Fuel Marketer News

Develop a Partnership that Takes Your In-Bay Car Wash to the Next Level

When installing or refitting an automatic in-bay car wash with new equipment, the transaction doesn’t end with the installation. The right partner can help you accelerate your business to the next level. It can make the difference between a car wash that simply serves a purpose and a complete experience that develops customer loyalty and increases profitability.

Many factors contribute to a successful in-bay car wash, and choosing the right partner is the first step. An experienced distributor/supplier who has a strong reputation for delivering quality equipment, superior service and total car cleaning knowledge is a must. However, the ones who can help you to define a pattern of repeat business are capable of providing extras like remote access technology and pay station loyalty programs to drive revenue higher.

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After all equipment decisions are made, the next critical step starts at the point of installation.

Be sure to choose a supplier who has the product knowledge and experience to guarantee minimal downtime during installation. Providing local support once the equipment is operational can keep your business running even if the mechanical system suffers temporary breakdowns. This supplier will provide all the tools necessary to clean a car, including but not limited to cleaning solutions.

A good distributor provides the expertise and product knowledge for your installation and operation which, along with local access and support, can reduce the possibility of potential downtime.

Car wash equipment is complex. Retail fuel and convenience store owners can benefit from technicians who are available quickly. This assures reliability and minimal downtime.

Reliability Translates to ROI

The in-bay car wash business can be lucrative if a solid business plan is in place. The best partners are those who offer services that help owners make money. A good distribution partner will offer equipment enhancements and products, along with various loyalty programs that provide flexibility and help improve the operator’s return on investment (ROI).

Here are four key areas in which a manufacturing company can help improve ROI:

  1. Offer a machine that increases throughput—It makes sense that if we can help car wash owners wash more cars, collect more money per vehicle and help reduce operational costs, a trusting partnership is established that helps you send more customers through your station efficiently and with a positive experience.
  2. Offer more revenue-generating services—The more options you offer the consumer, the more opportunities for increased revenue. Many customers will pay more at the point of purchase for special treatments like a high-gloss finish.
  3. Lower operating costs/higher uptime—Lowering operating costs go hand in hand with accurate installation, expert technical knowledge and quick response to customer issues.
  4. Don’t just clean cars—Considering the exterior appeal in addition to inside operation can separate your car wash from the competition.

Curb appeal and drive-by signage goes a long way in attracting new customers to a business. If you are refitting an existing structure, do not miss the opportunity to refresh the bay walls. Consider fresh paint, fiberglass surfaces or a colorful graphic print for the interior. To help build brand equity, consider branding your machines with special colors and/or logos. And since ease of operation for the customer will improve throughput volumes, don’t miss the chance to refresh directional ground markings and upgrade exterior landscaping and lighting.

Make Maintenance and the Customer Experience Easier

A good supplier can provide you advanced equipment with remote monitoring that allows operators to make adjustments to their car wash equipment, such as adjusting wash speeds and wash-package changes.

The best car wash machines have the capability to communicate remotely. Avoid trips to your facility for issues that can be handled remotely. Whether you are at home or on vacation, the best car wash machines offer constant status updates and communication. A simple machine interface provides easy configuration changes to introduce special packages or to simply increase operating speeds.

This makes life easier for the car wash owner as well as the maintenance technician. However, it’s also important to make the experience easy for your customers. One way to make this happen is to offer pay systems that can handle credit cards, paper money, loyalty cards and codes.

As the link to most of your customers, the pay station is a critical piece of a successful car wash. A simple, easy-to-use system will relax customers and improve the odds of a returning customer base. The pay station you choose should be able to handle all types of transactions.

It is important that the unit you choose be safe and secure. Having a pay station that has a secure vault that holds all incoming and outgoing currency will help keep cash safe. It is critical that any pay station be Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant. To avoid credit-card issues at your site, operators should ensure the device they are considering is listed on the PCI website. Also operators should consider systems that meet the new EuroPay MasterCard Visa (EMV) standards in order to safeguard transactions and protect consumers against fraud.

A Loyal Customer is Guaranteed Repeat Business

A solid loyalty system is essential when looking at your complete in-bay car wash experience. Offer your customers a variety of services and packages. This will help with customer retention, and the best suppliers can help you create a loyalty program that works for you and your consumer base.

The bottom line is that your distributor/provider has to offer the complete package, not just the car wash portion of the business. Ensure you select a provider that can be a partner in building your car wash success.

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David Dougherty is the Senior Product Manager for In-Bay Automatics at PDQ Manufacturing, Inc., De Pere, Wisconsin. PDQ Manufacturing is recognized as a technological leader in vehicle wash systems, providing superior quality, outstanding support and products that contribute to its customers’ profitability. Brands include LaserWash® and ProTouch® In-Bay Automatic Vehicle Wash Systems, SwingAir® and MaxAir® Dryers, Access® Wash Activation Systems, Cortex and WALS. Products are sold and supported worldwide through an extensive distribution network. For more information, visit or call (800) 227-3373. David can be reached at