Make Changes, Make More Money
You don’t have to do a complete overhaul to revamp
your business and increase your car counts. And, whether
you’re strapped for cash, or not looking to make a lot of
changes any time soon, it certainly helps to make some
improvements to not only enhance your wash’s quality
and impress customers.
Dan Foor, owner of two Magic Wash Car Washes in
Middleton and Madison, WI, knows all about on-site
improvements. He recently added on to one of his locations
and has the following advice for other owners and
“You really have to step back and take a look at your
wash. Look at it from a customer’s point of view and see
it through their eyes,” Foor says.
Foor then suggests looking at all of the new trends in
both equipment and services. “If you aren’t upgrading,
then realize that your competition probably is.” To find
out these trends, Foor says to:
• Go to trade shows
• Read the trade magazines
• Visit your competitor
Also, according to Ted Winchester, VP of sales and marketing
at Coleman Hanna, who has been involved in the
car wash industry for more than 40 years, with low interestrates and very attractive leasing plans available, updating
and modernizing your car wash can be simple, attractive,
and make a big impact on profits and customer satisfaction.
“Now is the perfect time to improve your image and
wash performance,” says Winchester. “Take advantage
of the Section 179 tax break that expires at the end of
FIVE CHANGES AND IMPROVEMENTS TO
According to Robert Andre, President of CarWash
College, if “your car wash is getting older, you’ll want to
make it look newer and clean better.” And if you don’t
want to spend a lot of money on a complete remodel, then
here are a few things you can do:
1. GIVE YOUR FACADE A MAKEOVER
The first thing that you will want to do is give your
site a new look. How do you do this in a fashion that will
allow you to really get a different look without breaking
the bank? Do you want to change the format? Even if you
are planning on keeping the same format for the wash, the
first thing you will want to do is make the outside look
new. If you look online you will find thousands of ways to
improve your facade. If you are changing your format to a
flex service or express exterior, one thing that will give the
site a new eye catching look is to add overhead vacuum
post. The vacuum post adds a great look and gives your
customers a functionality that they love.
2. ANALYZE YOUR EXISTING EQUIPMENT
Consider adding new equipment for the cleaning
process that will allow you to wash more volume and/or
use less labor. How to you decide what pieces to keep or
replace? If you are trying to wash more volume look for
areas that might be weak and realize that as you speed
things up the problem will only become worse.
Look at things such as:
• Front and side cleaning
• Wheel cleaning.
Drying: One of the best ways to improve drying is
by adding a wet environment blower placed just after
your rinse arch or moving to a continuous drying setup.
Front and side cleaning: For cleaning, look to see if
you need to add additional equipment or if a change to
new and improved wash materials will be enough.
Wheels: For wheels you might need to look at adding
additional chemical tire applicators or new high
pressure equipment that can track the movement of the
If you are looking to reduce labor, look at the areas
in which your employees are spending the most time.
One area that you can save yourself a lot of time is in the
drying process. Today with new wash material technology it is possible to add equipment that will give your
cars a hand dried finish and add to the shine.
3. GOT A TUNNEL? ADD ON CHEMICAL
APPLICATORS AND ADD A “WOW” FACTOR
Adding chemical applicators that will give your customers
a great show and add to the overall shine of the
vehicles. More car wash locations are trending toward
customers staying in the vehicles as they go through the
car wash. Look at this as an opportunity to give your customers
a new experience.
You can start the process with an applicator at the
entrance of the wash that adds a thin layer of multiple colors
of soap. You can further add to the experience by using
multiple color LED lights or using a projector to display
multiple messages on the front window of the vehicle.
After that you can add your triple foam and it will
cut through the other soap and add to the “wow” factor.
Some products will add a low pH application to make
the painted and chrome surfaces of the car shine. This
application will usually have a different color from the
previous soaps used.
Then the last step is to add a multiple color paint
sealant that will add a shine and protectant to the vehicle surface. Yet, some systems will just use a wax placed in
the middle of the tunnel with a light that will protect the
finish and add to the shine. Regardless of the process you
decide to use, the main thing is you have to give a show
and a noticeable difference in the end product.
Is hot wax the hottest new trend?
It’s not necessarily brand new to the industry, but
as of late, it’s getting a lot more buzz. According to
Tom Hoffman Jr., chief executive officer of Hoffman
of Hoffman Development Corp. which owns 24 car
washes throughout New York State said it is the best
performing “on line” product they’ve ever sold.
“Our customers can feel it on their vehicle,” he
says. “It also has great beading during the rain and
it adds protection and a great shine. They bring back
their spouses vehicles to get it applied. That hasn’t
happened just once. It happens often.”
Hoffman says they offer it for $5 a la carte and
sell it to 15 percent with full service washes and 6.5
percent at exteriors.
4. PROMOTE, PROMOTE, PROMOTE
You will need to market any changes to your customers.
Now is the best time to introduce new wash packages
and price points to your customers. When decidingon what type of menu to use, ask around and look for
what’s working at other wash locations. One style that
is fast gaining acceptance as a ticket raising design is the
ICON™. This style uses icons with pictures to explain the
services. People find this easy to read because they are
always looking at icons on all of their electronic devices.
The other unique feature is the large jump in price from
the basic wash to the next package. The jump in price also
adds a lot of value and gives people a reason to buy up.
You can combine your menu with pay station graphics
that match the menu so customers can quickly identify the
packages from the menu.
• Gate arms
• Wind master signs and more
They can all be used to really brand and market
your services. You should also create flyers or tri-folds
explaining the new services and how the benefit the
customer and their vehicles.
5. UPGRADE YOUR STAFF
The last and final thing to upgrade at the wash - your
staff. Use any down time to train the staff on all of the
proper procedures that you want them to use. During the
down time it is also a good time to get rid of the people
that you know are not going to accept the changes and
hire new people.
I also recommend getting all your people into uniforms,
I am not talking about t-shirts. Remember all the money
you’re spending to upgrade your image, these people will be
the face of that image to every customer. Look into nice shirts
and pants that will give the image you’re going for.
I also recommend using this as a time to introduce a uniform
service. A uniform service will allow your employees
to always be in a clean uniform and the costs are probably a
lot less than you think.
Andre also adds, “One thing that is often overlooked
before any kind of remodel or installation is informing your
customers ahead of time. Be sure to let them know things like
how long the wash is going to be closed, why it is going to
be closed and include a coupon to comeback to try your best
wash package once you reopen.”
In revIew: here are the top thIngs to try
• Clean up your site
• Replace old signage
• Add on a wet environment blower
• Add on chemical applicators
• Introduce new wash packages and price points
• Brand any new services with gate arms or wind
• Upgrade your staff
• Look into getting nicer uniforms
• Add wheel cleaning components
• Replace old and worn out rollovers
• Try a retrofit in-bay automatic
• Implement new payment methods (credit card
and bill acceptors)
• Updating bay meters, bay doors, booms
• Repair and improve pump pressures and chemical
According to Winchester, conveyor owners and operators
should consider focusing on one critical area such as
“Wheel cleaning components are easy to install in
existing locations, they take up a small amount of conveyor
length, and improve wash quality while increasing
customer satisfaction,” Winchester says. “Adding a tire
shine applicator offers an additional revenue generating
service and is highly desired by consumers. Investing in a
spot free system can eliminate unwanted water spots from
forming on the clean vehicle’s surface.
FOR IN-BAY AUTOMATICS
In-bay automatic owners can benefit from replacing
old and worn out rollovers while still using existing pump stations and rail systems, according to
“Using a retrofit in-bay automatic system allows the
operator to save thousands of dollars while still installing
a new machine in the bay,” he says. “New machines
attract new customers and help keep them satisfied
with improved wash quality, faster wash times, and
Self-serve operators should focus on the customer
experience in the bay and at the vacuums, says Winchester.
“Implementing new payment methods, such as credit
card and bill acceptors, makes it easier for the customer to
pay and projects a modernized image,” Winchester says.
Also, “replacing old signage can make old equipment
look new. Repairing and improving pump pressures and
chemical flow rates can make a big impact on your customers
Also Winchester suggests updating:
• Bay meters
• Bay doors, and
by Debra Gorgos, Editor, Professional Carwashing & Detailing