Going Beyond the Catalog Approach for Car Wash Equipment
Brush manufacturer willingness to customize a range of options is helping operators adapt to market changes and optimize their process
In the conveyor car wash industry everyone wins when car wash owner-operators can thrive by offering customers a better wash while still maintaining a healthy profit margin.
Yet as vehicle dimensions change and people further customize their cars and wheels, the standard catalog options are often not enough to get vehicles clean without taking additional time, labor, and resources. While modifications to standard catalog equipment options can accommodate these changes, traditionally most manufacturers – particularly those overseas – are not willing to do this.
However, some North American brush manufacturers are aiming for a more collaborative approach with operators. This includes customizing a wide number of options, such as special colors that correspond with your logo, foam taper and length, cloth taper and length, or filament taper, length, width, height, longevity, and even mounting capability. These allow an owner to accommodate market changes and provide a superior wash while enhancing the bottom line.
Cleaner Wheels for Less
For Earl Weiss, owner of four conveyor car wash locations in Chicago, IL, one of the biggest challenges is cleaning wheels when dirt and brake dust gets into the nooks and crannies and typical cloth or foam material does not sufficiently get it out.
“If you run a low price exterior wash, it really hurts your profit margin to spend an extra 20-30 cents a car for high pressure water and cleaning solutions, plus the cost of electricity and equipment, just for the wheels,” says Weiss.
Weiss believes he has found a better, less costly approach to clean wheels that uses his existing equipment with some modification from his supplier, Erie Brush & Manufacturing (eriebrush.com), a Chicago, IL-based manufacturer of car wash products and detailing supplies that has invested in a wide range of equipment to accommodate customer preferences.
He has customized his rocker panel, side, and wrap around brushes, substituting filament for cloth in a number of areas, such as on the bottom 10” for lower details, and on the bottom 20” for van high side brushes.
“Using equipment rotating in opposite directions, I clean the wheel about four times with filament,” says Weiss. “I get a nice clean wheel at a much lower cost than using high pressure water and cleaning solutions.”
The key to this, says Weiss, is how Erie figured out a way that allows filaments to easily slide into the c-channel core that secures cloth and foam to his rocker panel, side, and wrap around brushes.
“The filament pieces slide in and out so I don’t have to change brush cores,” says Weiss. “I just tell my equipment supplier the length and height of filaments I want, and I get them. I’m experimenting to find the best combination of filament and cloth.”
Weiss encourages other car wash owner operators to think “out of the box” by going beyond standard brush options.
“Car wash equipment manufacturers may think they have the latest and greatest, but until it is put into operation they don’t really know what the issues will be,” says Weiss. “I’ve found that customizing my brushes and filaments gives me the flexibility I need to optimize my wash process.”
Custom Cleaning Coverage
As maintenance manager for the Boise, Idaho region of Mister Carwash, the largest full-service car wash chain in the United States, Tim Biagi is always looking to improve operations.
To optimize cleaning for a variety of challenging vehicle types, Biagi experiments with the taper of certain brushes and with cloth and foam lengths. Instead of the stepped brush filaments common in the industry, which resemble “stair steps” and leave a coverage gap between each “step”, he prefers tapered brushes from his brush manufacturer, which he feels provide better cleaning coverage over vehicle surfaces.
“We may change the taper on the upper part of a wrap around or van brush, so the brush taper better fits the contours of the vehicles we clean, which have become more aerodynamic and less boxy over the years,” says Biagi. “We change cloth or foam length to better clean the tops of taller vehicles like vans, trucks, or SUVs. Our supplier will modify brush taper as well as cloth and foam length to our specifications.”
To reach higher on tall vehicles, which have grown taller in the market, he also requested a taller rocker panel brush. This required a longer custom brush core and an adapter plate. “Our original rocker panel brush was 21” high, and the ones we use now are 26” high,” says Biagi.
When he noted that his high volume operation was wearing out rocker panel brush cores too quickly, he contacted his brush manufacturer to see what could be done to lengthen life.
“They created a core with a special coating that has extended our brush core life by at least 50%, and we haven’t changed it yet,” says Biagi.
He again sought the help of his brush manufacturer to handle the faster wear at the bottom of his wrap around foam brush cores, due to the many vehicles with trailer hitches going through his washes.
“The bottom part of the brush core was wearing out twice as fast as the top, so they made us a two piece core,” says Biagi. “This makes it easy to replace the bottom part separately to further lengthen core life.”
Getting into Tight Spots
When Doug Seniw, co-owner of Prairie State Express Car Wash, an exterior express car wash in Chicago, IL, sought a better way to clean vehicle nooks and crannies, which have become more common with modern styling, he turned to his brush manufacturer.
“On automated equipment, the wider cloth and foam slits just don’t clean well because they don’t get into tight spots, such as car styling grooves or under and around side mirrors,” says Seniw. “There are a lot of missed spots.”
Seniw requested custom narrow cloth and foam slits for his tall side cloths, lower detail cloths, and wrap around brushes.
“With the thinner slitted strips Erie provided, we’re cleaning nooks and crannies much better,” says Seniw. “Our mirrors, bumpers, and license plates are cleaner. We clean it once, we clean it right, and we get no customer comebacks or touch ups.”
As operators work with manufacturers that customize brush and filament options to suit these changes, they will not only wash vehicles better and more efficiently, but also more profitably.
For more information, call 800-711-3743 (ERIE) in US, 773-477-9620 internationally; Fax 800-798-3743 (ERIE) in US, 773-477-6030 internationally; email firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.eriebrush.com; or write to Erie at 860 West Fletcher St., Chicago, IL 60657.