Inside a shallow pit system

It is no secret that many self-serve wand-bay car washes are experiencing challenging times. These wash facilities typically consist of multiple bays and, in many cases, some of those bays are not generating the revenue they could because they are not fully utilized. Operators might do well to consider diversifying by adding another income stream to their current business model. Converting underperforming wash bays to a purpose other than washing cars could be the answer.

In the August 2017 issue of Auto Laundry News, I contributed an article about the expanded-space benefits of building extensions onto existing car wash buildings. They can be a great solution for adding the space needed to accommodate equipment upgrades. In this issue, I want to introduce and explore an option for those multi-bay car wash buildings where all bays are not being utilized to capacity.


Here’s a scenario that I will use for example purposes only: three bays at a six-bay self-serve car wash could potentially run full time and effectively handle the number of customers that visit the location. This means that half of the bays are potentially costing money instead of generating it. The operator has thought about ways to generate more income through car washes alone, but nothing has worked so far. Now may be the perfect time to consider a different income stream by adding the option of fast-lube/oil-change services.

How would this work?

Three of the bays could be left as-is. Convert two of the bays to fast-lube bays, and the last bay would house the equipment room and provide storage for the lube center side of the business.

Some might object that this is easier said than done, or it might sound too good to be true. If those skeptics had in mind the old traditional way of building a lube center where a full basement had to be excavated, I would agree with them.


Fortunately, there is a much better, more cost-effective and eco-friendly option available today and that is what I want to share with you.

There are several different versions of “shallow pit systems” on the market today. One, among others, features a premolded one-piece unit that can be dropped in place with the technician reclining on his back on a glider beneath the vehicle. Another, patent-pending system, consists of a sealed concrete pit, lined in aluminum treadbrite, ventilated, and lit with LED lighting, where the technician sits on an adjustable seat and moves along on a rail system, allowing him or her to service the underside of the vehicles.

These systems have many standard and optional features that make them easy to use. It is a great option when converting a car wash bay into a fast-lube bay. A small amount of excavation to accommodate the pit, plus plumbing, electric, and equipment installation typically makes for a fast conversion that doesn’t interfere with the car wash bays that are generating income.

These systems have many standard and optional features that make them easyto use.One system needs a minimum of 33 feet in bay length from entrance to exit to allow technicians to safely move around the pit. Can you still install one if your building does not have the necessary bay length? Yes, of course. This is where the building extensions I wrote about in the August issue come in and are an excellent option for extending the bay length.


Operators who have considered expanding their services to include fast lube, and have explored the option of adding a shallow pit system, have probably already thought about how this will change their business model and operations. Keeping with the example of using a shallow pit system, let’s explore the staffing additions that may be necessary. It’s not as complicated or costly as you might think.

For a two-bay fast-lube operation, and using the shallow pit system as the auto-service-pit option, two technicians should ideally be on site during your open hours. For oil changes and a number of other services, operators would not have to employ ASE certified technicians. This will help keep costs down. One technician will be the “topside technician” and will service under the hood of the vehicle. He will also interact with the customers. The second technician will be the “bottom-side technician” and will service underneath the vehicle.

Depending on the car counts, it is reasonable for two technicians to be able to service both bays simultaneously for up to approximately 50 cars per day. If the facility is servicing more than 50 cars per day, adding another technician will help keep bay times down and reduce wait times for customers. Other services that might be offered by adding a lift package include tire rotations and brake repair.


Although this is just a brief overview of how you would convert an underperforming car-wash-only business into a car wash/fast-lube combination business, the purpose of this article is to encourage you to explore the options available with your business and income streams. Two complementary income sources can grow your business through cross promotion. Diversifying can be the solution you have been looking for. Of course, this option won’t be for every business owner, but if you have considered expanding your services to increase your customer base and maximize your profits, a fast-lube conversion can be a good solution for you.

Cheri Williams is the director of marketing and sales for Shinn Buildings, LLC. You can contact her at To learn more about the company, you can visit or