The carwash industry has progressed a long way through technological involvement and research and development driven by the competition of many good brands. European automatic carwashing suppliers mainly ruled the market in technical developments, but another cause of progression is the different trends of carwashing in the USA and Europe.

In the USA, the manufacturers were mainly producing soft touch systems with polyurethane foam and textile brushes with hydraulic motors, since it was forbidden to use any electrical equipment inside the washing area.

But with the latest IP systems, which led to the protection of drive and automation carwash equipment, nearly every automatic carwash system is now produced with electrically driven motors, which gives more precise control.

For the last 40 years in Europe, electrical motors have been applied and still produced non-soft conventional brushes. Now, European carwash producers are still saying that nothing can get the mud out of a car like the conventional brushes that are not used in the USA.

European automatic carwashing versus U.S.

One of the main differences between European and American carwashes is their construction. While European manufacturers use galvanized sheet metals for the main body, American manufacturers use all stainless steel bodies with heavier constructions.

You may say it is surely better to use stainless steel and heavier construction everywhere, but this leads the bodies to be much heavier, which causes the need to use bigger drive motors, more power consumption, less efficiency and higher price levels.

As an example, while the American rollovers are generally using 0.75 Kw of gantry drive motors, plus related electronic drive equipment like inverters, soft start and soft stops, Europeans can do the same with only 0.37 Kw motors, which means less power consumption and cost.

Twenty years ago, it was so meaningful to have an everlasting automatic carwash system, but now, as the technological trends and designs are constantly changing, the time you need to change your system dropped down to an average of 10 years maximum.

Also, the hydraulic drive systems and pneumatic piston drives of horizontal brush equipment had limits at that time in terms of vehicle profile following. As more sophisticated electronic drive systems progressed, the profile-contour-following precision has been made so much more effective for washing and drying during the last 10 years.

Protection education over prejudice

When customers ask you if your carwash will scratch their cars, tell them a shocking “yes.” After they gasp, you can add that if you turn the conventional brushes on the muddy car without using enough water, the mud on the surface will scratch the car.

The industry leaders all accept that if you use enough water and make pre-washing conventional, brushes will clean the best.

This prejudice of brushed system carwashes scratching cars led to another big step in the carwash industry around the world: brushless systems.

The latest developments in the emollient and nozzle industries produce really good cleaning in technological carwashes that are not only active in carwashing but also in special contour vehicle washing, such as for milk tankers and chemical carrying tankers.

The new emollients manage to dissolve the mud on the surface and sweep completely over the vehicle with the usage of pressurized water with high flow rates, but not at such high pressures that they will damage the car surface. The impact nozzle technology lets manufacturers be more effective in touchless carwashing.

Also, the same pressurized water technologies allow self-service carwash bays to be more effective, consume less water and therefore be more environmental friendly.

One of the biggest advantages of the automatic carwash system is the ability to use less water by using wash water treatment and re-circulation systems.

There are mainly three trends used in the market

The first conventional trends in American and European automatic carwashing were physical ones which are mainly produced by nearly all carwash brands themselves. With this technology, you generally recycle 90 percent of the wash water.  But since you have to use fresh water for the final, spotless rinsing of the car, you can use 70 percent of the recycled water in total. Even fresh water contains various amounts of dissolved minerals that are left on the car as spots when the water evaporates. To use fresh water for rinsing water, reverse osmosis systems are being used to remove those dissolved minerals.

Now new trends in the market are biological treatment and reverse osmosis. Biological treatment uses aerobic bacteria to consume all organic material in waste water without generating odor, and as all material is eaten by those bacteria, there is not as much need for maintenance.

Nowadays, we are technologically more advanced to wash all kinds of vehicles perfectly, and more environmental friendly by using less water. The future is already clear.


Barış Ülkü, mechanical engineer, MBA, is a member of the Board of DBF Automatic Vehicle Washing Systems and can be reached at +90 (533) 643-6466 or via e-mail at baris@dbf.com.tr. He has 20 years of experience in carwash, truck wash, special vehicle wash and train wash production. He managed the engineering of the Taiwan and Perth Fast Train Washing Plants and various carwashes of the DBF Carwash Brand.