Almost every living person has seen or heard the different insurance company commercials that imply one can save a pile of money with a 10 minute or less phone call to the advertising sponsor. I have seen cavemen, lizards (okay, I know he is a gecko), ladies in their golden years, and several others emphatically assuring us that a 10-minute call saved them a bunch of money. What many car wash operators tend to overlook is 10 minutes can save them a bunch of money at the car wash. By working a few “10-minute tasks” into your daily schedule, you, too, can experience some increased pocket change due to cost savings. So, maybe the gecko was right.
Now, I am not telling you to dress like a caveman and play golf in your wash bay, or act like a bunch of crazed regulars at the bingo parlor. To each their own. It would be funny, but it isn’t the purpose of this article.
Here are 10 areas that can be addressed in less than 10 minutes, which are often overlooked and therefore costing your operation additional money.
1. CHEMICAL TITRATION
Are you putting the correct amount of soaps and waxes on each customer’s vehicle? There are multiple application methods to apply soaps and waxes to the customer’s vehicle. In the end, they all basically do the same thing, which is mix water and chemical. Over time, components in these application devices wear out, leading to waste. A simple test to check these devices is to use volumetrics or titration.
On direct injection chemical systems volumetrics is easiest. Simply pour the chemical of the function you are testing into a beaker or a measuring cup and see how much chemical is being used per vehicle. Make adjustments to dial settings or tip sizes, if necessary.
If the system you are using premixes chemical and water and stores it in a tank, ask your chemical manufacturer for a titration kit. Titrate each chemical per the manufacturer’s instructions and make changes if necessary. If your adjustments save you $0.06 per car and your location washes 60,000 vehicles per year, you have just saved $3,600 per year.
2. WATER LEAKS
A dripping valve can waste over 27 gallons of water per day. A running toilet can waste over 1,400 gallons of water per day.
A bypass water valve, if stuck open, can waste over 10,000 gallons of water per day. These unnoticed leaks might cost you thousands of dollars a year.
With an average water cost of $0.004 per gallon, a bypass valve left stuck open could cost an additional $1,200 per month.
A periodic 10-minute check of all of your water valves and toilets may save you several thousand dollars a year.
3. THERMOSTAT SETTINGS
Some days they are too hot, others they are too cold. Employees can be a finicky bunch, as we all are. Allowing them control over a thermostat can be a costly mistake. Rules need to be established as to where you, the owner, expect the thermostat(s) to be set for heating or cooling. This will prevent unfortunate surprises in costs that your employees didn’t anticipate.
If you heat the water in your wash process or use boilers for floor heat, check those thermostats as well. Set the temperatures to the manufacturer’s recommended settings for your region. A few degrees in the wrong direction might cost you … you’ve guessed it, thousands of dollars per year.
4. LIGHT TIMERS
If you are using timers to control bay lights, sign lights, parking lot lights, etc., take 10 minutes to see if the time is set correctly for the lighting to turn on and off. Adjustments to the timers every month might save you, drumroll please, several thousand dollars per year.
5. GREASE FITTINGS
Adding grease to bearings should be a part of your normal preventative maintenance checklist. That being said, take 10 minutes every so often to make sure the bearings are being properly greased. This is an area that can easily be overlooked if a technician is in a hurry. That 10-minute inspection may save you thousands on costly motor repair or replacement. Do you see a theme emerging?
6. WATER SOFTENER REGENERATION
If you utilize water softeners at your car wash and they are on a manual regeneration schedule, check to see if they are working properly. I have found water softeners that are regenerating too frequently, which is like pouring your hard-earned money right down the proverbial drain.
Not only does it waste water, it causes the system to use more salt. A 10-minute check of your water softeners monthly might just pay for that next system upgrade — or a Caribbean vacation.
7. WASH TIMING
How often are you timing the wash functions in your wash process? If you are an in-bay automatic operator, time each wash pass in every wash package. You may be surprised to find that you can achieve the same cleaning results by shaving time off of each function. Optimizing each wash pass will save money on water, sewer, electricity, and chemical costs. It will also help improve your vehicle wash count on those busy days.
If you are a tunnel operator, check each function in the wash process to see if each feature is turning on and off at the proper time. I have seen many instances where the timing is off in a tunnel and money is flowing in the wrong direction. A few quick changes to your tunnel controller can save you a surprising amount of dollars per year.
8. VALVE CHECK
Take 10 minutes to check all of the solenoid valves in your operation to make sure they are not stuck open or closed or somewhere in between. A malfunctioning water valve can waste tens of thousands of gallons of water before it is discovered. A malfunctioning chemical valve can waste hundreds of dollars of chemical in a short period of time and a faulty air valve will cause your air compressor to constantly run and put unnecessary wear and tear on the motor and valves. None of these situations is close to ideal.
I label this next 10 minute task Double L. A. This acronym is not twice the City of Angels, or the name of Kim Kardashian and Kayne West’s next child, but rather it stands for Look, Listen and Act. If you are like me, you poor thing, you know the sites and sounds of your wash. An occasional 10-minute walk-through just may save you thousands of dollars per year. My employees are always amazed that I can identify problems within two minutes after arriving at a location. Like you, I simply observe with my eyes and ears out of sheer necessity, since I write the checks every month.
9. AIR COMPRESSOR DRAIN
Most air compressors have an automatic drain for condensation. Several times I have found that automatic drains are not programmed for the right duration to release all of the moisture from the storage tank. Take 10-minutes to manually drain your compressor(s). You may find moisture build up. Built-up moisture will cause the compressor to run longer and harder, leading to eventual problems or component failure. That is as depressing as it sounds.
10. VENDING ITEM PRICING
Take 10 minutes to check the pricing of your vending items. Improperly priced items could be costing you money. On occasion, I have found items in my vending that were being sold for less than what was paid for the item. That math never works. It was an honest error, but the location still lost money on the products.
Everyone has 10 minutes to spare. Use your 10 minutes wisely and it will add a few more dollars to your revenue each month. It may not lead to superstardom like the title implies (sorry), but it will help pay for the fancy insurance you just switched to because the little lizard made you do it. Wash on!
Bobby Willis has been in the car wash business for over 20 years. He owns and operates Cool Wave Car Washes in Virginia. He can be reached at email@example.com.