How to Run the Perfect Car Wash

How to Run the Perfect Car Wash

Jun 20, 2018 10:01:05 AM

Recently we published our handy how-to infographic for running the perfect car wash. It has been pretty well received, but we thought we would go into some more detail about just how you can get the best results at every step of the car wash, from tires to top. After all, running the perfect car wash needs care and attention at every step. So here’s our overview of optimizing your wash to its maximum potential:


A presoak is to a car wash what a canvas is to a painting: without a good foundation, you could be compromising the final results.

Before deciding on a presoak for your wash, there are a few things to consider:

Water Quality: Water hardness can inhibit the foaming action and detergency of presoaks. This not only costs you on performance, but also on product use levels-dollars. Luckily there are water treatment options and detergents that excel in each case: Our A-776 Series and our Select 35 presoak are designed to counter the effects of hard water.

Road film: Road film can be comprised of many different soils; Brake Dust, Concrete dust, Asphalt, Tree Sap and Pollen, just to name a few. Each film type can require a slightly different chemistry. Matching the correct product for your road film type is critical.

In some cases, a two-step process is required, utilizing both Lo and Hi pH products. This is particularly effective when dealing with both mineral and organic based road film. Using PS-140 or PC-300 make great Lo pH options when combined with an Alkaline Presoak.

Bug prep

There’s nothing worse than stubborn bug smears on a front grill or windshield. While many detergents, such as our Red Hot and A-514 presoak double up as bug prep applications, sometimes it’s better to run a dedicated step that directly deals with unsightly yellow stains. Just make sure that it’s hard on bugs but soft on car parts, as the chemicals it uses might be damaging to rubber or paint, especially at hot summer temperatures. Our D-BUG bug prep application is specially formulated to be soft on your car, including paint, chrome, rubber, and glass — but it pulls no punches in stripping away bug residues.


Customers love the deep black and shiny chrome in their tires and wheels just as much as they enjoy seeing their reflection in the hood. Unfortunately, the wheels are where the majority of dirt and brake dust accumulates — and it’s one of the most difficult areas to clean effectively.

When cleaning tires, the application you choose needs to be high-foaming to get into the deepest and hardest-to-reach parts of the tire, hub and wheel housing. We also recommend using a heavy-duty alkaline detergent, such as our specially-designed WHEEL AND TIRE or SLAM tire cleaner, to attack road film wherever it collects. It is important to continually monitor CTA strength to avoid damaging wheels.

Foaming Detergents

Every wash has their own wants and needs when it comes to choosing a foaming detergent application in the main part of the wash process. However, a good detergent should be:

high-foaming, to increase customer appeal

high lubricity, so that brushes and wraps don’t scratch or squeak

free-rinsing, so it’s easy to wash off and dry

pH-balanced (or acid-alkaline mix), to break down road film and grease and counter acidic residues

These are baseline demands for all of our chemical formulations and the first thing we look at when we audit our partners’ systems. The importance of effective and well-manufactured chemicals cannot be understated.

Triple Foam

Triple Foams make your car wash memorable. They work by combining pleasant fragrances, bright colors, and different product strengths to bring a deep clean and bright shine — and some triple foams include additives that enhance shine and surface protection. Triple foams are especially great because of their workability and flexibility. They can be worked around a range of client needs. For example, our Low-pH Series is gentle on the car, neutralizes alkaline carryover and preserves cleaning equipment and wraps, while our POLISH series effectively breaks water for easy rinsing and aiding in drying — great for Touch-Free applications.

Final-Wash Treatments

The beginning stages of a wash are important, but at the end of the day the bright shine of a car is what clients remember and come back for. Post-wash treatments — from Drying Agents and Tire Glosses to Protective Coats and Waxes — are where your car wash can make all the difference.

First, Tire Dressings are where you can capitalize on all the work done during the tire cleaning process. Tire glosses, such as our water-based silicone TIRE SLICK and its oil-based relative SHOWTIME can really bring out a deep, shining, new-tire black that impresses customers.

Then there are the additional treatments you can apply to sustain your customers’ cars in the long term. Seal-oil-free, polymer-based treatments that bring out the best in your customers’ car surfaces — such as our POLY-TECT application — bring their vehicles added protection against road film, ultraviolet rays, and environmental dirt.

In wintery and icy conditions where rust and corrosive deicing material are the daily norms, our RUST INHIBITOR solution is an effective means to fight against road salt and deicing materials, leaving an anti-rust barrier that protects your clients’ cars for miles to come.

Finally, car wash managers should recognize that the extra, add-on products are an opportunity to differentiate themselves, with other value-adds that bring extra value to your service and improve client perception of your car wash. One example would be our fragrance blast, a chemical treatment designed to breathe new life into your clients’ stuffy car interiors. After all, who doesn’t love that clean, new car smell?

However, the best way you can make sure your wash is running optimally at every step of the way is to talk to the experts who know how it’s done. With nearly 25 years of experience, ChemQuest is a car wash partner who leverages our extensive co-branding, our lightning-fast turnaround times and unparalleled customer service and support to help companies grow noticeably and measurably. If you want to find out more, get in contact with us for a professional, industry-expert audit of your how your car wash runs and run your own trial of our product line. If you want to talk to us about soap, car washes, and where you want to see yourself in the next ten years, we’d be more than happy to help you on the journey forward.