Though it originally sold only two things—audio products and wireless phones—Car Toys has gradually expanded its repertoire. Today, with 50 locations spread across four states, electronics-certified technicians install everything from Alpine in-dash navigation units to phone-integration systems that sync iPhones, Androids, and tin cans to car stereos. Meanwhile, in the garage, detailing technicians meticulously spruce up cars inside and out, using deionized water, paint-friendly shampoos, and high-quality wash mitts to protect against scratches, swirls, and water spots. The team also sweeps through interiors with vacuums, hot-water extractors, and ozone deodorizing treatment, which kills airborne bacteria and nasty smells in one fell swoop.
On the corner of Washington Avenue and Heights Boulevard in the Heights, there’s a big blue building with a covered carport and a lot full of cars with all their doors open, this is Keep It Clean Carwash. Since 2004, Houstonians have been getting their cars hand-buffed by Keep It Clean team members. There are no big machines or drive-through sprayers here, it’s hand washing and detailing all the way. Customers can expect a wait on the weekends, when it seems like half of Houston is getting waxed and shampooed here, but they’re open every day except major holidays and during severe weather. Services range from a basic wash to show room detailing with leather treatments, rug shampooing and interior and exterior protectants.
There's a reason why owner Bill Lawrence decided to set Bubbles Hand Car Wash apart with upscale services and a pleasant ambiance. As Lawrence relayed to Allison Wollam of the Houston Business Journal, he was charmed by a clean, welcoming car wash he visited shortly after moving to Texas from New York, where car washes typically charged a convenience fee to any customer who smiled. Lawrence knew he could cater better to luxury car owners like himself with a conveyerized hand-wash system that combined the convenience of the tunnel model with the hands-on meticulousness of a traditional hand wash. His idea has caught on with some very high-profile customers. Houston Texans linebacker Mister Alexander trusts his ride to the skilled hands of Bubbles’ technicians, as do Houston Rockets players Hakeem Olajuwon and Kenny Smith, not to mention former president George Bush.
Even patrons without a Porsche or a professional sports career appreciate Bubbles' gentle lamb's wool mitt washes and eco-friendly soaps, sealers, waxes, and conditioners, as proven by the business’s 2010 and 2012 Houston A-List awards for Best Car Wash. Customers seem to be as taken with the company’s facilities as they are with its services; each lobby invites relaxation with free WiFi, a bemusing gift shop, and shoe shines so effective that patrons need only stand beside their vehicle to check its undercarriage. The community-conscious car washes also use less than a quarter of the water typically expended during a home wash, and the locations offer free car washes for military personnel on Veterans Day.
The crew at Soap Hand Car Wash employs deep-nap mitts and a three-bucket technique that uses less than 10 gallons of water per wash. From Bucket 1 they pull amber-colored lamb's wool mitts and scrub wheels, tires, bumpers, undersides, and other gritty areas. Then they strap on white synthetic-wool mitts from Bucket 2 to clean the paint. Bucket 3 holds clean water, which the detailers use to rinse out the white mitts before dunking them in fresh soap and cleaning the paint a second time. Their special yellow sponges (made by Pinnacle) remove bugs without messing up the finish, and their terry towels (white for windows and painted surfaces; blue for everything else) leave all cars—including Maseratis, BMWs, Bentleys, and antique Mercedes-Benzes—dry and swirl-free.
Soap’s detailers build wonders on that three-bucket foundation. Dressings spiff up leather, tires, and wheels. Shampoo cleanses carpets. Orbital buffers add shine, and vacuums scoop up interior crumbs before they rot and conspire to poison the Garfield window cling. Wax upgrades are available, including handcrafted premium carnauba Lusso Oro wax and Pinnacle Souverän show-car wax.
While they wait, drivers can sip complimentary coffee or access free WiFi in the waiting room, which is equipped with flat-screen TVs. A kids' area entertains youngsters as they dream up ways to retain the lot price of their Matchbox cars.:m]]
Every car is different, but they all look good after a fresh wash. The technicians at South Beach Auto Spa keep that in mind, delivering expert detailing services while taking the extra steps needed to protect vehicles. On top of traditional hand wash and wax services, the staff offers three- and five-stage polishing that buffs out nicks, scratches, water spots, or hood paintings of Princess Leia. Techs even use different wash sponges on the wheels than on the body, ensuring that sponges don't pick up the brake dust that can scratch a car's paint finish.
One of only a few local shops lucky enough to carry 3M products, South Beach Auto Spa also protects auto interiors with tint-installation services. Customers can gauge the potential appearance of different tinting films through a simulator, opting for color-stable, crystalline, or premium films. All tinting films are digitally cut using software and a Roland plotter, and help fend off UV rays and adverse temperatures while increasing each auto's security and appearance.
The skilled staff members at Auto Concierge restore vehicular topcoats and tires to their original luster within a 1,200-square-foot detailing studio comfortably heated or cooled according to the season. Armed with top-notch waxes and wheel sealants from brands such as Swissvax and Nanolex Premium, employees make over cars from hubcap to roof rack, bathing exteriors before gently lifting entrenched debris and paring down uneven paint. Compressed air blasts grime from interiors, and dry vapor steam purifies carpets and upholstery while staffers wring out smoky scents and other lingering odors such as fast-food fries, frankincense, or myrrh. Auto Concierge also rights wrongs inflicted by auto dealerships by leveling and polishing flawed paint jobs. Roadsters that need to stay overnight at Auto Concierge are locked indoors and chaperoned by a 24-hour surveillance system.