Halloween is just around the corner, and that means that car washes across the nation are readying for special, terrifying events to draw and entertain their customers once the sun goes down-including our affiliates at Quality Car Wash here in Holland MI. These events are hugely fun for children in particular, and are perfect for express car wash tunnel layouts. They also offer a valuable way for car wash operators to generate extra revenue, marketing buzz, and community goodwill.

Here’s how to get started:


Once you name your event (“Tunnel of Terror” is a perennial favorite) generate branded marketing materials with the event date and details and begin advertising at least two weeks beforehand. Flyers, on-site posters, and mailings are all options, but social media and Facebook in particular is your best tool.

Not only can you use social media to advertise the event to thousands of local individuals for just a few dollars, but you can also generate organic interest as viewers share the event to one another. Be sure to monitor your posts during the lead-up and answer any questions that are raised.


If there is a charity you would like to support with a portion of the event proceeds (your local children’s hospital, for instance) you can include that information on your marketing materials. You may also be able to contact the organization ahead of time for help marketing the event or generating positive media coverage.


Many wash operators begin by stringing up spider webs and other decorations, shutting off all tunnel lights aside from red, and setting up strobe lights or lasers with a fog machine. Custom signage and soundtracks are also a nice touch as the red lights from the service indicators turn foamy water into torrents of blood and the strobes illuminate the scenes from decorations or mutilated staff members spaced along the tunnel length.

Keep in mind that this event should be targeted towards young children and their parents. Also note that in order to generate the right experience operators may need to tweak the services offered (if any) during the wash and slow down the belt conveyor speed to give customers more time in the tunnel.


Your staff members and any extras you can round up can make or break the event. Position them near the entrance, inside the tunnel, at the exit, or elsewhere on the property and let them know that just by dressing up in scary costumes, laughing manically or screaming, and enjoying themselves they will become the stars of the show.


Safety, as always, should be a key concern for all involved. Car wash equipment can be extremely dangerous if regular safety procedures are ignored and any extras used in the event should be properly trained and kept outside of the wash tunnel or any other employee-only areas.

It is also wise to set an age advisory for the event, depending on just how gruesome of an experience you plan on delivering, and to disclose at the cashier station and on any marketing materials that there will be flashing lights, as these can trigger epileptic seizures.

After Marketing

Take videos and photos and add them to social media to extend the marketing benefits of the event. You may be surprised just how much your audience will grow from one year to the next!


Many car washes are simply not in a position to host a true tunnel of terror, usually because of their location. While a steady stream of customers may not be a problem during the day, large numbers of gawking families at night may cause lines that back up off the property and into traffic, resulting in a public hazard. Whether this becomes a problem will depend on the layout of your site, the cooperation of the local community, good planning, the event’s popularity, and the typical volume of traffic on the road.

And even if your wash is not able to host a true nighttime Tunnel of Terror there is no reason not to decorate, advertise, and enjoy a smaller scale event during normal business hours on or before the holiday.


Tommy Car Wash Systems.