What to look for in an automatic car wash system

£ 24 billion

Value of the global car wash service market

Car wash systems keep the biggest brands moving

The vast majority of vehicles that are washed around the world every day are cars – with the global car wash service market worth an estimated $33billion (£24billion). These machines are an integral component of businesses of all shapes and sizes. From the dealerships of some of the world’s biggest automotive brands to supermarket forecourts and independent valet services, companies everywhere rely on car wash systems to deliver high quality washes in a timely and efficient manner.

The sheer number of vehicles that these companies must process mean maximum time and labour savings are vital when choosing a car wash system. Here’s what you should look out for.

automatic car wash system

Requirements for car dealerships

Medium and large-sized car dealerships are one such type of business that can benefit enormously from a car wash system. Modern dealerships must complete a huge volume of car washes within their core activities – both pre-sale and as part of their servicing for existing customers.

For operations of this size, automated wash systems can make a huge difference to the time and manpower required to process so many vehicles every day. For instance, Mercedes retailer Sandown Motors came to Wilcomatic with a requirement to reduce the labour needed to meet capacity for the 12,000 washes they carry out annually.

Find out how we helped Sandown overhaul their washing operations here.

car wash

As with any business investing in a wash system, three key factors will influence a dealership’s choice of setup:

  • Time. This is usually the most important requirement for dealerships. An average wash duration of around 6 minutes for an automated machine will add up to considerable time and budget savings over manual washing.
  • Quality. The consistency and special features provided by the best car wash systems raises the level of quality dealerships can offer current and potential customers.
  • Cost. Cost will vary in importance depending on the size of an operation and the level of quality needed. For dealerships processing thousands of cars a month, the savings they make will often justify a more expensive machine.

Ensuring a smooth process and protecting paintwork

Every business investing in car wash technology needs to ensure certain benchmarks are met around quality and fitting their site’s existing infrastructure. Thankfully, modern systems guarantee that scratched paintwork, poor coverage and water spots are a thing of the past. This is how:

  • An intensive pre-wash. Applying snow foam in advance of any contact from water and brushes gives a thorough chemical wash, helping lift ground-in dirt prior to the next cleaning process.
  • High-pressure washing. For best results, loose dirt on the vehicle’s paintwork is jet-washed off before brushes are applied. This removes any grit or dirt particles, eliminating the potential for the surfaces of the bodywork to become scratched or swirl marks to appear.
  • Textile or cloth brushes. The material of the brushes in an automated wash system is extremely important. Advances in technology mean that the aggressive plastic brushes that used to be found on car washes are now a thing of the past. The most popular choices for brush material are either a foam or a cloth. Foam is excellent for cleaning very dirty vehicles, while cloth is perfect for healing paintwork.
  • Advanced drying process. A drying cycle can be the difference between a high or poor quality finish. A dryer that swivels and follows the contours of the vehicle will not only eliminate any water marks and provide a better overall finish, it will also reduce slip hazards in internal maintenance or valet bays.
automatic car wash

Equally important is how a new wash solution fits the process flow of a site. Take the example of the car dealership again – the servicing and valeting process has many constituent parts. It’s crucial vehicles can move quickly from one location to the next, and into and out of the wash bay easily. Otherwise, any time savings gained as a result of a car wash system can be negated.

To this end, the wash bay must be in line with the rest of the valet process – for newly designed sites this is most simple, but creative solutions are available on smaller or more challenging sites.

automatic car washer

Types of car wash machine

Car wash systems are designed to be brush-based, touchless or – increasingly – a combination of the two. Both touchless and brush-based washing have their merits as cleaning methods, but it is when they are brought together that they are most effective.

Modern car wash brushes are flexible – for instance an articulated side brush can wash a vehicle’s sills and roof quickly, efficiently and in situ. Meanwhile, touchless elements provide a hyper-focused wash in areas where businesses may want to steer clear of brushes. Whatever balance of brushes and touchless washing you opt for, car wash systems are generally available in two configurations:

Rollover car wash systems

  1. Consistent and high quality washes
  2. Strong coverage across a vehicle
  3. Quick full wash cycle

Rollover wash systems are the most commonly-seen kind of car wash solution. Brushes roll over and around the car to deliver consistent coverage – but are programmable to protect breakable external components. Rollover gantries are easily tailorable to a business’ needs, with special components like high pressure wheel washers able to be built in.

Car wash conveyor systems

  1. The fastest option available for high volumes of cars
  2. Can process multiple vehicles continuously
  3. Gives the best possible quality in the shortest possible time

Also known as a tunnel wash, conveyor systems are likely to be the most attractive option for dealerships and manufacturers needing to continuously wash a high volume of cars. These systems are able to operate for long periods of time with little human input, guaranteeing maximum efficiency and premium wash standards.

Car wash systems from Wilcomatic

Wilcomatic have over 50 years of experience in the vehicle wash industry – and are the UK’s exclusive supplier of Otto Christ wash systems. Christ machines are renowned for their innovation – especially in the car wash sector – which is what makes Wilcomatic’s offering unrivalled in the UK.

These innovations include the patented jointed brushes we discussed earlier, as well as cutting-edge developments in wheel wash technology and the fact we offer both gearbox and direct drive brushes. Our systems’ high pressure touchless combinations allow enhanced chemical cleaning. This allows them to reach areas that brushes can’t, such as under window wipers and rear spoilers.

What’s more, Wilcomatic offers tailored solutions which address the specific needs and areas of washing that our customers value. Whatever the job, our engineers are on hand to build what’s required. We also guarantee full support throughout the implementation process and beyond as you adjust to your new systems.

Meanwhile, we can provide regular deliveries of all the consumables you need to keep your car wash operation moving – including our core range of chemicals which we produce in-house.


Cost per wash

Wilcomatic’s flexibility extends to the way we retail our car wash systems. We offer a range of options including finance, tailored packages and monthly fees – but one of the most popular is ‘cost-per-wash’. This involves exactly the same level of service in the machine’s implementation – but it means we retain ownership of the system while the customer pays a fixed price for the duration of their usage, allowing for considerable cost savings.

Learn more about the range of Christ machines we offer and how an automatic car wash system could benefit your business.

Sandown races to lower cost washing

Sandown Motors challenged Wilcomatic to save money and time without losing quality.

Find out more

Contact the Wilcomatic Team

Get in touch to learn more about our car wash systems and installation.

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