Getting Back to In-Bay Basics

February 24, 2021 | Brian Garavaglia

A number of things can stall growth at an in-bay/unattended car wash. Some things, such as new competitors and economic factors, are out of your control. More often than not, though, the answer can be found within.

Much like an athlete in the middle of a slump, it may come down to the fundamentals. Is your bay clean? Does the site look attractive to passersby? Is your wash consistently producing a clean and dry car?

If the answer to any of those questions is “no” or “I don’t know,” it’s time to get back to basics with the following tips. They may seem incredibly obvious and easy to do, and they are, but they are things that a lot of operators miss.  Refocusing on these areas can be the difference between capturing a new customer or having them drive past.

Inspect Site Daily

The challenge with running an unattended car wash is that you don’t always know when things are falling through the cracks. That’s why it’s important to visit your site daily looking for issues to address such as:

  • Trash inside the bays or anywhere on site.
  • Mold or vegetation growing on the walls of the bays. You wouldn’t bathe yourself in a shower where stuff is growing on the walls. Customers don’t want to wash their cars in that type of environment, either.
  • Animals or people living in the bays.
  • Burnt out lights at the site.

Basically, look at your wash through the eyes of a potential customer. Is it someplace you would stop for a car wash? If not, you have some work to do.

Test Wash Equipment

During your regular visits, you also want to run a test wash. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait for a customer to contact you about something not functioning properly. Most customers will just leave and not bother to contact you.

You’ll want to check that everything is not only functioning but working to its full potential. Is your triple foam covering well? Are there any clogged injectors or tips that are decreasing the quality of the wash? Are driers getting cars dry?

Finding and fixing these issues proactively can ensure that you don’t lose customers due to broken or underperforming equipment.

Check Payment System

Your pay terminal is the piece of equipment that your customers have the most physical interaction with, so it has a huge impact on their overall experience. Your pay station’s workflow should be simple and make the transaction process as easy and as quick as possible. Utilize custom overlays on your pay station to brand your site and make it more attractive.

Beyond that, make sure it is functioning properly when you conduct your daily visit. Don’t forget to check that your coin and bill dispensers are full. The last thing you want is for someone to not be able to get change and get a refund message on their receipt. That’s not the kind of experience that will encourage repeat visits.

Likewise, you want to make sure the receipt paper is full. If you have change machines on site, check the hoppers to make sure they’re full, as well.


Clear, attractive signage is important at any car wash, but especially in an unattended environment. You are relying on your signs to provide important instructions and be your salesperson.

Make sure the features and prices of each of your wash packages are clearly conveyed. Signs can also help you promote any specials you may be running.

If you have a C-Store and/or gas station on site, don’t forget to promote your car wash on signage in those areas as well. If customers don’t know you have a car wash, they won’t be able to take advantage of it.

Fostering Customer Loyalty

While these tips are basic, they are vitally important. Doing these things regularly can help you attract more new visitors and turn them into loyal customers who will spread the word and help you grow your business.

About Brian Garavaglia

Brian has been working in the car wash equipment industry since 2012, helping operators maximize revenue and volume. As a Key Account Manager for Unitec, he now manages sales and relationships with opeartors and distributors across the country. LinkedIn

More posts by Brian

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