Carwash owners must contend with a variety of issues to keep their businesses profitable. While the business offers many different freedoms for owners, issues such as vandalism and theft must be dealt with. The absence of attendants at many carwashes makes these businesses common targets for these crimes.

In order to prevent and catch these offenders, many carwash owners rely on surveillance systems as extra pairs of eyes. Security cameras can record crimes and help to confirm customer injury claims as well.

Today’s security systems are much more advanced than those of 30, 20 and even 10 years ago, explains Curtis Ray, vice president of Acquire Video Security.

“We have come a very long way since video surveillance systems were first commonplace in commercial applications,” shares Ray.

According to Ray, the first video surveillance systems did not record, so systems had to be monitored live. With the introduction of the VCR in the 1970s, surveillance system use increased exponentially.

Now these systems record in high-resolution color with network-based cameras (IP) and Network Video Recorder (NVR) technology, Ray continues. Camera feeds can be viewed “remotely from anywhere in the world via the Internet,” he says.

Tunnel security

Ray shares the three major crimes that occur at carwashes are embezzlement, theft and vandalism. “Unfortunately, no security system no matter what will ever prevent crime 100 percent of the time,” he notes. "But these crimes can be reduced or deterred depending on the quality and effectiveness of the security system in place.” 

Instances of catching thieves and preventing crimes before they happen can be increased by installing the correct equipment. According to Ray, intrusion alarms and video surveillance are two ways to do this.

For carwash tunnels, Ray urges operators not to skimp on cheap security equipment.

Not only can these systems assist in preventing theft and catching criminals, but Ray states that the cameras can also document accidents occurring inside the tunnel itself.

Keep employees honest

These systems can also help monitor dishonest employees working at a wash, believes Ray. “If security cameras are in place for example, the employee knows there is a higher risk of getting caught and may decide it’s not worth it,” explains Ray. “And if they do decide to commit a crime and are subsequently caught by the video system, that incident will reinforce the deterrence factor to the other employees.”

Don’t skimp

Many operators think they can get by with purchasing cheaper systems over the Internet or at a big box retailer and achieve the same results,” explains Ray. “But these systems typically do not provide the images necessary to refute most pre-existing damage claims, are more unreliable and generally do not have the ability to be upgraded or to record higher resolutions that will be available in the future.”

While higher-end systems may cost more upfront, they will pay off in the long run, Ray adds.

Ray shares that he’s seen many first-time operators splurge on their landscaping and signage, but neglect to secure their facilities.

“While those things are necessary, they will not protect them from lawsuits, fraudulent workman’s comp claims, pre-existing damage claims, a customer “slip and fall” or help them to manage the business from afar,” he continues.

Minimal maintenance

Especially when compared to other carwash equipment, surveillance system upkeep is minimal.

The carwash environment can be hard on electronic equipment, so Ray recommends a few steps so owners and operators can protect their systems.

The main maintenance issue is to make sure the camera housings and covers are cleaned often to remove water, soap, dirt, and prep spray buildup from them,” Ray notes. “These elements tend to collect on the glass covers and will degrade the recorded images over time. Cleaning these on a regular basis is key to having the best images possible.”

Constant monitoring

Ray believes the management aspect of video surveillance is critical and often overlooked. Today’s technology allows owners to view their carwashes from anywhere in the world via the Internet.

“…The remote accessibility of these camera systems gives owners/operators the ability to literally “see” what is going on at the car wash without having to physically be there,” he says.

Owners and operators can monitor their businesses whenever they wish for different reasons.

“They can also review video to see what has transpired during the day, how much work the employees were doing, which employees arrived and/or left on time, took a long lunch, were helpful to customers, etc.,” explains Ray.