There’s an unsettling notion in the car wash industry that the equipment in the tunnel is the most important aspect in the business. Although how clean a car leaves your facility is important, how can you clean the car if customers never approach your wash to begin with? That’s why you need to create a grand first impression, draw potential customers into your wash with signage, and keep them there by entertaining them. Let’s face it, nobody is inclined to pull into a fast food joint because they advertise a new state-of-the-art frying system; they go because of how appealing the signage makes the food.

Welcome arch.


Your signage is the best silent salesman you have — and you don’t have to write it weekly payroll checks either. Signage should be revisited every few years to make sure it’s still relevant and effective. Car wash owners are moving towards a more graphic-heavy approach to convey instructions and wash packages through iconic images and relying less on just text. Your approach should be simple and easy to understand from a customer’s perspective. A lot of owners get stuck in a tunnel-vision mentality, and they really need to consider the customer’s point of view. Ask employees and customers if your signage is effective, and gather feedback before embarking on a redesign of your signage. Effective signage should do the following:

Menu board.

1. Convey your branding.

Cohesive signage throughout your wash and on your grounds will help reinforce brand awareness and keep it in the customer’s mind longer.

2. Increase impulse sales.

A well-designed sign can entice people to make a purchase they typically wouldn’t. For instance, someone may come for a regular wash, see a sign for your detail services, and come back later for a cleanup when they need to turn in their lease car.

3. Promote a smooth traffic flow and reduce liability.

It is important to promote safety at your wash and you can achieve that by having well-placed, clear instructional signs.

4. Bring excitement.

By incorporating LED animations you can turn your tunnel into a grand show. When you bring buzz and excitement you greatly increase the likelihood of repeat business.


Creating effective signage can be a daunting task for the uninitiated or

new car wash owner, but it doesn’t have to be. There is a blue print that many businesses follow. It’s a combination of the following:

1. Exterior Signs

A monument sign is the cornerstone of your business because it’s the one sign that’s seen from the street and can convey your business to the traffic passing by daily.

2. Exterior Way-Finding Signs

Nothing will frustrate a customer more than not being able to navigate properly on your premises. Placing multiple directional signs for wash entrance, wash exit, detail area, vacuums, and vending is crucial.

3. A Welcome Arch

This serves a multipurpose approach that welcomes your customers, instructs them to safely get started on the treadle, and confirms what wash was just purchased. This really should be a knockout piece as it’s the first thing your customer sees when pulling into your wash.

4. Safety Signs

Every owner has heard the horror stories of cars damaging the expensive machinery inside the tunnel — a very costly mishap indeed. It is one that can be avoided, however, with a simple clearance bar alerting anyone that exceeds that height restriction. Clearance arches are positioned far enough from the entrance to deter any oversized vehicles from even approaching your wash entrance. Disclaimers are also important as they remind your customer in a friendly way what you are not responsible for.

5. Menu Signs

The point of purchase is possibly the most important sign you can have. After all, if your menu sign does not clearly show your offerings, how can a customer actually purchase a wash? Wash owners across the United States have increased their wash ticket average just by redesigning their menu in a more customer-friendly manner. Showing wash services through imagery is a popular way to entice customers to purchase higher wash packages.

6. Instructional Signs

Instructing your customers on how to load the vehicle properly will save you from any damage to your car wash conveyor. A simple but essential sign that illustrates Car in Neutral, Foot off Brake, and Hands off Steering is important so that the customer knows what they should do to ensure proper treadle alignment.

Tunnel signs.

7. Tunnel Signs

As your customers are going down the tunnel, it’s important to notify them each time a service is applied. This can be done with either graphic signs or a complete arch. Graphic fixtures come in various shapes and sizes and typically flash when that service is being applied. The arches double as both a sign and applicator. But graphic fixtures and arches alone won’t cut it anymore. To really make a splash, you need to feature LED animations inside your tunnel. These LED sticks come in various voltages and sizes, and will enhance any service that you have. A multi-color LED light strip can really give your plain foam bath a powerful punch and increase higher ticket sales because the animation show is worth it to the customer.

8. Promo Signs

You’ve more than likely seen companies advertise their monthly specials on wind-sign frames before, and this is one effective way car wash owners can bring awareness to extra services, gift books, and local community events. Adding a few of these on the driveway up to the point of sale can increase the likelihood of someone buying an extra service. Again, emphasis has to be placed on the design — it has to be enticing to grab that impulse sale.


Outside of signage, it’s worth mentioning how important it is to have a well-lit tunnel. By incorporating energy-efficient bright LED light fixtures or T5 lights, you can really enhance the likelihood of a potential customer stopping at your wash. Studies show that customers are more likely to stop at a well-illuminated car wash than one that is poorly lit. Aside from enhancing the wash’s visibility, it adds to the security of the establishment. If you have a clean wash, great lighting, effective signage, and an exciting show in the tunnel you will forge a relationship with your customers for a lifetime. Start with a grand impression and leave a lasting one when they depart.

Bobby Jones is marketing director for T.S.S. Inc., a Warren, MI-based signage supplier. You can visit the company on the web at