Modern carwashes have encountered many challenges over the past few years as technology and market conditions have evolved. Today’s carwash is more dependent on its equipment and automation than ever before.

Owners and operators have had to become knowledgeable about topics ranging from new tax breaks, to survival during water shortages, to marketing to millennials and adapting to new health care and minimum wage requirements.

“Today’s wash owners face a myriad of challenges,” says Bob Fox, customer relations manager with SONNY’S The CarWash Factory. “Heath care laws, environmental issues, state regulations, etc. The only constant is change.”

While the business environment will continue to change forever, and being on top of these changes will help to ensure a carwash’s success, some aspects of the business are under an operator’s control. Operators can keep their equipment and facilities working efficiently and looking their best so customers continue streaming into their businesses.

A wash that is closed down frequently can lose profits and customers, as well as build an unreliable reputation. When a customer needs a carwash, he or she may choose another business because of experiences with broken or run-down equipment.

Expecting the best while preparing for the worst is a time-tested cliché for a reason. Carwash owners who are prepared for common operational challenges can prevent problems before they occur or catch issues as they appear.

Many issues can cause a wash to shut down for any length of time. Severe weather, equipment malfunctions, breakdowns and upgrades are just a few of these.

“One of the easiest problems to prevent is the closure of the wash due to unscheduled maintenance. Take care of your equipment and it will take care of you,” believes Fox.

Pay special attention to frequently used equipment

Fox says the most depended upon piece of equipment at a wash is the conveyor, if present. “Without it, you’re a hand wash,” he adds.

Many carwashes include vacuums in their packages or as stand-alone services to give customers a total cleaning of their vehicles. Fox says this equipment is the most often neglected because it is not usually housed within the tunnel of the equipment room. “Out of sight, out of mind,” he notes.

Vacuums can provide convenience for your customers. Since some carwashes provide them for free use, many patrons may expect to be able to use them at your wash. They can deliver an important finishing touch on their clean vehicles. Keeping them up and running continuously can ensure these customers return to a wash time after time.

“The consequences can be catastrophic in that, depending on the component that goes down, you may not be able to wash cars,” Fox explains. “In some cases, a component can be pinned or tied back out of the way so that you can still process cars, although it may be at a slower pace or by compensating for the missing component by adding more labor.”

Employees are key

“Carwash people are very adept at processing cars when things aren’t exactly going as planned,” Fox adds.

Owners are often good at adjusting operations when things go wrong to avoid closing down and losing business. These are often short-term fixes, however. Routine maintenance should still be performed to keep a carwash open as much as possible.

Workers play a vital role in ensuring equipment is checked regularly and not neglected. Performing regular checks can help to avoid costly repairs and lost income from broken-down machines.

Fox shares that owners and operators can encourage workers to perform these inspections.

“Incentivizing the staff to perform maintenance has been very successful,” he states. “Also, [bonuses] at year-end if [the] wash was never closed for unscheduled maintenance [can work]."

Eliminate down-time

While specific types of maintenance can vary by wash format, Fox believes preventative maintenance is essential across the board.

“Each format has its own maintenance schedules due to the components being different,” he notes. “…No matter what the format, preventative maintenance is of the utmost importance.”

Regular inspections with checklists and other routine procedures can be instrumental in protecting your equipment and your business. Planning for emergencies is important, but many of these events can be prevented with the proper strategies in place. Fox adds another more piece of advice for ensuring safe surroundings for employees. 

“Because a carwash can be a dangerous environment, I would suggest hosting frequent safety meetings,” he recommends.

Avoiding equipment breakdown and other issues keep your wash running smoothly and your customers happy.

“Being that our industry is so weather-dependent, it’s imperative to ‘make hay while the sun’s shining.’” Fox shares. “Maintaining a proper [preventative maintenance] plan not only prolongs equipment life, but also ensures that your equipment will be ready when the business is there!”