When it comes to impressing conveyor car wash customers with a powerful visual signal of a thorough cleaning, returning their vehicles with pristine, shiny wheels may just be the way to win them over. Even more important, customers will gladly pay extra for the add-on service and keep coming back for more to achieve an impressive clean that turns heads at stoplights.

Of course, the conveyor wash must first remove any road debris and dirt that can be trapped in increasingly intricate wheels with many nooks and crannies. The proper tire dressing must also be reliably administered and brushed onto the sidewall with a suitable applicator. However, in an environment where contact with vehicles can occur, the applicator must be designed to withstand premature bending and breakage. Traditional car wash equipment options face some considerable performance and longevity challenges in these circumstances.

Innovative wheel brushes and tire dressing applicators are the perfect combination to impress customers, increase add-on-service revenue

The “Poodle Brush” is a contoured brush that resembles a well-manicured poodle.

Fortunately, innovative wheel brushes and tire dressing applicators can consistently and cost-effectively supply an effective 1-2 combination that provides a truly memorable clean and shine and complements the vehicle wash.

Utilizing this equipment is a winning approach in the fight to gain customer loyalty as well as greater profitability via add-on services.


In today’s car wash and labor market, hand cleaning vehicle wheels, rims, and tires is often costly and time consuming. High pressure hand sprayers can also be labor intensive and often spray everywhere but the specific location intended.

Automated high-pressure spray-ers add cost and can involve low-pH chemicals that some conveyor wash operators want to avoid. In addition, high-pressure sprayers often provide insufficient scrubbing action or enough friction to remove stubborn dirt and debris.

Even rotating, pencil-type wheel brushes can fall short as wheels become larger and more intricate, making them harder to clean.

“Conventional wheel brushes can be too small to sufficiently cover larger wheels, and many do not reach into the nooks and crannies. Most simply ride along the outside edge leaving the interior un-scrubbed,” says Robert Pecora, president of Erie Brush & Manufacturing Corporation, a supplier to the car wash industry since 1948. The Chicago, IL based company provides car wash owners with a wide variety of supplies for self-service washes, tunnel washes, auto detailing businesses, etc. This includes hog’s hair brushes, cloth, foam, tire/wheel brushes, and detailing brushes.

As a solution, manufacturers have created innovative brushes with varied filament lengths that thoroughly, efficiently, and cost effectively clean wheels and tires.

With unique names like the “Poodle Brush,” named because it resembles a well-manicured poodle, and the “Wheel Wonder,” these brush filaments vary in size between three to seven inches in a wave-like pattern. As vehicles travel through the conveyor car wash, the longer bristles reach deep into wheel crevices while the shorter bristles clean the tire and wheel surface.

Innovative brushes with varied filament lengths thoroughly, efficiently, and cost effectively clean wheels and tires.

“The contoured brush designs reach higher and get in much deeper on larger vehicle wheels, rims, and tires for a more complete cleaning,” says Pecora. “These uniquely shaped, automated wheel brushes can be used on the smallest cars to the largest vehicles without adjustment, and are gentle on all types of wheel surfaces, whether steel or aluminum.”

“In terms of longevity, wheel brushes can survive many thousands of vehicles with very little maintenance,” adds Pecora. “The highest quality brushes are manufactured with superior filaments, more fill density, and a very solid core. If designed properly, a car can run up on the wheel brush without damaging it.”


Once the vehicle’s wheels and tires are completely clean of dirt and particulate, it is time to add a lustrous shine that customers will love using a tire-dressing-applicator brush. Tire dressing is used to add shine and protect tires from UV rays. Generally, three types of dressing are used on tires: a water-based product, a solvent-based product, or a silicon solution for high gloss and long wear.

Regardless of the dressing, the applicator used to apply it to the black tire walls plays a vital role. Usually with an applicator, the tire dressing is pumped from a drum to a manifold that sprays it onto a brush which transfers it to the tire. Even minor details like the quality of the brush filament can impact the end result.

“To add greater shine to the entire black wall of the tire it is important for the applicator to have more brush filaments of the appropriate length and texture,” says Pecora.

He points out, however, that the applicator must also be ruggedly designed to survive in the field — or the car wash operator can expect to prematurely replace it.

In the industry, it is common for tire dressing applicator brushes to be constructed of a thin, hollow aluminum tube and frame with wall thickness of approximately 3/16ths of an inch. With this type of construction, the applicator brush often needs to be replaced at a cost of $1,000 to $2,000 whenever a vehicle rides up on the rail and bends or breaks it.

The “Wheel Wonder” brush filaments are in a wave-like pattern. The longer bristles reach deep into wheel crevices while the shorter bristles clean the tire and wheel surface.

“We get calls every month asking if we have tire dressing applicator brushes in stock to replace one that was broken,” says Pecora, adding that to ensure effective application and longevity, tire-dressing-applicator brushes should be designed with a solid 1-7/8-inch steel core strong enough to withstand being driven over by a large SUV.


With add-on wheel and tire services supplementing revenue, car wash operators can increase their profitability and market share by selecting superior equipment that offers a complete clean and shine no matter the size or contour of the wheels and tires. To reduce costs long-term, operators should also consider equipment that is designed for longevity in the field.

Del Williams is a technical writer based in Torrance, CA. He writes about health, business, technology, and educational issues, and has an M.A. in English from C.S.U. Dominguez Hills.