The ABCs of Controlling your Wash - Professional Carwashing & Detailing

The ABCs of Controlling your Wash

There are many things in the car wash business that are beyond your control such as weather, road construction, off-site power outages, competition, etc.


There are many things in the car wash business that are beyond your control such as weather, road construction, off-site power outages, competition, etc. That is why it is all the more important to manage those factors that you can control to the best of your abilities.

You always need to make sure you are getting the most from your employees, marketing efforts, equipment and chemicals. All of these factors are intertwined, but the last two are inseparable. Here are some tips to help you get the most from your chemicals, but in doing so you must also manage your equipment:

  1. Train yourself and your employees to keep an eye on your equipment both in the wash area and in the equipment room. Make sure it is all kept in good working order. Here are some equipment specifics to watch for:
    1. Check for leaking pipes or lines which are an obvious waste of water and chemicals.
    2. Malfunctioning check-valves or foot-valves can cause water to flow back into containers of chemicals, diluting them and providing inconsistent results. They may also cause product separation and subsequent waste.
    3. Replace worn nozzles and look for blocked nozzles. If your nozzles are worn out they allow a greater flow of chemicals in solution and your costs will escalate. If nozzles are blocked they cause poor coverage of the vehicle. Chemicals can’t work if they are not being applied properly to the entire surface.
    4. Friction equipment should be clean and free of grime and soap-scum.
    5. Broken hydraulic lines need to be fixed immediately and spilled hydraulic fluid cleaned up.
    6. Listen to the operation of your pumps and if they start to sound different it is probably time for preventative maintenance.
    7. Keep water line pressures consistent. Changes in water pressure will usually cause chemical metering equipment to deliver inconsistent dilution ratios. This leads to erratic performance and product waste.

By finding problems in their early stages you can schedule repairs during off hours and avoid down-time when the wash is open.

  1. Managing your water is also important to the management of your chemicals. Make sure that the water being used in each stage of the wash process is of the right quality.

    Always use soft water for cleaning. In most areas of the country the available water supplies have a level of hardness that makes using a water softener economically attractive. Soft water provides better detergent performance at lower use rates. In addition, it avoids the formation of soap-scum and scale that are common in detergent and hard water mixtures. Wash bays, tunnels and equipment are easier to clean and stay clean longer. Protection products such as polishes, sealants and drying agents should never be applied with reclaim water. Even well conditioned reclaim water can contain a lot of particles and chemicals that can reduce the effectiveness of, or become attached with, the protection products to the surface of the vehicle, diminishing the intended shine.

    Spot-free water is now essentially a requirement for all car washes. Make sure your system is functioning properly and has enough capacity for your wash volume. Today’s customers won’t notice how clean the car is if it is covered with water spots.

  1. Manage your chemicals wisely. This includes having reasonable purchasing guidelines, rotating your stock, proper metering for each use, and proper disposal of empty containers.

    When purchasing chemicals, choose container sizes that best fit your usage. In general, a container of chemical, regardless of the type, should be totally consumed within three months or less. Purchasing a larger container than you really need may save you money on a price per gallon basis, but if it becomes contaminated or affected by factors such as evaporation, over the long term you will lose more than you saved.

    Rotate your stock. For larger operations where a number of containers of any one chemical are purchased at the same time, be sure to use up the older product on hand prior to opening newer containers. Chemical products usually have a reasonable shelf life, but there are limits. If you let a product age, it will not improve the performance.

    Monitor your chemical usage, keep track of average use per car and look for unexplained changes in consumption. This can be a good method for controlling costs and making sure your equipment is performing consistently. Ideally your chemical distributor will be helping you keep track of your cost per application on each product.

    Finally, use the proper chemical for each application. “Creative” uses of products can lead to damage to vehicles or equipment along with wasting money. Products are generally designed to provide maximum performance in their intended application.

Taking the time to check these simple things can make all the difference in the success of your wash and the profits to your bottom line.

Rick Martens, Senior Chemist, Lustra
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