Choose Between Two Options
- $10 for one emissions test and Lava Shield car wash for single car ($42 value)
- $22 for two Groupons, each valid for one emissions test and Lava Shield car wash ($84 value)
Automatic Car Washes: An Alternative to Taking the Kids to the Movies Since 1946
The automatic car wash wasn’t invented in one fell swoop. First came drive-thru washes, with workers cleaning the car as it drove through a tunnel; then, in 1946, a system was developed that pulled a car through automatically by latching its bumper to a conveyor belt. Water rained down from above while manually controlled brushes scrubbed the car’s surface, finishing with a dry from a giant blower. The sequence is the same today, though the conveyor belts now engage the wheels, and the brushes turn and swish by themselves; there are also jets that shoot foam and even dispense wax and polish. Instead of manual brushes, there are soft mitter curtains (the name for the tentacles of fabric that are one of the first sights you encounter inside) and rapidly spinning columns of scrubbing cloth strips. The speed of the motion replaces the need for abrasive surfaces, making modern washes easier on paint than their forebears likely were.
The coordination of all these moving parts is enabled by the digital control system—the car wash’s brain. It tells all the pieces of machinery when to do their job based on how long the car is and where it’s still sore from last weekend’s dirt races. In most cases, the process is kicked into gear when the car crosses an infrared beam spanning the entryway. The amount of time the beam is broken indicates the vehicle’s length.
- “Touch-less” car washes simply use high-pressure water instead of scrubbers to do all the work.
- The average at-home car wash uses about 80–140 gallons of water, and an automatic car wash uses about 45. Much of the water up until the final rinse is recycled, collected through drains in the floor and filtered for reuse.