Why I Hate The Car Wash Business

What ,more appropriate time to write something on “Why I Hate The Car Wash Business”. After all, it is only my second blog post on promoting my book Car Wash Business 101 (www.carwashbusiness101.com) and it is also why this business isn’t for everyone. So before you invest $1m plus into your car wash. READ THIS!


Ok, just to remind everyone, I own two self serve car washes in Pittsburgh, PA. In recent months, the washes have been running flawlessly. I don’t think I even needed to change  a leaking hose. Now this past Thursday, two days before I am leaving on my annual family vacation to Bethany Beach DE, I get a call that one of my bays will not start. As the customer described what was happening (or not happening), I knew what the problem was. Within ten minutes I arrived at the wash, moved the customer over to the other bay, removed the treadle plate that detects car when they enter and exit and within another hour had the part welded and reinstalled. Everything is working great again! Whew, relieved that is happened while I was still here to problem solve. OK now it’s Friday, actually Friday the 13th. When I first read my emails on Friday morning I detect that there might be another problem. One of my automatic bays has much high use while the other bay has unusually low traffic. I decide I better get to the wash earlier this AM morning. When I get there, the first thing that I notice is that the automatic door has been hit. Then it deteriorates from here. I notice that the gantry (the machine that rolls over and cleans the car) is knocked off the track and the boom arm (the arm that carries all the hoses to the gantry) is all mangled an in a position that I have never seen it in. There are scrapes where a roof rack on a vehicle scratched this $125k piece of equipment. OK now everything I had planned for the day was scrapped. My golf game, a few hours at the wash to prepare for my following weeks vacation, and a few other pre-vacation errands all needed pushed aside while handled this problem. My first inclination was to go check the video and see who the idiot customer was. But I went to work instead. First I managed to get the gantry back on it’s track through leverage and busting my back. OK, that’s done. Now I need to fix the boom arm. After a lot of work getting back into position, I realize that the stainless arm was bent and needs straightened. I spend two hours removing the boom arm. I run it down to my local hose shop (who also acts as my machine shop at times) and have three guys heat and bend the arm back into place. I spend another two hours reinstalling the boom arm. Get all the hoses reattached, and I’m back in business and everything is working OK. But I sense that there is more damage that I don’t know about.  Now I leave for vacation, I have my fill-in guy working for me and I get through Saturday OK. Now here it is Sunday AM day 2 of my family vacation. I get a call from fill-in guy. He says “Auto Bay 1 is running up and down the track constantly and will not stop, no water coming out, no car in the bay”. This is a first in 8  years of car wash ownership and I have no idea on how to troubleshoot it. I tell him shut the bay down. Now I am down to one bay which will result in a decrease in business and will also result in the loss of redundancy (this is the main reason you should build at least two Auto Bays in my opinion, but that’s another blog!). Now I have to cross my fingers that Bay 2 stays up and running for the rest of the week. Now after my long story, this is “Why I Hate The Car Wash Business”. In my situation, I am on even when I’m off, the 365 day 24 hour nature of the business cand be mind numbing. If you want to get into this business you need to think about it. A great defense mechanism is to allow your mind to reflect on all the freedom and time you have during the week when there aren’t any problems but the business still sucks when you have a problem while on your family vacation. A good owner would hire a mechanic in on Monday to fix the problem. Guess what I’m going to do? You got it.


Main add value’s from this blog:

Even though the self serve car wash business allows you much freedom the 365 day always open nature of the business can be burdensome at times.

Don’t ever think this business is just collect money and clean up.


Scott Glover is the author of Car Wash Business 101, a book written for people who are interested in getting into the car wash business. He has also built two self serve car washes with in-bay automatics, and bought a third wash.

Authors Note: I write my blogs hard and fast, please don’t criticize me for spelling and grammatical errors!

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Leave A Reply (1 comment so far)

  1. Buzzie
    11 years ago

    Thanks for your post. Your questions are valid questions about car wash ownership. I think the point of my blog post is that “the always on” nature of owning car washes can you drive you crazy sometimes. Actually, these things don’t happen too often, but for some reason they always seem to happen during inconvenient times. It is especially troubling when they happen when you are away on vacation or a weekend trip. If you do not have any mechanical skill or limited mechanical skills my honest opinion is that it would be difficult to own a car wash or would need to reach a “critical mass” and own enough locations that you can afford to hire a handyman/mechanic. Or, possibly, the car wash business could compliment a business you already own. An example of this would be an investor who owns apartments and already has a handyman on staff or possibly quick lube or auto repair shop that already has mechanics on staff. Distributors are available but will dilute your profits if you need to call them every time a coin mech gets jammed or a small hose needs replaced.

    No, I never found out who hit my equipment but have since installed a license plate camera so I can identify vehicle owners on the property when they create a problem. And yes, if I had a license plate camera at the time I would have reported his plate to the cops.