At last year’s ICA show in Nashville, there was a booth offering free hats adorned with the slogan “Make Carwashing Great Again.” While the phrase and the hat idea were obviously borrowed from a presidential campaign, the hats were a hot item with dozens of folks wearing them around the exhibit hall during show hours. I’ll admit, I brought one home as well, more for the novelty of it than the need for another hat.

My grandson, Madden, likes me to pull down my entire hat collection when he comes over as he likes to wear them all, sometimes simultaneously (he’s two). The other day he put the “Make Carwashing Great Again” hat on top of the other three he was wearing. I noticed the slogan much as if I were reading it for the first time. Instead of looking at it as a knock off of the one used by the candidate, I used it to question the past and future of the industry. Are we making carwashing great again, or are we making it great for the first time?

My intent is not to belittle the accomplishments of the pioneers of our industry. We all owe them a debt of gratitude. But was carwashing actually great then? Could a car be washed and dried, with tires dressed and wheels cleaned without manual prepping or hand toweling? Could a customer come in off the street, pay for the wash while choosing from a menu from the driver’s seat of their vehicle, ride through the wash, then vacuum the car out themselves at the end without having to move anything or get everyone else out of the car? Oh yeah, and could all of this be accomplished in under 3 minutes? Could a car get a deep, almost hand-polished finish through a series of chemical applications and closed cell foam buffing it in? Could a $20 exterior only wash be possible?

Obviously, the answer to most if not all of these questions is no. Again, not to disparage the industry in its earlier years, but we have come a long way. But are we making it great? Do your customers look at their experiences at your locations and think they received a great value for their money? Do your facilities look great? Are they clean? Are you producing a clean, dry, shiny car, day after day, time after time?

In the Car Wash College classes, we show a video clip from CNN of a manager of a wash getting a hose and himself entangled in a set of wraps (re-enforcing the rule of never having a hose in the tunnel when equipment is in operation). The clip opens with a scene from the movie “Car Wash” (1976) with guys wearing dirty coveralls prepping a car as it enters a dark, dirty tunnel before it moves on to the part where the accident occurs. That movie is 40 years old, yet that, obviously, is how some still see us. Was carwashing great then?

Although light years ahead of where we were a few decades ago, I’d say that we’re still working on making our industry great in the eyes of the general public, but it’s a battle that we’re winning!

Whether we’re making carwashing great, or great again, is really just semantics. As long as we work toward the same goal, we’ll all win!


Bob Fox has over 30 years of industry experience and is an instructor at CarWash College™. Bob can be reached at [email protected] For more information about CarWash College™ certification programs, visit CarWash College or call the registrar’s office at 1-866-492-7422.

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