9 Car-Wash Innovations and Trends

As the International Carwash Association put the finishing touches on its annual conference and trade show, the industry examined the challenges and opportunities it faces this year and beyond.

The event, held May 13-15 in Nashville, showcased new equipment and technologies from more than 350 exhibitors.

“There’s been a tremendous amount of growth occurring through consolidation and new builds, as well as an increase of multisite operations,” the Chicago-based ICA said in a recent column. “There continues to be plenty of access to capital, whether through private equity, private money or commercial lending, which means those looking to sell in the near future have great opportunities to take advantage [of]. Those not looking to sell have an opportunity to build an impressive business.”

A January blog post from Tommy Car Wash Systems, a Holland, Mich.-based manufacturer of stainless steel equipment and car-wash conversion services, made a series of predictions it expects to occur over both the short and long term.

Three more substantial ones:

Changing Automotive Technology

“While driverless cars are still years away, there are already standard automotive features that make it difficult, if not prohibitive, for some modern vehicles to wash in traditional chain and roller-style car washes,” the blog said. It talked about how electronic parking brakes and automatic emergency braking systems can both automatically engage the vehicle’s brakes in the wash tunnel, causing it to jump rollers and collide with incoming customer vehicles.

A greater volume of in-bay automatic and rollover wash conversions might be on the horizon because “most of small-town America is serviced only by old, slow-processing rollover or in-bay automatic washes, each of which is its own missed opportunity. These facilities may be readily converted into short, conveyorized tunnel washes,” a process that involves removing the floor, repouring the conveyor pit and installing new equipment. The conversion could improve processing speed from eight cars per hour to 40 or more.

More Teardowns and Rebuilds

“There are countless outdated and struggling facilities waiting on extraordinarily valuable land in locations brimming with untapped potential. Old sites will increasingly be closed, demolished and replaced with modernized buildings and equipment able to take full advantage of the local market,” it said.

Filling a Vacuum

Tommy Car Wash Systems also sees paid vacuum center systems replacing free vacuums as well as a revival of interior cleaning services, anticipating “a slow move away from the current low-labor, exterior-only concept and toward new flex models able to process vehicle interiors more quickly than traditional full-service washes using assembly line-like procedures.”

Click through to view several of the equipment trends and developments occurring in the car-wash industry.

Photograph: Shutterstock


At the trade show, OPW Vehicle Wash Solutions showcased new vehicle-wash innovations through its PDQ and Belanger brands, including PDQ Tandem Surfline, which combines high-pressure touch-free and friction washing technologies with a two-bridge design. It works in unison to navigate around and over the vehicle, allowing multiple cleaning processes to take place at one time and resulting in a quicker wash cycle that also optimizes the amount of water and chemicals used during the process.

Photograph courtesy of PDQ


The Belanger Cube Wash is a friction in-bay automatic vehicle-wash system that feature SpinRite ShineMitt brushes, delivering a quiet and gentle washing experience for the driver while providing more than four times the cleaning touches of traditional brushes. The Cube Wash can also be outfitted with patented SpinLite LED-illuminated wash wheels that can attract more customers and enhance navigation while still delivering a gentle, quiet wash experience.

Photograph courtesy of Belanger

Istobal Flex5

To expand wash service to vans and other extended height vehicles, Istobal USA announced an extended height version of the Istobal Flex5, which accounts for just more than 80% of all Istobal car wash equipment sold in 2018—particularly in the five-brush configuration due to its speed and wash quality, according to the company. The solution can be configured as a hybrid model by adding high pressure to the machine as a combo option, and customers can select the wash they want: Friction with three or five brushes, touch-free or combination of both, or a touchless rollover configured without brushes.

Photograph courtesy of Istobal

Istobal T’Shiner

At the show, Istobal unveiled its tire shiner for tunnels and rollovers, ensuring a lasting shine due to a brush with soft polypropylene bristles, which conforms to the shape of any tire evenly and applies the dressing. The patented tire dressing capture and reclaim system makes the Istobal T’Shiner use up to 66% less dressing than other tire shiners on the market, the company says.

Photograph courtesy of Istobal

Blendco Systems

Blendco Systems displayed its patented SuperSat Custom Detergent System, SuperClear Water Treatment System, RMS Remote Monitoring System and Red Rhino detergents and protectants. In addition, the manufacturer offers alkaline concentrates, cleaners, degreasers and detergents.

Coleman Hanna

Coleman Hanna Carwash Systems offers tunnels, in-bay automatics and self-service formats. Operators can decrease wash time with the latest touch-free automatic offered, according to the company. The Fastrak Dual Arm Overhead Bridge Design allows operators to wash more cars per hour while providing a consistently superior clean vehicle using zero-degree oscillating nozzles. The automatic provides an open and inviting bay with water-saving technology.

Photograph courtesy of Coleman Hanna Carwash Systems


NCS (National Carwash Solutions) brings together several notable brands in car-wash equipment to create high-performance, long-lasting products. The manufacturer is known for an extensive product lineup, including MacNeil Tunnel Systems and Ryko In-Bay Automatic Systems, accessories and options that feature SoftGloss Maxx 5-Brush, SoftGloss Maxx 3-Brush, Radius Touch-Free, UltraClear and Rainmaker Water Treatment Systems and Paysmart XT Payment Teller.

Photograph courtesy of NCS

Peco Car Wash Systems

Peco Car Wash Systems offers multiple systems, including hybrid, friction, touch-free and the Express Peco Polish Tunnel, a new innovation developed in conjunction with its Holland distributor. The Peco FleetWash Xpress drive-through system is designed specifically for fleet applications.

Photograph courtesy of Peco Car Wash Systems

Zep Vehicle Care

Zep Vehicle Care Inc. can increase top-wash package “take rates” with service adviser training on effective selling techniques, while also increasing an operator’s ticket average by using Zep’s menu evaluation and development from an experienced design team, according to the company. Brands in the portfolio include Blue Coral, Armor All Professional, Rain-X and Black Magic.