Achieving the perfect bus wash

4.3 billion

local bus journeys in the UK each year

What’s in a bus wash system?

Bus journeys keep the UK moving like no other form of public transport. In the UK, over 40,000 buses power a staggering 4.3 billion local journeys every year. Keeping these vehicles on the road and in top condition is of paramount importance to millions of people.

Managing an entire fleet of buses or coaches requires a careful balance of logistical pressures and maintenance standards. And the washing process is arguably the most integral part of this. Operators need to be confident that the system they invest in will deliver the wash standard they need, fit seamlessly into their existing processes and stand the test of time.

Wash quality vs. wash speed

Weighing wash quality against time constraints is always an active concern. Of course, the right answer is that both quality and speed are crucial. However, each operator will have their own priority and must pick a solution that strikes that balance perfectly for them.

Operators with larger fleets and longer service hours are likely to prioritise speed over all else. A constant stream of customers relying on them means these operators need to ensure their fleet is serviced as quickly as possible. For instance, consider a wash system that takes six minutes to wash one bus. With potential hundreds-strong fleets and some sites lacking the ability to queue more than two buses at once, a six-minute wash is simply far too slow.

The challenge is to find a supplier that will install and launch a solution that matches your quality/speed needs and fits seamlessly into your existing infrastructure. Find out how Wilcomatic helped Go South Coast by doing just that.

Window cleaning

One part of a bus where high wash quality is always required is the windows. Beyond just aesthetics, there is a serious safety imperative for ensuring this.

Water stains on windows pose a big problem for bus operators. In hard water areas, after water evaporates off a windscreen it can leave behind calcium deposits called “white spots”. These are ugly and off putting for customers, but they can also cause visibility issues for bus drivers. In low light especially, white spots can cause a real hazard. With operators responsible for the public’s safety and bound by stringent local regulations, this isn’t acceptable.

Lower-standard systems can’t adequately deal with the scourge of white spots. What’s required is the application of a wax layer after washing to remove any deposits. Learn more about Wilcomatic’s wax products and the rest of our chemical wash solutions.

coach wash system

Requirements for a coach wash system

Coach operators often have a different set of priorities when selecting a wash solution. A greater emphasis on service and comfort means luxury coaches absolutely have to look the part.

The biggest requirement is often the quality of the wheel wash. The larger size and prominence of a luxury coach’s wheels mean sparkling clean arches, hubs and rims will often make the biggest impact.

Types of bus wash machine

There are broadly two kinds of bus wash systems to choose from: a drive-through system and a rollover gantry system – which is also available in a semi-stationary configuration.


  1. Guarantees a quick wash
  2. Driver-operated
  3. Reliable and robust

Drive-through systems certainly have their benefits – speed being one of them. However, they are increasingly being seen as rudimentary and unsuited to the standards bus operators are now bound by. This is because the quality of wash depends heavily on the driver-input. Unlike stationary systems, the speed of the vehicle as it travels through the machine has a large bearing on the result. This means cleaning quality can vary significantly from day to day and bus to bus. Clearly – a better approach is possible.

Rollover gantry wash

  1. Ensures a consistent wash every time
  2. Greater coverage than drive-through systems
  3. Higher-end gantries still ensure a quick full wash cycle

A rollover solution is a system that utilises brushes rolling over and around a bus to achieve a more comprehensive clean, but without damaging auxiliary components. The gantries are suitable for most existing wash bays and can be configured for a range of different fleets and vehicle sizes.

The consistency guaranteed by the rollover systems means they can incorporate specialist components like high-pressure wheel washers. Wilcomatic’s rollover solutions also make use of Reverse Osmosis technology which gives purified water for automatic window cleaning.

Semi-stationary rollover

  1. Delivers a wash as consistent as a stationary rollover solution
  2. Requires driver input to complete the second half of the wash
  3. Vital for sites with smaller wash bays

Unlike stationary rollover gantry solutions where the brushes operate around the entirety of a vehicle, a semi-stationary system gives a wash in two parts. Once the bus has pulled into the bay, the machine starts to wash the sides and front. However, to complete a full clean, the driver must then bring the bus further through the bay.

This makes semi-stationary solutions perfect for sites where the wash bay is small. They allow sites of this size to accommodate larger buses within a tight existing framework. Whereas stationary systems require a bay the length of the fleet’s longest vehicle plus 5 metres, semi-stationary solutions offer some compromise on this.

Improving bus servicing processes

With most bus operators employing a fuel, wash, park process at the end of each day, it’s important any new wash system only enhances this process.

One of the most pressing issues for installing a new bus wash system can be space constraints. However, it’s possible to install high-spec and high-capacity gantries on relatively small wash bay footprints – provided you have the right expertise.

Site layout is also vital to the installation of any new bus wash. Maintaining an easy flow from refuelling through to washing and then onto the depot is essential – poor layout can cost valuable time and negate any efficiency savings provided by a quicker wash system. This is why it’s almost always advisable to position a new solution in the existing wash bay rather than try to completely replan a site.

Wilcomatic put in the hours to carefully map out how your new solution will fit your existing infrastructure. And our team of highly-skilled engineers will be on hand to assist with any teething problems or trouble with new protocols long after the installation itself.

Wilcomatic’s approach to bus wash projects

With over fifty years of experience in providing wash systems to a range of commercial sectors, we’re confident in our ability to deliver world-class technology and installation.

Our bus wash systems are designed and made in Germany by industry-leaders Otto Christ. Our long-standing relationship with Christ means we are the exclusive UK supplier of their most advanced rollover gantries.

Our quality technology is matched only by our customer service. We are fully accredited to ISO 9001, 14001 and 18001 standards. Wilcomatic will be with you every step of the way from the planning stage of a project to ensuring your new system is operating exactly as you require it. We’re committed to full delivery of every new bus wash system to the most exacting standards. Learn more about our standards.

When it comes to replacing the vital day-to-day consumables that any bus operator relies upon, we’ve got you covered. We will organise regular re-deliveries of everything you need – from shampoos to drying agents. Learn more about our portfolio of consumables and maintenance.

We are also passionate about our environmental responsibilities – with our commitment built into the systems we offer. Our Working Water bus wash systems prioritise care for the environment, while we also offer a host of water recycling and reclamation features.

Learn more about our driven approach to delivering the best in bus wash systems.

Delivering a deeper wash for the south coast's buses

Find out how we’ve helped the Go Ahead group with their fleet of 850 vehicles.

Find out more

Contact the Wilcomatic Team

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

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