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The evolution of the carwash arch

Ten years ago you could pull into a carwash and be greeted with boring industrial gray square arches that just served one purpose: To wash the car.


Ten years ago you could pull into a carwash and be greeted with boring industrial gray square arches that just served one purpose: To wash the car. Fast forward to today and now arches are anything but boring. They now not only have the responsibility of cleaning the car but also of creating an experience through graphics, animations and light shows. Modern carwash arches basically fall into three categories:

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  1. Entrance Arches
  2. Application Arches
  3. Dryer/Exit Arches

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Entrance Arches: How to welcome your customer

The old trite saying “first impressions count” has withstood the test of time because it’s true. The way you welcome your customers will tell them a lot about the business and the service they can expect. From the customer’s perspective, they want to see a show almost as much as they want a clean car. Many successful operators in the industry will tie a direct correlation to their success with the “show” they were able to provide. With that in mind your arches are a great starting point in delivering colorful graphics and animations to create excitement in the wash. Combining led light strips along with a printed foam curtain to dispense a sheet of foam on your entrance arch is effective at attracting customers and also boosting higher revenue per car. If a customer is behind someone who just bought the top wash they will be impressed with the lights and animations increasing the likelihood of them upgrading the next time they go through. This also gives your wash an immediate facelift by hiding some of the unsightly industrial machinery up front.


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Application Arches: Look up

Traditionally chemical has been applied through applicators running on the passenger and driver side of the arch. Now the industry has shifted towards delivering the foam from above via a foam curtain and with various different consistencies, some deploy creamy foam that is easy to wash off, some a thicker more bubbly foam, and the sheet of liquid foam that is thin yet provides an impressive look. These types of foam curtains can be used with protectant, polishing, or cleaning chemicals. This also does a great job.


Dryer/ Exit Arches: Before you exit

If you’re not incorporating drying in every wash than you should be treating it like an extra service. Once the car has cleared all the application arches there’s usually a good drip space which is a great opportunity to have a graphic arch because it will be perfectly visible and the car will be clear of soap and chemicals. This would be the place to thank them for their business, remind them about wash passes or gift books, and set up the drying area. Some owners have been creative with naming this area the “Drying Chamber” or even designing an arch around a dessert theme.





Top 5 ways to enhance your arch:

  1. Give it a name: Even bland services like Presoak and Undercarriage can be marketable with some creative input. Using your town’s local landmarks, sport teams or colors you can have a unique presoak that will add value to an otherwise under marketed service.
  2. Light it up: Trust me everything is better with lights, when you add high wattage LED lights to an arch you will immediately enhance the chemical that’s being applied. The lights will add a vivid color to the chemical making it 100 times brighter than it was.
  3. Apply it from the top: Not all chemicals are best applied through a curtain type applicator but when you can it’s highly recommended. There's just something about driving under a waterfall that makes everything seem better. Kids especially love to drive under a “waterfall” style rinse rather than a typical manifold applied high pressure rinse.
  4. Image matters: Treat your arch like a blank canvas, really get creative with the presentation of the service. Design possibilities are limitless and you can really achieve a great product by incorporating die cut shapes with bright colored graphics.
  5. Animations: There’s a reason why casinos are a buzz with flashing and chasing lights because it grabs your attention. By using arches with built in animations you can achieve a “Vegas” type environment that will be enjoyable for your customer.

You need to ask yourself “Are you just washing the customer’s car?” if your answer was yes realize that all your competitors around you are also washing cars. You want to put on a show that leaves a lasting impression so you grab a long time customer and create an experience. That experience starts with your arches.


Bobby Jones is the Art Director of TSS Inc., a company which manufactures carwash signs. For more information, visit

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