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The current and future state
of the East Coast CARWASH


Local carwash professionals talk shop


In today’s shaky economic climate, making a major purchase requires much more thought than it may have several years ago, when credit was more easily obtainable, and at a lower cost than it is currently. One does not have to look too far to see the effect this economic downturn is having on the automotive industry, as new car sales plummet.

Bob Greenwood

 

America’s big three auto manufacturers are begging governments for bailouts in the billions of dollars due to flagging sales. In this case, the drop in domestic car sales cannot be blamed on the influx of foreign models, since automobile manufacturers worldwide are experiencing the same problems.

Obviously, if fewer new cars are being sold, consumers are keeping their current cars longer, thus increasing the need for a proper maintenance program for their cars, to maintain service and resale value. While most car owners are aware of the necessity of following the manufacturer’s recommendations for regular service, many may not be aware of the important role the local car wash plays in this regard.

For businesses involved in the automotive aftermarket eg. service stations, the addition of a car wash at their business location can be an important source of income. For the car owner, a regular washing regimen can add significantly to the automobile’s life span and resale value. There are many car wash locations in Atlantic Canada, either connected to existing businesses or operating as stand-along car washes. Likewise, there are a number of companies supplying the automotive industry with the hardware, chemicals and expertise to enable businesses and individuals the opportunity to operate a successful car wash.

Auto Atlantic talked to two of these suppliers to get a feel for what car washes mean, both to the businesses and to automobile owners.

Maritime Car Wash is located in Wellington, NS and supplies PDQ Vehicle Wash Systems and Westmatic Truck Wash Systems. We talked with President Gordon Ryan. Adams Car Wash Systems offers the Ryko Automotive line of friction and roll-over car, truck, bus and van washes. We talked to owner Marc Adams.

Both companies, as do others in the industry, provide a full service for their customers, beginning with the initial planning stages, building layout, equipment and supplies, and follow it up with regular service. As Gordon Ryan explains: “Typically, we would point you in the right direction. Basically we’re set up with a lot of good experienced car wash contractors. We would set (a new operator) up with the appropriate professional people to get their project off the ground and we would provide them with the advice and the information they would require, along with state of the art equipment and our cleaning chemicals.”





“It’s all about location,” Marc Adams adds. “We would work alongside the building designer and/or engineer. I would supply the specs and service requirements, the electrical requirements, the space that we require and work alongside the designer/engineer to make sure everything comes together in the end.” There are a number of things to take into consideration when designing a car wash, either as an addition to an existing business, such as a service station or other automotive supplier, or as a stand-alone car wash.

Easy access is a very important consideration. “Having a proper line up so that people can feel comfortable when they are coming into the lot,” Adams says. “The more comfortable for the customer, the more repeat business you are going to have.” Follow-up after the construction and opening of the car wash is equally important, both agree, although they take slightly different routes to ensure the best service possible. “We provide the equipment and chemical products,” Ryan says. “We have a product called “Ecolab”, and we deliver it and monitor consumption and we deliver the product as they require it.” “We depend on the operator,” Adams says. “We work quite closely with the operator so they understand the operation of the wash and the chemicals as well, they understand when the chemicals start to get low, and when it’s the right time to replenish so they don’t get stuck without any chemicals on hand, and have to shut the car wash down.”

“A car wash can be your second biggest revenue generator in any operation where you have cross merchandising,” Adams adds. “A proper car wash will provide a good revenue generator if you follow what the manufacturer’s advise to enable you to have a top quality wash.” Both Adams and Ryan stress that it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when it comes to chemistry and service procedures. Cutting back on chemicals may save a bit of expense, but will not provide the best results, and can result in a loss of business.





The two are in agreement that, as far as business for the professional car washes goes, the winter months of January February and March are the busiest time. “January, February and March, volume wise, would probably exceed the rest of the year,” Ryan says. Adams agrees. “On a clear day this time of year, especially if the roads are fairly dry, a lot of people will visit a professional car wash just to get the road salt and grime off their vehicle.” “It’s also a safety issue, because if you have a lot of salt caked on your windows restricting your vision, and all of a sudden you’re driving into the sun, you can find yourself in a very dangerous situation.”

Both are also quick to point out that, with today’s car wash systems and chemicals, the fear of frozen doors and locks following a car wash has virtually been eliminated. “Typically, we have really good dryer systems that dry the vehicle,” Ryan explains. “We also use a product that’s used in most car wash systems called a drying agent that makes the car dry pretty fast, it makes the water shield off the car. In very, very cold weather, it is common to have freeze ups, but usually, as long as you drive the car for 10-15 minutes after a wash it usually dries everything up pretty good that it’s not a problem.”

Both recommend washing the car at least twice a week during the winter months.
“To adequately clean the car and keep it properly, you should be washing the car twice a week,” Ryan advises. “That will take care of the heavy road grime and keep the salt from the crevices and cracks underneath the vehicle.” Ryan also points out that: “All touch-free systems nowadays have a wonderful under carriage system which blasts really well underneath the car to remove the salt and grime.”

Our experts agree that frequent washing of your vehicle adds to the value of the car. “It’s going to cut down on the amount of rust and corrosion you’re going to have on your vehicle over the life span of it,” Adams explains. Both also agree in the importance of regular washing in the summer months, and also the importance of using automatic car washes for this chore. “Last year, because of the way the fuel prices went up, there was a lot less people buying car washes when they went in to buy their fuel,” Adams says. “If you’re used to washing your car once every two weeks or every week through the summer and now you’re only doing it once every three or four weeks, well, you’re going to see an accumulation of road film and grime and your car’s not going to stay as clean as it was.”





Summer washing brings up another subject that is important to both our experts, environment consciousness. “Some people are still washing their cars in their driveway,” Adams states. “A lot of that water goes untreated right into the ground and into the storm sewers.” “There’s still people hand washing their cars on the side of the road,” Ryan points out. “That water is just all going down the storm drains. You’ve got chemicals, and you’ve got dirty oil off the car contaminating that discharged water.”

Ryan points out that a new car wash in Chester has spent a lot of money and expense to build a site that uses very little water and treats and reclaims the water. Adams added that “many communities in Canada are becoming environmentally conscious and have banned residential car washing. They require new installations of car washes include an onsite used water recycling system, thereby reducing the amount of water used, and ensuring that contaminated water doesn’t end up damaging our ground water system.”

CarWash Industry Profile


The professional car wash industry cleans the world’s automobiles in the safest, most convenient and environmentally responsible manner.  With more vehicles on the road and more car washes being purchased by motorists than ever before, this industry’s best days are still to come.  What began with single location businesses begun in the post World War II-era to satisfy North Americans’ love of the automobile has grown into a complex international industry.





The industry can generally be organized along the lines of supplier and retailer.  Suppliers include equipment and solutions manufacturers as well as distributors.  Retailers include professional car wash companies operating in one or more segments: self serve, in-bay automatic (also known as stationary automatic or roll-over) and conveyor.

Professional car washing today features complex series of equipment, solutions and technological systems to wash cars more safely and effectively than ever before.  Compared to driveway or parking lot car washing, professional car washing is also the more environmentally conscious way to clean an automobile, as effluent is routed to treatment facilities as opposed to the curb and its eventual drain to rivers, lakes and streams. For more information about professional car washing, contact the International Carwash Association at carwash.org.

About The Author: Mr. Terry Waterfield is a highly experienced contributor to Auto Atlantic.

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