We all understand how competitive the automotive detailing industry has become. But it will remain a huge industry in 2017. A recent market research report from IBISWorld estimates the car wash and detailing industry is expected to generate upwards of $10 billion in revenue in the United States this year.

The trick for most detailing business owners is what they do to stand out from the crowd. Anyone with a chamois, a portable pressure washer, and a panel van claims to be a qualified detailer. But the true detailing pros have a handful of secrets that give them the upper hand. One of their secrets? A thicker skin. Not actual human skin, mind you — but a UV-blocking, highly water resistant, industrial-grade shade structure that acts like a tough skin protecting your business, your customers, and your employees.

Detailing pros agree that an industrial-grade shade may be the best investment for their growing businesses. Here are five reasons why:

1. Provides a Controlled and Comfortable Working Environment

Let’s face it, washing and detailing cars outdoors is a lot of tough physical labor. So why torture yourself or your employees further without any weather protection? Sure, hats and sunscreen lotions help, but what really makes a difference is being able to control the environment you work in. Remember, happy workers lead to happy customers and better bottom lines. A high-quality sun-shade structure placed in your detailing area can reduce heat by up to 20 degrees. And not only that, it can also extend the number of workable hours by providing an around-the-clock worksite despite the elements.

Another important aspect is the UV-blocking properties. Skin cancer poses the highest risk to workers who work prolonged periods of time in an outdoor environment. The Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has made it clear that most commonly diagnosed forms of Melanoma cancers are preventable. A conservative estimate from the CDC suggests over 1 million cases of Melanoma cancer are diagnosed each year. So while adding a high-quality shade to your detailing area may cost a little now, consider the potential savings in medical treatment expenses — not to mention avoiding the pain, discomfort, and trauma of the malady.

2. Creates Professional-Looking Grounds and Aesthetics

Curb appeal brings in customers. That’s true from selling real estate to running a car wash. A professional-looking shade structure increases your detailing center’s aesthetics in a very positive way. For example, many luxury automotive dealerships often incorporate large custom shade structures in their service departments, customer waiting areas, and car washing facilities for both functionality and aesthetics.

A custom shade structure using a color scheme consistent with your business’ branding will work like a billboard landmark for potential customers driving by as well. There are even shade structures built in the shape of sails, a very distinctive look everyone will remember. Customers will come back the next time they need their car washed or detailed after seeing that.

3. The Government (OSHA) Requires It

We know, right? The U.S. Department of Labor actually has a hand in this too. Under OSHA, employers are responsible for providing workplaces free of known safety hazards. This includes protecting workers from extreme heat. An employer with workers exposed to high temperatures should establish a complete heat illness prevention program. This includes providing workers with water, rest, and, you’ve guessed it, shade.

Don’t believe us? Check it out for yourself here:


4. Automotive Paints Should not be Cleaned under the Hot Sun

If you’re reading this already, you are a car wash and detailing pro. You don’t need us to recite the 101 Do’s and Don’ts on Car Washing to you like a schoolteacher. But seriously, a permanent shade canopy prevents water spots by keeping the vehicle you are washing cool before being wiped dry. This is even truer in places that have extremely hard water, where the sun will literally bake the mineral deposits from the hard water into the paint.

So yes, it has been widely accepted among most detailing professionals that you should not wash your car in direct sunlight. Some argue that it’s bad for your vehicle’s finish, but at the very least, it makes the job much, much harder. Because the water and cleaner/soap dries quicker in the sun or on a hot surface, you’re more likely to get water spots. And you may even notice swirl marks in your car’s paint after washing.

Modern automotive clear coats and paint formulas actually yield a rather soft surface — unblocked direct sunlight can further soften the vehicle’s paint. Director of the Porsche Club of America Gold Coast Region, Bobby Varela, explains it best, “Swirl marks are more easily created on a vehicle’s paint when it is heated, especially given the wide range of automotive paints that vary in softness these days. Vehicles with softer paints will more easily allow microscopic scratches to develop. When the drying process is performed under direct sunlight, the friction generated by the rubbing action between the fabric and the paint will ultimately leave more swirl marks on the clear coat layer of the paint surface. Drying a vehicle under shady areas, along with the use of a touch-less air dryer instead of towels or chamois is best.”

5. Custom Shade Structures are Less Expensive and Easier to Install than You Think

A high-quality shade structure does not have to cost an arm and a leg. And no, we don’t recommend walking into your local home improvement store and asking for their advice on this one. Find a manufacturer that specializes in nothing but industrial-grade shades that will outlast any consumer-grade shades you’ll find in local hardware stores.

Fabric choice is especially important. While there are many to choose from, look for cost-effective fabrics that can be custom tailored to size by your professional shade retailer to support tension fabric shade canopies, shade sails, or awnings. Fabrics are available that are designed to block up to 98.8 percent of harmful UV sun rays and made from UV stabilized HDPE mono filament and tape yarns. This type of fabric has a specialized lock stitch knit for more air movement and better channeling of cooling breezeways, as well as protection from tearing and fraying, giving you up to 10 years of regular use.

The typical shade structure is designed with two major components: the steel space frame and the easily removable tension membrane shade cover. The cover is made from shade fabric with a cable hemmed into a pocket around the perimeter. The fabric is draped over the space frame, secured to the frame by hooking the fabric and cable onto a restrainer on each corner, and tension is applied by means of a turnbuckle. Turnbuckles provide maintenance-free operation for many years to come.

So there you have it — a thicker skin goes a long way in your car wash and detailing business. The next time you try to look up at the sky while you’re applying that second coat of wax on your customer’s vehicle, we hope it’s through your new shade structure acting as a tough layer of artificial skin that not only keeps you cool and comfortable, but also helps your business grow.

Chip Breitweiser is with Pompano Beach, FL-based Industrial Shadeports. You can visit the company on the web at www.shadeports.com.