Maintenance for your Car Wash

Tools & Resources

“Little Things Add Up: Three Ways to Save Money”
Blendco Systems Tip of the Month – October 2011
Steve Arnovick, Blendco National Sales Manager, can be contacted at

With so much focus being put on conservation and our economy these days, things such as reusing and recycling water, energy efficient equipment and eco-friendly chemicals are becoming prevalent topics in today's car wash industry. Along with these very important areas, which can largely affect the environmental and economic aspects of a car wash, there are other, sometimes ignored, measures which can have an impact as well.

First, I recommend checking for water leaks. I frequently visit car washes throughout the country and commonly see multiple small leaks at a single site. These leaks may seem inconsequential considering the volume of water used at a typical car wash; however, according to USGS data, a single small drip can leak over 2000 gallons of water a year! If you have several of these, you could be wasting 6000+ gallons in a single year. Depending upon the type of wash you operate, that annual leakage could wash as many as 400 vehicles! To make matters worse, some leaks not only hemorrhage water, but chemical as well, further exacerbating the economic and environmental waste. Most of these leaks can be fixed easily, in many cases by simply applying Teflon tape to the joint or by re-tightening.

Next, take measures to prevent chemical waste. I often see uncovered chemical containers which allow for potential contamination and evaporation of some ingredients. This is another issue which invites waste. One solution is to drill a hole through the container cap or bung screw and thread the delivery line through it. This will help alleviate this problem.

Lastly, make it a point to check timers and clean photocells that control your site's lighting. I frequently notice lighting that is activated unnecessarily. You wouldn't want to operate your location with inadequate lighting, but, at the same time, there is no sense in having security or bay lighting turned on in bright sunlight!

These are just a few conditions you may notice at your wash that, once rectified, will help you save dollars and the environment. Small things can and do add up to large things, and any time we can save a buck – we earn a buck – and the planet thanks you too!


“Get Ready for the Business”
CarWash College™ Tip of the Month – November 2011 (originally published 2009)
Robert Andre, President of CarWash College™, can be reached at

At CarWash College™ I often get the question, "Why does the car wash break when it's busy?" Well that's not always true, though it can seem that way. I am going to give you some tips to make sure the wash is ready for the busy season. Let's break it down into two areas; Tunnel Equipment and Back Room Equipment.

Tunnel Equipment

The conveyor needs to be ready to accept the influx of cars we are all hoping for. The main thing is to make sure the chain and rollers are going to make it through the season. If not, replace them now. Ensure the chain is tight, removing links if necessary. Look at the drive sprocket for signs of wear and check for alignment. Do the same for the take-up. Clean the pit out as well, so you start the season off right.

Cloth needs to be clean and have enough penetration to clean the vehicles. Look for any missing or damaged cloth that might need to be replaced. The rule of thumb is that the cloth should have 3"- 4" of penetration. That means there should be 3"- 4" of cloth laying flat on the vehicle surface. If not, you can adjust some equipment to get the desired amount. If after achieving the 3-4 inches of penetration the remaining cloth is shorter than half the distance from the cloth to the hub, it is time to replace.

Bearings need to be inspected for signs they might be getting ready to fail, look for over greasing, broken seals, lose shafts etc. In addition to checking for failure, they should be greased. When greasing the bearings be sure not to over grease as it could cause failure. Most bearings only require two to three pumps of grease each.

Nozzles need to be checked for wear. I recommend replacing nozzles annually to prevent excessive chemical and water usage. Now would be a good time to start fresh, and replace them this time every year going forward.

Back Room Equipment

Power Packs need to have the oil level and quality checked. Add or replace oil if needed. Now is also a good time to check the low level switch for operation and the overall system for leaks. Look at the filter to see if it needs to be changed. Filters should be changed annually.

High Pressure Pumps need to be checked for proper operation. Ensure they are running at the right pressure and have oil inside. The belts should be checked for wear and replaced if any signs of wear are shown.

Air Compressors should have all the filters cleaned or replaced. Check the oil level, and quality, in the pump. The belts should be checked for wear and replaced if any signs of wear are shown. Check for any leaks in the system and repair immediately.

Chemical Pumps need to have all foot and check valves tested. Clean out all mixing tanks and check pump pressures. Ensure the chemical is giving even coverage to the vehicle and being applied at the right strength.

Doing the above should help you get started on the right foot for the busy season. If doing these simple checks can help eliminate just one breakdown, it could potentially save you thousands of dollars. If you have any questions or would like more information, don't hesitate to contact me.


“Common Sense Maintenance Tips”
NECA E-Newsletter – September 2011
Steven M. Crowell, Sales and Customer Service for Autowash Maintenance Corp., can be contacted at

Sometimes the small things are what matter most. The following describes some basic maintenance practices that are too often overlooked on a daily basis.


For all of your basic everyday nozzle benefits, and to ensure your wash performs professionally, proper application is a must. Tunnel arches are probably one of the worst contributors to increased water consumption and wasted amounts of chemicals. The tunnel nozzles should be replaced on a yearly basis. High pressure applications should be checked for wear every 3 to 6 months. Prep guns and self serve nozzles should be replaced every 6 months. Just the slightest wear can add up to hundreds of gallons of water being wasted on a daily basis. Spray patterns are often overlooked, so it is very important to make sure the angle of spray is to benefit the application. It only takes a moment to clean a blocked nozzle.

Your supplier should be able to give you a chart that better explains this, or you can go to the web site of any of the manufacturers of the nozzles for the different varieties being made for the carwash industry. When your customers go through your wash, they can see everything being applied properly, as well as things that aren’t. Give them their dog and pony show!


Chains and rollers for the tunnel are the heartbeat that moves the cars through your business. Therefore, these items MUST be inspected on a daily basis. Inspect the cotter pins, roller plastics and even the drive sprocket for a saw blade pitch which will make a clicking sound from the chain dragging and causing unnecessary wear. If the chain is loose, remove links to keep the chain true and taut. Remember to grease the take-up section where ever there is a grease fitting and to remove excess grease. The build-up of dirt will prevent proper movement. Also, keep the area free of debris. For example, soda cans and bottles can get dragged through the conveyor and wreak havoc on sensitive parts, such as pulse switches and roller detector eyes.

Side Brushes, Tire Brushes, and Mitters

These units all have bearings, so always remember to grease them and remove the excess grease. The bearing needs to be greased once a week to maintain proper lubrication and ensure maximum life. This will result in less downtime.


“Winterizing Your Wash”
Lustra™ Tip of the Month – September 2011
Mark Brock, Vice President of Marketing, Lustra Car Care Products For more information, go to
No matter where your wash is located, seasonal checks are a must to prevent downtime, avoid costly repairs and dissatisfied customers. Here are a few things you can do to avoid problems this upcoming season.

In-Bay Automatic and Self-Serve:

  • Check floor heating units. Check the thermostat for proper operation. Set to optimum setting and make sure timers are operable and properly set. Make sure all valves open and close properly. Check for leaks and tighten fittings if required.
  • Weep systems are vital in cold weather to prevent damage to the wash equipment and plumbing due to freezing. Make sure they are functioning properly and are timed correctly.
  • Make sure doors are operating properly, free of debris and timed properly. Many systems can be set to operate according to outside temperature as well as time of day.
  • Check all other fittings throughout the system for leaks and loose connections. Check for proper water and air pressure. This is so important to ensure that your wash is operating at peak performance.
  • Check nozzles out in the wash to be sure they are free from debris. Replace any that are worn or damaged and make sure they are properly sized for optimum performance.
  • In-Bay Automatic: Check blower operation. Make sure air flow is proper. Check for cracks in fan blades and make sure that oscillating units are unobstructed and move freely.
  • Make sure to run a test wash after maintenance is completed and make any necessary adjustments.

In addition to the above, check these points in tunnel operations:

  • Check all arches to make sure they are functioning properly. Inspect motors, bearings and rotating arms to identify worn or damaged parts to be replaced.
  • When checking conveyors, make sure the chain is tight. Check hydraulic fittings for leaks and add fluids as needed.
  • Check the condition of wraps and replace worn or damaged material. Ensure rotation is in alignment with manufacturer's recommendations. Make sure wrap unit resistance is set appropriately and that it swings freely.

Once adjusted and tested, your wash will be ready for a season of service.

Now is also the time to think about chemicals you will require for the season to offer your customers a great wash experience. Products with added antifreeze for the winter months are crucial to winter operations. Make sure snow removal equipment is on-site and in good condition. If you use a service for snow removal, be sure to call and confirm your agreement so your wash will be ready after that first big storm.

Taking the time to make a detailed check of your wash in advance of any season is the smart way to run your business. Winter can offer special challenges and a wash that is prepared and at peak performance will keep your customers satisfied.

Ready to become a Member?