Proper vacuum operation is one of the most discussed aspects of carwashing, regardless of wash size, format or location. The ability to effectively vacuum a vehicle’s interior has become a huge selling point in today’s competitive carwash market. Thus, it should surprise no one that if a wash’s vacuum system is unappealing, damaged or inoperable, a location will lose significant sales.
Time spent maintaining and cleaning on-site vacuum systems will prove to be a good resource investment for every carwash. Thankfully, many updated systems are now equipped with convenient booms that allow for fast and popular do-it-yourself vacuum cycles.
This article covers how the modern design of this equipment attracts customer attention, protects vacuums from wear and tear, and provides capabilities that help ensure efficient and dependable operation.
According to Steve Lieneman, vice president of sales and marketing for Vacutech LLC, his company pioneered the carwash industry’s arch style of vacuum delivery (sometimes called a boom) in 2005, and since then, this system has been widely popularized. Today, this type of vacuum has become a staple of the modern express carwash, but it is used in other types of washes as well.
Visually, arches elegantly and efficiently combine form and function, Lieneman explains. The systems are architecturally attractive and interesting, and they can further be equipped to provide additional site lighting. There are even color-changing light options that will add ambiance and visibility to any location.
Vacuum boom systems offer as much function as they do form. Hoses are suspended from the arch, keeping carwash sites tidy and eliminating tripping hazards, Lieneman states. Hoses stay clean, meaning customers are not dragging dirty hoses through their vehicles. And with two hoses on each arch, the systems allow customers or employees to vacuum simultaneously — one person on each side of a vehicle. That translates to faster vacuuming times and increased car count potential for a carwash.
Simply put, boom systems are booming, and this type of carwash vacuum has continued to be popular for more than a decade, agrees Wes Taggart, CEO of AutoVac. Vacuums are now a basic necessity for every express and flex wash, as the car care industry has trained customers to associate vacuum booms with the express market. These booms — also known as vacuum arches — are eye-catching in addition to the functional purposes that they serve.
Taggart adds that modern vacuum systems offer a plethora of advantages and potential supplemental services to customers, such as:
- The addition of canopies atop the vacuum boom for shade
- Ease of vacuuming with the vacuum hose being available right at the midsection of the vehicle
- Trash cans for cleaning out the vehicle
- Mat holders to clean dirty floor mats
- Towel buckets offering clean towels to wipe down missed areas of the vehicle
- Post separators to collect lost items vacuumed up in the vehicle
- LED lighting options, which provide excellent lighting around the vacuum stall, added security to the site and an awesome display for those driving by
- An air line for blowing off the last drops of water hiding in the edges and corners of the vehicle.
The design of modern vacuum systems helps prevent damage to the equipment as well as to vehicles. Taggart notes that the vacuum booms protect the accessories, since they are affixed to the post, and as such, do not interfere with the parking of a vehicle. The vacuum hose is protected, as it is up and off the ground, so it cannot be driven over.
As the vacuum booms run alongside the driver and passenger sides of the vehicle, they act as a guide into the vacuum stall. Also, they are out of the way so that the customer can easily get in and out of the vehicle while vacuuming, Taggart continues. The spacing of the booms also aids in providing ample room for vacuuming while not risking door dings from an adjacent customer. The set location of vacuum booms can also be used to direct traffic flow throughout the site.
Lieneman points out that since the suspended hoses are kept off the ground, they are not dragged through gravel and debris that can lead to holes, decreasing system performance and creating a need for frequent hose replacement. Also, hoses kept off the ground remain dry. While moisture does not necessarily damage a vacuum hose, no carwash customer wants a wet hose in his or her vehicle.
Modern boom design can actually invite customers into the vacuum stall, Taggart explains, and customer attraction and retention are the two most important factors when considering an investment in upgraded vacuum booms. A carwash sign is nice and necessary, but it is often the vacuum booms that bring in — and bring back — carwash customers. It has become definitive that the public enjoys and even prefers to vacuum and clean its own vehicles, and modern boom design serves that purpose well.
Further, vacuum booms can create a lasting first impression and demonstrate to the local marketplace what quality of business an operator is offering, according to Taggart. If the vacuum stall area is a comfortable environment that offers accessories and vacuum equipment that performs well, the area can create and promote the brand recognition that every operator works towards.
Overall, the carwash industry is booming, and that means increasing competition for owners, Lieneman states. One of the primary ways of standing out from the competition is creating an ideal customer experience. Having an inviting vacuum plaza plays a key role. The vacuum arches’ great aesthetics can improve the customer experience even before a patron drives onto the lot.
Also, most or all of the express tunnel or full service carwash system experience is automated, meaning the customer has no personal contact with wash equipment. By contrast, the vacuum system is hands-on for the customer, Lieneman notes. A vacuum system that is easy to use, creates an inviting atmosphere and offers great performance can boost every customer experience.
Customization and appearance
When shopping for options, system performance, materials quality and durability should always be drivers for deciding what vacuum system to install at a carwash, Lieneman recommends. After addressing these factors, operators should look for a vacuum supplier that offers the arch design and style they find the most attractive. The styles available will vary by vendor.
Once a system has been selected, arches can be powder coated to match virtually any desired color or finish. Lieneman notes that carwash owners can also add accessories, ranging from awnings and waste receptacles to color-changing LED lighting and marketing signage. All can be selected and designed to complement a site’s color scheme and visual style.
Related: Marketing with vacuums
Taggart states that, as a physical structure, vacuum booms offer many options to make a wash look unique and inviting. While stock vacuum booms can be an excellent decision, custom colors and color schemes — as well as a variety of vacuum boom designs, shapes and sizes — are available. These can be called upon to help a carwash stand out from the competitors down the street.
Operators should always consult the vacuum system supplier to find out what specific maintenance tasks are needed, according to Lieneman. Most quality central vacuum systems require only a few simple daily tasks, such as emptying the debris buckets. Most periodic tasks, such as looking for system leaks, replacing or cleaning filter bags or replacing worn vacuum tools, are also relatively quick and easy to perform.
To keep a vacuum system looking its best, replace hoses when they look worn. Periodically inspect vacuum tools, such as the crevice tool or claw tool, and replace when they show signs of wear and tear, Lieneman continues. If the system has fabric awnings, periodically check to see if they are sagging. If so, reinstall for a tidy, taught appearance, and replace any awnings that are torn or look worn.
If your powder coated arches look dusty or dirty, employees can wash them or hose them down. Ask your vacuum system vendor for touch-up paint to have on hand, Lieneman suggests. If a wash has stainless steel arches, they should be periodically polished with an appropriate cleaner and gentle cloth.
Taggart notes that simple daily tasks such as keeping trash off the ground, emptying the post separators, hanging up any vacuum hoses left on the ground and replacing aged vacuum tools for better performance options are always best practices. Also, some thought should even be given to applying a wax or spray wax to the vacuum boom. This offers both some protection and a clean, shiny appearance.
“The operational upkeeps go beyond the vacuum boom for a positive customer experience,” Taggart concludes. “The vacuum should be kept in good running condition, the manifold should always be free of any leaks and/or clogs, the filter separator should be inspected and debris bucket dumped daily. As always, follow the manufacturer’s operation and maintenance manual for optimum performance and equipment longevity.”
Sam Albertson is a freelance contributor.