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20 Best Equipment You Need to Start a Car Wash

Are you about starting a car wash business? If YES, here are 20 equipment and materials needed to run a car wash business, their uses and how much they cost.

The goal of every car wash business is to have equipment capable of working in continuous service and provide a profitable operation. The price you will budget for the equipment your business needs depends on numerous factors, including the sort of car wash you open, the brand of equipment you choose to buy and your location.

Equipment for a self – serve car wash generally runs around $8,000 – $10,000 per bay. Equipment for an automatic unit can cost within $31,000 – $49,000 per bay. However, one crucial way you can help yourself out when it comes to general equipment maintenance is by buying high – quality equipment in the first place.

If you buy the cheapest option, there is a good probability it will break down before long regardless of the maintenance you perform on it. Instead, buy quality equipment that will last.

It will cost more up front, but it will save you money in both maintenance and lost business if you have to shut down due to equipment failure. When purchasing new equipment, always make sure to buy equipment that will be easy to maintain.

No matter how many fancy bells a piece of equipment has, be wary of buying it unless it looks as though it will be easy to maintain.

Another way to maximize your maintenance and repair budget is to get your car wash outfitted with high – quality chemical supplies and products. No matter what kind of car wash you establish, it is likely you will need the following equipment:

Car Wash Equipment and Materials

  1. Blowers/Dryers

Dryers are a vital equipment that blows water off vehicles at the conclusion of the wash process. Customers expect their vehicles to be dry after a wash and may become displeased if they have to towel it off themselves. The most efficient dryer systems have a balance of carefully placed air producers that enhance performance.

Those options can include oscillating nozzles and air stream direction – changing nozzles to help dry rear areas of vehicles.

Another fitting option for many dryers is a silencer package to reduce noise. Dryers can easily be one of the noisiest pieces of carwash equipment, but these packages can keep you within the acceptable regulations of 85 decibels for an eight – hour workday.

Estimated Cost: $800 – $35,000

  1. Brushes

Note that the quality of your car wash’s brushes can make or break your business. Because brushes are used extensively, they could wear out sooner than other equipment; as a result, it is usually best to invest in higher quality brushes from the start in order to maximize their usefulness and save money in the long run.

In conveyor/tunnel carwashes, the main brushes used are top brushes, which descend on an arm from above and roll over the top of the vehicle; wraparounds, which stand on the sides of the tunnel and spin to clean the front, sides and rear of the vehicle; mitre curtains, which are suspended lengths of brush that oscillate to clean the top surfaces of vehicles; wheel and tire brushes; and rockers/low side washers (LSWs), which sit low and spin to clean the rocker panel area of a vehicle.

Advancement in technology has given room for cleaner, shinier cars. In closed cell foam brushes, disconnected, microscopic bubbles in the foam prevent dirt and liquid from seeping into the brush. In addition, this technology is gentler on vehicles since the brushes do not absorb water and weigh significantly less.

All of these brushes can be manufactured with this technology and have contributed to resurgence in popularity for IBA brushes (which can include wraps and top brushes).

Estimated Cost: $40 – $2,800

  1. Signage

Although this is not equipment used in the wash process itself, is an important part of the customer experience, as it can entice, deter, inform or confuse customers. Obviously, you want your signage to entice and inform rather than deter and confuse.

Brightly – lit, colourful, engaging signs that are well – maintained (i.e., they don’t flicker or have burnt out bulbs) can pull a customer off the road and to your wash.

Note that large, colourful menus with easy-to-read fonts and just enough description about your wash packages (not too much or too little) set before the payment terminals can help your customers decide on their purchases beforehand, increasing speed and efficiency at the wash.

Estimated Cost: $75 – $5,000

  1. Payment Kiosks

You can forget this if you have a carwash attendant handling your payment transactions. Point – of – sale (POS) systems are optimal for conveyor/tunnel and IBA washes, while meter boxes are preferable for Self – serves. In this age, POS systems can handle not only payment processing but also tunnel operations and human resource tasks.

POS systems coordinate with a tunnel controller or IBA system to give the customer the wash him or her purchases; furthermore, they can integrate with your wash’s accounting software to make revenue computations easier. In addition, since customers are making transactions through these systems, the kiosks can even help up sell them when paired with the proper messaging and programming.

Have it in mind the metered boxes at self – service carwashes provide the same basic payment transaction service as POS systems but are better tailored for this type of carwash. They allow a customer to insert coins, bills or cards; select the specific functions desired (using a row of labelled buttons); and start the clock.

Estimated Cost: $900 – $1200

  1. Nozzles

This equipment maybe small compared to other carwash equipment, nozzles can have a high impact on wash quality, and therefore, on profitability. Nozzles come in a wide variety of types (flat – spray, high – impact streams, low – impact wide angles, etc.), and choosing the wrong one can increase operating costs as well as shorten the life of pumps.

Although nozzles are certainly important to rollover washes, they are critical to touch – free washes, as the nozzles should perform uniformly in order to achieve total coverage and optimal wash results. Improved high pressure chemical delivery systems and nozzles are not only leading to better wash results nowadays, but they also help owners cut down on costs.

Estimated Cost: $75 – $4000

  1. Conveyor/Tunnel Carwash Equipment

Conveyor / tunnel carwashes, which are most often used in the express exterior, full service and flex – serve formats, are more or less the most expensive carwashes to build and operate because of the multitude of equipment needed. However, what you can expect to spend for this equipment will vary.

The size of your tunnel — from a 50 – foot mini tunnel to a 150 – foot express tunnel — will dramatically affect this number.

Estimated Cost: $200,000 to $750,000

  1. Vacuums

Note there are two main vacuum systems used at carwashes: central vacuum systems and canister vacuums. Central vacuum systems have really taken over the standalone vacuum canister market in recent years, due to the high demand for new express carwash sites.

A standalone vacuum still has its place for washes and/or fuel stations with less traffic and footprint, but the express central vacuum system has become one of the greatest attractions of both new and retrofitted carwashes. With a central vacuum system, a single, central motor in the equipment room or down the line provides the power and suction for multiple vacuum hoses.

By equipping it with a variable frequency drive (VFD), this system even has the power to regulate how much energy it uses (and, therefore, how much suction it provides), based on the amount of customers. Here, hoses are generally suspended full – length from arches or booms.

Aside the central vacuum system, each standalone canister vacuum has a high – speed motor inside it. As such, these vacuums tend to be louder and noisy. They also require more maintenance than a central vacuum system, since you are dealing with multiple canisters as opposed to one central system.

Estimated Cost: $100 – $58,000

  1. Water Treatment Systems

These systems that use recycled water are quickly becoming required equipment for carwashes in many parts of the country. Not only can they help reduce your water bill, but they make your carwash more environmentally friendly. There are three types of water treatment systems commonly used in professional car washing: reverse osmosis (RO), water reclaim and water restoration.

RO systems use a pump that increases pressure on the feed side of equipment to force water through one or more semi permeable membranes in order to remove 96 to 99 percent of all total dissolved solids (TDS) from it. Water reclaim systems — usually standalone systems — allow your carwash to draw water from the carwash settling tanks, process it and send the clean water back to the equipment to reuse.

Water restoration systems use cyclonic separation to filter solids down to five microns. In terms of odour and clarity management, these systems use aeration to induce oxidation.

Water storage tanks, which store runoff water, are needed for water treatment systems and are typically underground. They are also known as clarifier, settling or oil / water separator tanks. These tanks allow heavier sediment from the wash water to settle to the bottom while lighter sediment, such as oil, rises to the top.

Estimated Cost: $125,000 – $250,000

  1. Arches

Arches dispense water and cleaning solutions onto cars as they pass underneath. There are two modern types of arches: entry arches and application arches.

An entry arch is the first arch a customer will see in the tunnel. While application arches have the option of being bare – bones equipment, entry arches give you the opportunity to make a great first impression using colourful design and messaging.

This sort of arch can provide the customer with information about how to behave during the wash (car in neutral, foot off the brake, etc.) as well as reaffirm which wash was purchased.

They can even provide light and animation shows. Application arches can be as colourfully designed as the entry arch and hide the actual dispensing equipment, or they can be simple dispensing arches themselves. A carwash will have multiple arches for specific uses.

Estimated Cost: $400 – $8,000

  1. Applicator Pump Stations

Applicator pump stations efficiently dilute chemical solutions with water and mix them. Thereafter, they deliver those solutions to the corresponding application devices, such as foam applicators and arches.

Estimated Cost: $600 – $2000

  1. Anti – Collision Systems

Although not so important to the wash process itself, experts argue that anti – collision systems are practically necessary in tunnel washes these days. These systems detect vehicles at the end of the conveyor and will automatically stop and start the conveyor to prevent collisions.

Therefore, not only do they prevent accidents from happening, but they also reduce income loss and can keep tunnel exits safer for employees and customers.

Estimated Cost: $1200 – $2000

  1. Air Compressors

Air compressors are known to convert electrical energy into potential energy in the form of pressurized air, which can then be delivered to pneumatic or robotic tools/equipment or used directly. Such tools include pneumatic pumps and air controls (such as for roller ups, flips and retracts).

Estimated Cost: $900 – $1400

  1. Self – Service Carwash Equipment

Note that the amount of self – service carwash equipment required falls in between the single entity of the IBA and the multitude of parts needed for a tunnel carwash. Nonetheless, self – serve carwashes have multiple bays and, therefore, require multiples of the same equipment.

  • Estimated Cost: $25,000 – $200,000

14. IBA Carwash Equipment

These carwashes are generally ordered as compact, whole structures from a manufacturer. While this makes the purchase process easier, there are two different IBA formats that will determine the type of carwash equipment used: cloth friction (rollover) and touch – free.

Cloth friction washes use brushes to clean vehicles, while touch – free systems rely on arms with nozzles to spray water and chemicals onto a vehicle.

Estimated Cost: $50,000 – $98,000

15. Undercarriage Wash

Undercarriage wash applicators rinse the under body of a vehicle, this is done by delivering high volumes of wash water in order to remove dirt and salt. These applicators can also be used to deliver rust inhibitors.

  • Estimated Cost: $750 – $2300

16. Tunnel Controllers

Tunnel controllers are crucial to tunnel carwashes, as they organize a variety of tunnel tasks, from inputs and outputs to accurate wash control, including the timing of wash components and the application of chemicals.

The controller measures vehicles and serves as a go – between for the equipment and motor – control centre, turning equipment on and off depending on the wash selected. They may also include vehicle profiling technology, which uses sound waves to map out a profile of the vehicle.

This technology can be useful especially for problem vehicles such as pickup trucks, which present issues with open beds. Tunnel controllers with vehicle profiling, for instance, can keep a top wrap from descending into a truck bed (or make it descend only partially in order to clean the back window of the truck) or keep arches from spraying chemicals into it.

  • Estimated Cost: $2700 – $15,000

17. High Pressure Equipment

This equipment uses pressurized water to flush dirt out of areas where brushes and other friction equipment cannot reach. There are high pressure side washers, top washers and washers that target the lower portion of the vehicle. These components are often overlooked by new carwash owners, as they feel they don’t need them.

However, since this equipment can remove tough grit like mud and salt, it can only improve the wash process when paired with friction equipment. Prep guns, or pressure washers, use high pressure water to prep hard – to – clean vehicles and wash down tunnel equipment and buildings.

  • Estimated Cost: $350 – $9000

18. Pump Stands/Racks

Pump stands take your incoming water, whether cold or hot (the latter of which requires a boiler), and mixes the chemical solutions. The pump stand also sends those solutions to the bays.

Note that the pump stand usually has both a high pressure pump for each bay for the water and a low pressure pump for each low pressure solution (soaps and waxes). The rack also includes an electrical cabinet that takes the signals sent from the bays and turns on the appropriate pump and opens the appropriate valve to send out the requested water or chemical.

  • Estimated Cost: $90 – $4200

19. Guns, Hoses, Wands, And Booms

Hoses connect the booms to the guns to deliver water and chemicals. Guns are the trigger mechanism that lets customers turn the chemical and water spray on or off. Wands attach to the end of the gun and are fitted with an assortment of spray tips and nozzles.

Booms are swivelling, metal arms meant to both deliver water and chemicals to the bays and to keep hoses from dragging on the floor. Booms can be mounted either to the ceiling (providing 360 – degree coverage) or to the wall (providing 180 – degree coverage).

At a minimum, you will need one high pressure gun and one foam brush per bay. Additionally, there are several additional hoses you can hang from the ceiling, including an air blower, wheel brush, low pressure clear – coat or wax and more.

  • Estimated Cost: $1600 – $5000