Vehicle Washing

A guide to pressure washers and vehicle washing systems


For instance, some fleets cannot wash any more cars in a given day and need to utilize overtime if the demand is heavy. “Overtime is an overhead killer and raises the cost per vehicle considerably.”

2. How many large vehicles (sprinters, commercial trucks, construction equipment and buses) will be washed in a day, week or year?

“Large vehicles can add a new dimension to the paradigm of decision making,” notes Tyndale. “Large vehicles have different dimensional concerns, and the automated washing equipment is very different.

“Large vehicle automated washes can typically wash passenger cars but it is not very effective.”

3. Will there be a mix of passenger vehicles and large vehicles to be washed and what is the percentage breakdown?

If a fleet consists of 100 passenger cars, two commercial trucks and one bus, for example, it would not make sense to purchase a large vehicle washing system, he says. It would make more sense to have an automated car wash and a manual pressure unit for the three large vehicles.

If a fleet has 50 semis and four cars, then a large vehicle wash would be the way to go. For a fleet with 10 cars and one refrigerated truck, a manual pressure wash unit is probably the best fit.

4. Is there adequate space in the existing facility or will space have to be added?

The approach and exit to the washing bays have to be considered, says Tyndale. Types of vehicles determine the bay width, length and height, and overhead doors need to be adequate. Some buildings require a pull in/back out, while others have the space to drive-thru.

“A good rule of thumb is: automated car wash bays should be at least 35 feet long, 16 feet wide and 12 feet high. For large vehicle washes, we recommend 20 feet longer than the longest vehicle, 18 feet wide and 16 feet high, with 14-foot-high bay doors.

“Manual pressure wash bays are all over the spectrum.”

5. Is there adequate utilities in the existing facility or do they need upgrades?

Tyndale says drainage, heat and utilities are always a concern.

“First, you have to decide what type of facility you want, find a distributor and add up all of the electrical, water, air, gas and sewer requirements. A professional local washing equipment distributor can help walk you through the process.”

6. Is there city water and sanitary sewer?

City water and city sewer are not required, but you need to know the benefits and concerns if your facility utilizes a well and septic/drain field, he says. Every area of the country is different, as there is no universal body that establishes these guidelines.

“A starting point would be your local municipal zoning manager or water/sewer authority. They can help you in the process, as can a local washing equipment distributor.”

7. At what point does automated washing make sense versus manual washing with some manual equipment?

“The number of vehicles, labor costs, time to process a vehicle, space, budget and the quality of wash all go into a recipe for what is right for your fleet,” he says. “Rental car companies, car dealerships and limo/taxi services have done their homework and found that if you wash more than 30 cars per day the automated car wash pays for itself very quickly.

“Your company adds a depreciable expense when it utilizes equipment. You do not have to provide health care, unemployment and disability to a car wash machine, although you do have maintenance costs.”

8. How will the budget affect what type of wash facility to design?

The budget will be the decider, Tyndale says. A manual wash station is in a different ball park than automated bays. A single manual prep unit can be installed between $7,500 and $20,000. An automated piece will range from $80,000 to $140,000, assuming there is already a bay.

9. Is wash water recycling required, and should it be considered?

In many areas recycling is still not required, he notes. “However, with water and sewer costs across the country sky rocketing, it makes good business sense to utilize quality recycling.

“If you are washing vehicles currently, just adding recycling will increase your bottom line.”

10. What are the limitations of the different classes of automated equipment?

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