How Car Wash Operators and OEMs Utilize Technology to Improve Safety and Sustainability

How car wash operators and OEMs utilize technology to improve safety and sustainability

Modern car washes use cutting-edge technologies and eco-friendly methods to enhance safety, sustainability, and customer satisfaction, contributing to greater profitability. Let’s go behind the scenes to see how advanced, intelligent equipment can help today’s car wash businesses achieve their goals.

In most modern cities, old-fashioned car washes are increasingly giving way to more modern, innovative, eco-sustainable, and customer-friendly alternatives. Behind these changes lies the integration of increasingly advanced technology and systems, working to support the objectives of the car wash business. Let’s go behind the scenes to see how advanced, intelligent equipment can help today’s car wash businesses achieve their goals.

A look inside a carwash

At its essence, a car wash is a combination of pump and conveyor applications. Anyone who’s been through one of the newer, high-tech car washes has seen these systems at work. The customer selects the desired wash features from an automatic pay station, which then sends a signal to the car wash to activate the chosen services. Once the vehicle enters the wash, a conveyor system takes over and guides it through the wash at the proper speed. Pumps spray water and chemicals onto the vehicle. Motors guide the brushes. High-powered fans dry the vehicle as it exits the wash. Practically the only manual effort remaining is for the customer to vacuum their vehicle (or not).

Some OEMs optimize their vacuum systems by decentralizing the design within their control scheme. This type of design would be for more efficient troubleshooting and component replacement to keep the car wash more sustainable and to reduce downtime.

What customers don’t see are the motor control systems and advanced sensors guiding the process. While many elements of the car wash have remained familiar over the years, the pumps, motors, sensors, controls, and other intelligent devices that drive the mechanical equipment continue to advance at an accelerated rate. 

Intelligent technologies are driving a revolution in the business model for many car wash operators, allowing them to achieve the kinds of business objectives that make a car wash eco-friendly and profitable. When we work with car wash operators and equipment OEMs, the four most frequently cited objectives are sustainability, an improved customer experience, safety, and of course, a more profitable enterprise.


Many modern car wash owners and operators recognize the importance of conserving resources, and water conservation is one key element of sustainability. Efficient pumping systems consider the size of the car to optimize water usage and include reliable motor starting products with a long life cycle and high-performance quality. By installing water reclamation systems, these facilities can recycle more than half of the water used during the washing process. At the same time, de-ionization and purification systems help meet state and local regulations for water purity.

Another important step towards sustainability is the use of eco-friendly cleaning supplies. Traditional car wash soaps and detergents can contain chemicals that are harmful to the environment. Replacing these compounds with biodegradable soaps and detergents reduces environmental impact. Car wash equipment manufacturers support this move by recommending the use of biodegradable cleaning supplies with their equipment. 

Some car wash companies are even installing energy-efficient equipment and lighting setups, some of which harness solar power to lower the facility’s environmental footprint further.

By employing these and other sustainability solutions, modern car wash facilities are not only protecting the environment but also improving their public image and often reducing operational costs, creating a win-win situation for all involved.

Customer experience. 

There’s little doubt the car wash experience has changed dramatically in the last several decades. We’ve progressed from old-style DIY bays where customers tried to get their car clean before running out of quarters all the way to stylish modern facilities designed to make the car wash experience faster, more inviting, and family-friendly. 

Automation also significantly boosts the car wash user experience. High-tech equipment, digital communications, and touchless systems advance efficiency and precision, reduce wait times, and ensure a thorough and consistent wash every time. By leveraging these technological innovations, modern car washes provide a level of service that goes beyond simple vehicle cleaning, making customer visits quick, efficient, and enjoyable. Being ahead in the tech game can also help car wash businesses stand out from their competitors, promoting customer loyalty and retention.


Car washes use a lot of mechanical and electrical equipment and chemicals, so it’s no surprise safety for employees and customers is a top priority. Automated car washes leverage advanced sensors and computer controls combined with heavy-duty conveyors to adapt to the size and shape of each vehicle, ensuring optimal cleaning while reducing the potential for damage.

Furthermore, advanced car wash equipment and systems are often equipped with automated safety features that reduce the risk of injury or vehicle damage while operating machinery. Sensors, fail-safe components, emergency shutoffs, and safety components are in place to prevent accidents or malfunctions by stopping or slowing down equipment before it becomes dangerous. Conveyor systems, which can include softstarters, can detect issues like jams or improperly loaded vehicles and stop the conveyor belt to prevent further damage or injury.

Lower costs/increase revenues. 

Car wash owners invest in the business to make money, so lowering costs and increasing revenues are top priorities. Many of the technological advancements that help owners and operators achieve other objectives can also help the bottom line. 

Automated car wash systems, guided by advanced sensors and computer controls, provide consistent, high-quality cleanings with minimal human intervention. This reduces labor expenses and leads to a faster service time, allowing for a higher volume of cars to be washed in a day. Higher turnover rates translate to increased revenue, improving the overall profitability of the car wash business.

Moreover, advanced equipment is now designed with sensors to determine the vehicle size and shape and focus water and detergents to minimize waste. This is a key factor in lowering operational costs. For example, modern systems use precision technology to minimize the use of water and cleaning agents during the wash process. 

Components with communication ability give owner/operators the data they need to make good decisions quickly. For example, breakers with advanced trip units or softstarters can monitor the condition or performance of mechanical equipment (drives, pumps, motors, etc.) to alert operators to the need for periodic maintenance. 

Not only can these control and power components help detect major issues signified by a drop in performance, but they can also detect small issues that can damage equipment. For example, operating a pump when the reservoir of soap or wax is empty can lead to stresses on the mechanics of the system. When chemicals run low, modern communications systems can send an alert from softstarters, relays, or sensors to an on-site operator or a centralized control room located off-site. Last but certainly not least, energy-efficient components and lighting systems also contribute to significant savings on energy bills. 

Let’s go to the car wash!

At ABB, we’re excited to help bring about these changes and support our car wash customers and OEMs as they innovate to bring about the next generation of car wash businesses. We expect increasing digitization and services like EV charging to help make car washes more efficient, profitable, and eco-friendly. More than that, we’re excited to see what our customers can create and how we can help innovate the future of this segment. With some of the most imaginative minds in any industry, we wouldn’t be surprised to see washing the car turn from something that needs to get done into an event the entire family looks forward to.

See related blog post “The three levels of motor starting controls”.

Diana Nuccitelli 

Market Development Manager

Joe Flaviani

Market Development Manager

Rosa Lopez

Market Development Manager

Rebecca Vollmann

Market Development Manager

ABB Electrification Business