If you took a moment and asked the customer what he or she wants or expects in a car wash you may be surprised by the answer. Clean, shiny, or dry are usually just the basics; the overall experience is what matters the most and differentiates you from the competition. This article will help develop a game plan for how to create the ultimate experience, whether it’s in the back room or out in the wash bay.

“Sheeting” style lava bath application.
Application of triple-foam polish.
Half-moon style applicator.

Injection-based dilution system.
Proportioning pumps.
Hydrominder with air driven pumps.
Another style Hydrominder with air driven pump.
Above Left:Foaming protection product.
Above Right:Using red LEDs to create the consumer
experience during the drying process.


We recommend you start with your wash layout and menu. The menu should identify the services you are planning to provide and where the services could be best placed. Manufacturers will often recommend a setup or process that needs to be followed in a specific order to ensure the best results. Be careful not to steer too far off the designed plan or, even more important, try not to “overdo it” in a “small bay.”


What are the preferred applicators for the entrance? First impressions for your customer at the beginning of the wash process and for the customer next in line are very important. You want that “wow” to start immediately and having the right lava bath applicator will accomplish that for you.

The foaming streamer applicators tend to use a little less product and aren’t as finicky to get dialed in. However, some really prefer the look of the sheet or wall-of-foam style applicator. The foaming streamer style can be a little more forgiving and generally only needs one chemical and air feed.

The sheet style applicator on the other hand wants more volume and even disbursement. To maximize the sheet flow, oftentimes you will want to use up to three separate chemical/air feeds. If you are using an injection system, some manufacturers now offer expansion kits. These kits will help give you separate feeds without having additional functions on the delivery board. If you’re going to stick with a standard style pump and a sheet, word to the wise, make sure the chemical feed lines are sized correctly and make sure you have good water pressure.

Time for the finishers — or what some think of as the fun factors. Continuing on into the wash experience, the presoaks and ever-beloved triple foam cover the vehicle in that rich lather. Whether it is a conditioner or a polish, you’ll want to make sure that the coverage is on point and the three colors are appealingly vibrant. Make sure the applicator is spaced appropriately in the wash cycle so that the presentation is not missed.


It doesn’t stop at triple foam. Additional finishers and fun factors that have come on the scene as of late include additional polishes or sometimes a marketed carnauba hot wax complete with an intense yellow light to enhance the “hot” factor. You don’t have to stop here with the LED lighting either.

Savvy operators have begun using wall washer LED lights on their up-sell functions to help further emphasize the extra service (with most including separate scents): green on the triple foam, red on the lava, or even red on the dryer frames to make people think heat. Leave no doubt with the customer that they’re getting what they paid for — perception and experience matter.

Now that we have the entrance covered, let’s talk about other applicators. Before any friction takes place, it is important that you have good soap and lube coverage. Maximizing coverage and usage is an art. Some prefer to stick with the foam tube streamer style while others have adapted to the half-moon style. The half-moon styles tend to use less product while still achieving great coverage. If you have the right product and dilution method, achieving 1000:1 usage with chemical is possible.


Final touches can’t be glazed over. Consumers often seek out the all-vehicle-surface protectants or water repellents. One of a customer’s biggest judgments on service quality is on how “dry” or “shiny” the car is. When it rains, the first thing people notice is how the water flies off the car. Was it professionally waxed or not? The only other time they might notice is when the wax is applied. Always recommend great foam or froth coverage to showcase the product application and signage or additional lights to emphasize it.


If you want that great wash performance and presentation for your customers, you can’t skip the backroom delivery, which is the central nervous system to it all. Having the right equipment setup not only helps maintain or improve your wash quality, but also offers that strong opportunity of reducing your operating expenses.

Having efficiently performing dilution equipment can help reduce chemical application and utility costs. Just as with your wash applicators, there are many ways to apply the products.

On the dilution equipment side, we are looking to take the product from its concentrated form to its “ready to use” (RTU) form in the most efficient and performance-driven way to apply it to the customer’s vehicle. Moving into the back room (or equipment room) of the car wash, you need to identify available electrical service, water volume/psi, and wall space. It is important to do your due diligence on compatibility prior to purchase, making sure that whatever dilution equipment is installed can feed your applicators properly to maximize presentation and performance.

As the industry continues to grow with technology, we are continuously creating innovative ways to dilute products. Today, there are four “most popular” types of dilution equipment being utilized. Some are an “all-in-one” type dilution and delivery system, others require a secondary pump to deliver the product to the applicators.

1. Injector-Based Dilution

This equipment utilizes a standalone booster pump to provide consistent water pressure to venturi style injectors. Generally, this style of dilution equipment can be setup to run an entire chemical wash process. This system can operate many different types of applications because of the consistent water flow, multiple different flow rate injector sizes, utilization of metering tips, and its ability to have air on any chemical output. Changing the individual product’s dilution ratio is as simple as replacing color-coded metering tips based on each chemical product’sspecific needs. Of all the dilution systems, this system requires the smallest amount of wall space.

Over the last decade, injection-based systems stormed the industry. It immediately showed better, more consistent coverage, and feedback shows less chemical usage on average. Additionally, the ultra-concentrate chemicals go hand in hand with it.

2. Proportioning Pumps

These pumps are another all-in-one type dilution and delivery system. They utilize incoming water pressure flowing through the unit to create the determined metered flow. This style of metering pumps works great when adequate water pressure is available. They come in several different sizes for different types of applications. To reduce or increase the product consumption, a simple turn of the dial will accomplish the desired amount of product.

3. Hydrominder with Air-Pressurized Pumps

Here we have two individual systems that combine to make the dilution and delivery system, which is very effective for many different types of applications. Most popular for this setup is utilizing it for foaming or low-volume applications because of its air driven pump. Essentially you have two ways to meter the product: through the hydrominder dilution system with color-coded metering tips and by adjusting the pump’s output flow pressure. This combination also relies on adequate and consistent water pressure to ensure the chemicals are diluted properly.

4. Peristaltic (Diaphragm) Pumps

These pumps offer fine-tune metering through restrictive product flow. They require being fed into an outgoing water line to the applicator. These are electrically driven diaphragm pumps that have two ways to create a higher or lower product feed rate. This type of metering pump is most common on non-foaming applications like brush lubes and drying agents. When combined on the output side with a water and air feed, they can be used on a wider variety of applications throughout the wash process. This dilution system is offered in many different-sized pumps for varying product consumption needs.

Once all applicators and dilution equipment are installed, it is important to spend some time “tweaking” or “dialing in” the chemical functions and applicators to get the product performing to your expectations. It is always recommended to check the performance before and after each chemical function to identify the presentation, performance, and application costs. This will help ensure that your investment’s compatibility and the functions work to your satisfaction.


As always, the goal is to provide the customer with the highest level of clean-dry-shiny, with a great experience and value! There are so many great ways to improve wash performance and enhance the customer’s experience, learn and have fun with it. I know I do every day.

Happy washing!

Rob Peter is regional sales and product development manager for Cleaning Systems Inc. You can reach him at (800) 225-2231, via e-mail at rpeter@lustrabear.com, or visit the company on the web at www.CleaningSystemsInc.com.