Okay, so you own a car wash; it’s a busy Saturday afternoon and you have customers lined up at every bay when suddenly a pump fails, a belt breaks, or even something as simple as a nozzle is clogged. You have no replacement parts on your site and your number one bay is down. Now you’re bleeding money. All the customers who would have gone through that bay had it been working are getting frustrated at having to wait in line for the other bays that are already busy. So they simply drive off down the road to your competitor. Sound familiar? Well it shouldn’t. A smart operator is a prepared operator. Your own experience should prove to you the truth of the old adage: if something can go wrong, it will. Having the most common repair and replacement parts on your shelf is crucial to today’s self-serve car wash operator. Having what you need at the time you need it turns a potential catastrophe into a simple bump in the road.
Your car wash is like your car. If you don’t maintain your car, you will be sitting on the side of the road with an inoperable vehicle. A neglected wash will let you down in like fashion — and an inoperable wash means you aren’t making any money. You’ll be left in your competitor’s dust. Not only do you need to maintain the wash when nobody is using it on a rainy day, you must also be prepared to maintain it on the busiest day, so you capture the most volume and revenue you can while the business is there to be had. If you don’t get it, someone else will.
When you operate a professional car wash business, you have to expect the unexpected. Nozzles clog, hoses break, and pumps fail. The operator should know how to fix all of these problems in a timely fashion. Preventative maintenance is a fundamental requirement in the operation of a car wash and it would be unwise to not have the proper replacement products on your shelves at all times. A major selling point of any car wash is equipment that is in proper working order — and the smartest way of making sure that it is, is to simply check the operation while washing your own personal vehicle.
OWNER AS CUSTOMER
It is critical, when using the different bays and various vacuums, that you gain first-hand knowledge of how every function is — or is not — working. As an owner, you never want to wait for someone to call you and complain that a certain piece of equipment doesn’t work. That is potentially a customer lost. The self-serve and/or automatics may be okay but, if you don’t regularly use your wash, how will you ever know if everything is functioning well? It is about operators being critical customers themselves and making sure their car wash is as good as they want it to be. The little things matter, which means the best operators will stay on top of the details. Making those timely changes on hoses, guns, wands, and nozzles ensure a quick recovery as does having pump kits readily available in case a pump rebuild is necessary. The customers’ impression of a car wash is informed by what they perceive visually. If the spray guns appear to look worn-out, more than likely they will rethink their next visit. Nozzles will look old before they actually become ineffective. This is a very inexpensive item to replace, but keeping items such as these updated makes your wash look fresh and gets you in front of a problem. You can look at it as an extra investment or an ongoing expense to keep your car wash performing at the best level. Maintaining everyday regular items will help keep your business where it needs to be to make a profit.
STOCK UP ON PARTS
Keep parts on hand regardless of how close you are to a supplier. Breakdowns can occur at the most inconvenient times like on the busiest day on a weekend. Besides, operators should not have to rely on next-day air shipping. Ordering regular, everyday-use item next-day air just adds unnecessary expense. For example, order additional nozzles well in advance of installing the last one on your shelf. Normal use items should be on hand at all times, meaning you should be restocking your own supply when minimal levels are reached. Other crucial items that keep a car wash afloat include brass and poly-tube fittings. When products that consist of these fixtures leak, you want to make sure you can repair them in an instant and move right on.
Services like the foamy brushes need constant attention. It is important to make sure that the soap mixture is topnotch and that you have your regulators adjusted so the foam isn’t too runny or too dry. Compressors, for example must be drained regularly to prevent the buildup of too much moisture, which could end up in the air pumps. Consistently inspecting the wash bays every day will make those monthly and yearly checkups a breeze.
Setting high maintenance standards is essential to your car wash success. Most customers come back to your business because they had a satisfactory experience the last time. If you constantly have maintenance issues, the end result will be a failing establishment. It is important for operators to check in daily at their washes and keep a large supply of parts and service items on the shelves. Car wash businesses thrive on good customer relations. So, if you do your part and ensure a reliable operation, your customers will do theirs.
Chelsea Dimmig is a staff writer with Columbus, PA-based Kleen-Rite Corporation. You can visit the company on the web at www.kleenrite.com.