For the best operators, wash quality is an obsession to be checked and maintained every, single, day. But first new operators must understand each of the factors at work in the car wash tunnel and how they fit together to build good wash performance—particularly during busy, high volume periods.

These five elements are:


Each wash product has a particular function, recommended dilution ratio, and pH value. For instance, Tommy 360-C (our proprietary presoak application) is quite alkaline in order to effectively cut through stubborn vehicle stains such as road tar or bug smear. On the other hand, Tommy Brite, our body soap, is slightly acidic in order to balance out the overall pH of the wash tunnel.

If the pH values of the products applied are not correctly neutralized by the end of the wash it results in extremely poor drying performance with “sticky” sheets of water lying heavily on the vehicle’s exterior.

In the same way, if the dilutions of the product are not correct operators will experience higher overhead, drying residue, or diminished performance across the wash tunnel. Maintaining proper chemical performance is a daily process!


Just like a hot cycle in your dishwasher removes soils better than a cold cycle, using the proper temperature water in the tunnel activates certain wash products at work. This means certain functions should receive heated water while others can be kept cool to control costs.

High air temperatures are also important, as they promote vastly better drying performance at the end of the tunnel. Heated blowers are generally recommended for car wash developments in cooler or seasonal climates.

Friction / Pressure

Friction defines the contact of different cleaning materials on the car, while pressure refers to the force of water sprayed across the vehicle. Both are vital for effective cleaning performance.

Soft-cloth or closed cell foam brushes, which are continuously and heavily lubricated with body soap, provide the physical cleaning power to lift dirt and grime away from the car safely. These must be kept clean, lubricated properly, and replaced when they begin to wear out.

High pressure spray delivers cleaning compounds to all sections of the car with enough strength to expose the more-stubborn materials so the presoak or conditioner can get to work. Lower pressure is used for areas where damage could occur under high pressure conditions, such as the undercarriage, or with applications like UV Protectant which don’t require forceful application.


All wash products, from presoak to hot wax, need a set amount of dwell time to perform their functions effectively. In a busy tunnel car wash, this time is often a matter of seconds. But if the products are rinsed away or diluted prematurely the quality of the car wash will suffer.

As a result operators must select products designed to work effectively at high conveyor speeds during peak operating hours. Car wash equipment should also be laid out in such a way as to provide just enough working room between each function.

Water Quality

Hard water is the bane of many a car wash. High mineral content prevents car wash soap from properly lathering up, leaves behind an unappetizing residue instead of a spot-free shine, and can also wear down or gunk up equipment prematurely and cause damage over time. Water hardness must be investigated thoroughly and corrected with the use of water softeners and reverse osmosis systems, in order to provide high quality water for wash functions.

Always remember: wash quality is YOUR PRODUCT. Let it slip and the long term consequences will be far greater than a handful of dissatisfied customers. Instead, work constantly to improve and protect your results, including the results of washes at your lowest menu tiers.

Treat your customers right and work to give them the best possible result for their money. They will notice!

If you are interested in investing in a high quality, national car wash franchise we invite you to consider the Tommy’s Express Car Wash Franchise. You can also visit the Tommy Car Wash Systems webstore to find high performance, specially formulated express car wash detergents, products, and equipment.

Tommy Car Wash Systems