4 Ways to Optimize the Car-Wash Business

How retailers can boost traffic and streamline operations.
Photograph: Shutterstock

For convenience-store retailers, the car wash can be a boon to business. But sometimes, keeping customers interested and costs manageable can be a struggle—especially when there’s still the rest of the store to operate. But there are a few ways retailers can optimize their car washes to encourage and ensure their continued success, from streamlining operations to tweaking marketing and promotions and upgrading or changing the chemicals used. Take a look.

Streamline operating costs and maintenance

Optimizing the car wash starts with having well-maintained equipment. With well-maintained equipment, downtime can be better prepared for, or better yet, avoided, rather than dealt with at the last minute when something unexpectedly malfunctions or needs repair. Unscheduled repairs can knock out sales for hours, days or even weeks at a time, depending on how severe they are.

For retailers, unplanned downtime is money lost. To ensure efficiency, retailers should review the maintenance schedule as well as perform routine inspections to catch any problems before they become an emergency.

Adjust marketing and promotions to increase customer loyalty

Another way to optimize the car-wash business at a c-store is to boost or refocus marketing efforts. Consider offering specials on certain days, implementing a loyalty program that rewards frequent car-wash users and setting up marketing campaigns on social media or through direct mail that help build awareness of the car wash.

Retailers can also adjust or post new signage to indicate car-wash specials or changes in products or services offered. Upgrading the type of cleaning chemicals, for instance, can be a big draw for certain consumers, such as those who have concerns about traditional, popular cleaners.

Update cleaning products used to ensure consistent, high-quality washes and reduce overall costs

Evaluating the products used in a car wash can optimize the wash as well as boost consumer perception of quality. Some products commonly used include hydrofluoric (HF) acid, which is considered a dangerous chemical—and one that can damage cars. One of the reasons cleaners still contain HF acid is because it does a good job of cleaning, removing road dirt, grime, brake dust, rust and more. It is also inexpensive. However, its use has been increasingly discouraged, leading retailers to look for alternatives that provide an equally thorough cleaning while still being affordable.

Cleaning chemicals from Mark VII offer retailers the quality they need in a concentrated, effective formula. Its alkaline-free soap has in fact been reported by some retailers to work better than standard HF acid cleaners. While switching may not be a 1-to-1 comparison when it comes to cost, more concentrated products mean that less needs to be used per wash, so it lasts longer and can provide more washes than the same amount of HF acid cleaner or other, more diluted alternatives.

By making the switch, retailers can offer a safer, better clean.

Adding other products to the lineup

Other products that can also help boost sales for car washes include upgrades, such as waxes that give customers the sheen they want without having to pay for a hand-wax service. Bug removers and clear-coat sealants offer customers the add-ons they’re looking for, and they can help boost customer satisfaction of the overall car wash. Consider asking customers what types of products they’d like to see or distributing customer surveys to get a better feel for what might be a good fit.

Optimizing car washes is key to continued success

Car washes aren’t a “set it and forget it” endeavor. Various aspects of the business should be regularly reassessed to ensure things are running smoothly and cost-effectively. Retailers should make sure to plan for regular maintenance to avoid unplanned downtime; refocus marketing efforts to ensure the community is aware the car wash is there; and upgrade and add products being used within the car wash. From cleaners to bug removers to wax, the quality of the products is what will keep customers coming back.

Learn more about quality car wash chemicals at

This post is sponsored by Mark VII Equipment

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