Upward trends in the industry have shown that self-serve car washing isn’t going anywhere. Many drivers want control over exactly how they wash their cars, and self-serve bays provide the answer. However, it can seem tricky to compete with large and flashy tunnel washes. You know plenty of customers are out there — the trick is getting them into the lot.

A logo keeps your business in customers’ minds.

Luckily, with a little polish, creativity, and Internet marketing know-how, you can keep your self-serve wash on the map.


Look around your wash with a critical eye. You have more branding and advertising opportunities than you may realize. Check the following areas to ensure your wash is ready to grab customers’ eyes, both in person and in photos:


Does your car wash have a logo? This can be a graphic or even a stylized version of your business name. Including a consistent logo in your signage and advertising is a great way to keep your business in people’s minds. If your wash does not have a logo, consider engaging the services of a freelance graphic artist who can create one. Your local sign shop may also have artists on staff who can help customers with logo creation.

Ask your graphic artist to give you logo files in both JPEG and EPS or AI (Adobe Illustrator) formats. JPEG files are normal images that you can upload to your website or social media, while EPS or AI files are often required by printers who can put your logo on signs and other custom material.


Does your car wash have a specific color scheme? Look at your logo — do any shades jump out? Bold yellows and reds are often used to catch the eyes of passersby, while blues, greens, and purples are calming and representative of water. No matter what colors you use, pick the most prominent one and order new awnings, vacuum nozzles, and vacuum hoses in the same shade. This will create a cohesive and memorable aesthetic for visitors.

Replace peeling, faded, or outdated decals.


Often available for free through your car wash equipment supplier, replacing worn decals can give the property an immediate facelift. Look for peeling, faded, or outdated decals on vacuums, vending machines, and meter boxes. Comfortable with a larger investment into branding? Consider custom decals that incorporate your logo and brand colors. Your existing equipment supplier and local sign shops are great places to start when interested in custom decal creation.

In-bay promotions.


You probably already have some roadside signs or sandwich boards scattered across your property. Make sure the graphics are bright, up to date, and easy to read across the street. There are many car wash-specific signs available, and you can also have a custom version made at most local sign shops. Letter signs are also a great way to spell out messages — be sure you have a full alphabet on hand. Consider adding a vacuum topper sign to your vacuum domes. These signs have either a single message or interchangeable cards that allow car wash owners to put reminders, prices, sales, and other notices at patrons’ eye level.

Colorful feather flags, reusable balloons, and inflatable figures are other fun and effective ways to catch the eyes of potential customers.

A clean, fresh look.

Bay Walls

Yellowed, moldy, or residue-caked bay walls can turn away prospective customers. A patron may feel that if your car wash itself is not clean, it won’t get their car clean either. Try applying a strong wall cleaner. If that does not remove all discoloration, it may be time for a cover-up. A fresh coat of paint will give your walls an instant facelift. Vinyl wall coverings are another easy-to-maintain option that will give your car wash a fresh new look.


If your self-serve wash stays open after sunset, bright lighting is key for both attracting drivers’ attention and helping them feel safe in your bays. There are many affordable and long-lasting LED light options on the market today. You c

Bright lighting attracts and offers security.

even choose colored LED lights that match your car wash color scheme. Plus, new lights will make your freshly cleaned bay walls sparkle like never before.

In addition to being bright and colorful, LED lights may make your business eligible for rebates from power companies or local municipalities. These kickbacks can vary by location, so be sure to check with your utility provider.


Now that you’ve got your car wash looking great, it’s time to do some promotion.

You’ve likely already dabbled in local advertising opportunities such as placing ads in the newspaper or sponsoring a school sporting event. It is very important to have an online presence as well. Google is the first place many potential patrons will check to find a car wash’s address, how to get to it, and the hours of operation. Getting this information online is a simple and affordable process.

Get Online

When you Google your own business name, some basic information will likely come up in a search result or on Google Maps. This information comes from public records and Google’s own mapping technology. You can take ownership of your business listings for free, and ensure that all the right information shows up.
1. Using a computer, go to Google My Business at www.google.com/business.
2. Sign in with your Google account, or create one (it’s free, and you can use any e-mail address).
3. Enter your car wash’s address and indicate what type of business it is.
4. Add your business phone number and website, if you have one.
5. Google will now verify your business ownership by sending a postcard to your address or calling/texting your business phone number with a special code. When you receive this code via mail or phone, log back into Google My Business and input the numbers.
6. Once verification is complete, you can continue entering information into your Google listing, including hours of operation, wheelchair accessibility, and special features like free Wi-Fi. Now, when people Google your business or pull it up on Google Maps, they’ll see all these details.


Many small business owners also like to have their business details available on Facebook. Once you have a Facebook page set up for your car wash, you can post special announcements and deals, as well as interact with customers who leave a review or have questions.
1. Using a computer, go to www.facebook.com. Log in with your personal Facebook account or create one (it’s free).
2. Click “create” in the top blue menu bar.
3. Select “page” in the drop-down menu.
4. Choose “business or brand” on the next screen.
5. Include your business name in the “page name” field and continue filling out the relevant business information such as business type and address.
6. Upload a profile photo (this is a great place to put your new logo).
7. Upload a cover photo — the horizontal image at the top of the business page.

Photos and More

All online business listings should include photos of your car wash. Today’s smartphones can take high-resolution photos that work well online or in print. Open the camera app settings and select “HDR.” This stands for high dynamic range and will capture the most detail. Next, snap some photos in natural daylight. The time directly after sunrise or before sunset is “the golden hour” and is a great time to take photos outdoors.

Getting your business presence established on Google and Facebook is a great first step. From there, you can continue to grow your online marketing by getting a website and even running online ads. Don’t worry about becoming a web developer or Internet marketing expert, though. There are many professionals who you can contract, both locally and via online freelancer hubs such as Fiverr and Upwork. Spending a little extra money on marketing up front can help your wash reap extra benefits over time.


When it comes down to it, the greatest advertising your wash can get is still going to be a satisfied customer. Now that you have your online presence started, don’t be afraid to ask customers to leave you a review online. Consider offering a one-time discount to customers who show you they checked in to your wash on Facebook or left a Google review. Get visitors to show off your property by offering a free wash to the best customer selfie or car wash photo posted to your business page.

The quality of your car wash will impress patrons and turn visitors into repeat customers. With a few clicks online, and some snazzy new lighting, you can ensure they come into your lot and experience what a great wash is.

Emily Gertenbach is senior copywriter and social media specialist at Columbia, PA-based Kleen-Rite Corp. You can visit the company on the web at www.kleen-ritecorp.com.