are about 3/4" to 1" diameter.

Be sure and use Teflon tape to prevent leaks and facilitate removal upon future replacement.

Foaming brush heads are as varied as the wands themselves. They can be made with nylon bristles, hogs hair bristles or even with strips of cloth or foam.

All are designed to be gentle on the car's finish. Most come with a rubber bumper around either a plastic or aluminum head to avoid any possible damage.

Whichever type of brush is chosen for a site, it is imperative that an owner or operator inspect it daily.

A worn out, damaged or dirty brush is sure to cause damage not only to a customer's car, but also to the location's reputation.

Tom Wilson, GinSan Sales, has spent 24 years in the carwash business. Wilson is a salesperson for the GinSan Michigan Distribution group.