Be it a central system or canister style, vacuums are an integral component of a professional carwash. Customers will patronize a wash when it meets their expectations of what a clean car should be: seeing a car free of dirt on both the outside and inside. After all, customers know exactly where the dirt is on the interior and expect you to find and remove it. Our industry has trained end users for these expectations, and it’s up to your wash to meet their expectations or risk going out of business.

Most people love to vacuum, and whether you plan on charging for the service or offering it for free, there are a few key pieces to take into consideration:

  • Where do I put my vacuums for maximum exposure?
  • Where do I place them for ease of use?
  • Where is the most convenient location to place vacuums?

A combination of key factors will help in the decision-making process. The size of your site, the location of your site and the proximity to major traffic areas will be the ultimate decision-maker in these questions, but there are some general rules of the road.

Maximum exposure

“Activity fuels more activity,” according to Stuart Levy, owner of Clean Car Consulting. If your carwash is located near a busy intersection or roadway and passersby see a patron utilizing your carwash vacuums, they will likely want to vacuum their cars too.

“Placing the vacuums on the perimeter of the property versus the old way of a vacuum island will speed up the process, making the bay more accessible,” adds Drew Dressler, director of sales and marketing at D&S Car Wash Equipment Company.

Aesthetics of vacuum areas are important, particularly in areas with high heat and sun exposure. Carry the same color scheme, maintain symmetry and use displays consistently throughout your wash — and make it stand out from the competition. Visually directing customers to your vacuums is vital to your success with the equipment. Using a wide array of signs, such as on the front, sides and exterior of the units, draws attention to them, and placing instructions and directions in a location convenient to the customer will help pull your customers to them.

Related: Practical appearance enhancements to attract carwash business

Maximum use

Providing a positive vacuuming experience to enhance the overall customer experience will help grow your client base and retain current customers. As mentioned, customers know where the dirt is and expect a vacuum to remove it all. A high-performance vacuum can increase profits because customers expect a level of service they cannot get on their own.

Related: Vacuum performance troubleshooting

Once your customer is at the vacuum station, you want to make sure he or she is comfortable and has other convenient services available at his or her fingertips. “Every carwash talks about enhancing the customer experience,” asserts Levy. “What better way than to provide a service that is positive?” The vacuum station is a great place for other add-ons like shampooing stations, mat cleaning, fragrance and garbage bins, to name a few. If your customers are comfortable, they are likely to utilize the other features available to them.

Choosing the right vacuum for your carwash can be measured by performance, execution and results. Vacuum performance is measured in two ways: the maximum airflow the machine can generate — also known as cubic feet per minute (CFM) — and the maximum sealed suction power the machine can produce. Vacuums for residential use just don’t cut it when it comes to cleaning the interior of a car, but high suction doesn’t always mean high quality.

Maximum convenience

Carwashes located in the vicinity of a busy roadway need to ensure customers can enter and exit the carwash with ease. Two entrances and exits that are designed to handle simultaneous ingress and egress allow ease of safe traffic flow. Having only one entrance and exit with narrow ingress and egress will limit traffic flow and could potentially create unsafe conditions — a situation you should avoid.

Create the opportunity for your customers to easily navigate your carwash layout and find their way to the vacuum station. If a customer has to maneuver through a difficult site layout in order to access your carwash vacuums, you are missing out on profits.

Understand the vacuum options, and know what type of system will work best for your site. Things to consider are the size of the system and the number of customers who can use it at once. You will face challenges if the vacuum was not designed, engineered or sized properly for your site.

Ensure your vacuum systems are simple to use and are maintained for maximum performance. A broken vacuum or a poorly working vacuum will cause your customers to visit the competition. A common misconception among customers (and sometimes employees) is that the vacuums don’t have enough suction. Oftentimes, customers will vacuum up items that trained employees will not, such as water, pens, toys, other small objects, etc. Performing system maintenance to remove any lodged debris will ensure a properly working system that will keep your customers returning.

While vacuums may not be the main reason customers patronize a carwash, they are an important aspect in maintaining and building a customer base.

“Vacuums are an essential part of the overall carwash experience. If a customer has a bad experience, they are not coming back,” concludes Levy.


Kristen (Wesolowski) Corbisiero is a freelance writer, project manager, social media manager as well as former managing editor for Professional Carwashing & Detailing magazine. Kristen lives in Niskayuna, New York, with her husband and three young children. She can be reached at [email protected] or (518) 635-0375.