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Car Wash Industry Customizing to Meet Needs of Customers

Jimmy’s Mobile Detailing
Jimmy’s Mobile Detailing

You may have noticed more car wash businesses than ever before cropping up around town.

It’s not your imagination.

Between automation, eco-friendly practices such as reclaiming water, more vehicles per household than ever before, and the increase in subscription models, the car wash industry is exploding exponentially.

EcoShine Autowash in Mars is an unattended friction-based car wash. Unlike touchless, a friction-based car wash is one that is equipped with polyester foam brushes and soapy water, designed to remove all debris from the car’s surface. Owner Jose Raymundo said that he recently teamed up with Everwash, a Philadelphia-based company, to offer a subscription-based model, where customers download an app with a QSR code.

Subscription-based models for car washes are gaining traction, he said, and it is an effective way to stay competitive in the car wash business.

Dan Fitzpatrick, one of the owners of Drake’s Car Wash in Cranberry, also offers a three-tiered subscription package for his friction car wash. Cars pull into an in-bay tunnel, and the car is stationary while the equipment moves around it.

“We don’t touch your car; we guide you in a tunnel. We do the prepping—a high-pressure rinse to spray bugs away—and from there, the equipment does all the cleaning,” he said.

Fitzpatrick said that today’s car wash equipment is sophisticated. His business, for example, uses a sonar and other sensors to measure vehicles and adjusts the pressure of the equipment that comes into contact with each car. He also uses closed-cell foam, which does not hold liquid or grit and is therefore gentler on the car’s finish.

Subscription packages at Drake’s range from express to signature and ultimate. There is also an unlimited option for a monthly fee, enabling customers to wash their cars as often as they’d like, with a dedicated express lane for members.

While summer is a busy time, car washes are also busy in winter, as customers want to wash away the detrimental effects of road salt. “It slows down in the summer because people wash their own cars and cars don’t get as dirty,” said Raymundo.

Besides bringing your car to an automated or self-service car wash, there is another popular and convenient option: having someone like Jimmy Mazzotta wash and detail your car at your home. Mazzotta, a Shaler resident, owns Jimmy’s Mobile Detailing and offers both interior and exterior services.

“It’s a handwash and cleaning of the entire car, the door frames and such, all exterior glass, waxing the body, and cleaning and polishing the plastics and the wheels,” said Mazzotta of the exterior process. He brings his own supplies, too.

For some customers, an exterior wash is enough, but many people like the interior to sparkle as well and opt for Mazzotta’s detailing service. “It’s a really thorough cleaning; I use a disinfectant and clean the dashboard, the interior door frame and anything people touch,” he said.

Mazzotta also cleans out the trunk and cleans the rugs and mats. These services especially are popular with people who have young children or pets who frequently ride in the car. He said it’s a huge timesaver for people to choose to have their car professionally detailed.

An exterior washing takes about a half a day, but if Mazzotta is hired to do the interior as well, it will take up to a full day.

“When you handwash and wax a car, it makes a difference, and I think that’s why some people like it,” he said. “It’s appealing whether you do it to treat yourself to keep your car nice or because you want to trade it in,” he said.

Mazzotta recently started a loyalty program, giving $100 off the regular price of any fifth service after the purchase of four services.

While there is no set-in-stone rule as to how frequently your car should be washed, it is important to wash away the effects of winter. As Raymundo said, “I would say at least monthly in the summer, and once a week in the winter to get the salt and grime underneath. These elements are not good for your car and could rust it out.”

It’s also important to wash away pollen and bugs. “Bugs and bird droppings are more harmful to paint than mud,” said Fitzpatrick.

Today, in accordance with sustainability practices, many if not all car washes in the area recycle their water, due in part to municipal mandates. “I installed a reclamation system about 14 years ago; I recycle 70 percent of the water used,” said Raymundo.

Fitzpatrick has one as well. “All runoff water goes through a reclamation system to filter out impurities. A very high percentage is reused,” he said. He also uses a reverse osmosis water system, which greatly decreases spotting.

Washing your car regularly and removing chemicals and general road grime that build up on the car’s exterior can extend its life. Plus, like a good shower after a sweaty workout, there is no denying that it feels good when you’re riding around in a car that is sparkling clean.

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