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Brushes with greatness

Car wash brushes show their softer side with new technology.
Car going through a wash with big brushes grazing its sides

No matter how much change there is in the car wash business, some key aspects remain the same. To get a great car wash you still need three things - good quality water, detergent and friction to get the job done right. Today, some prefer to go the touchless route where water jets do the heavy lifting, but, for the majority of wash sites, friction from brushes is what creates the clean. 

In the early days of the Canadian car wash trade, operators used bristle brushes to grab grime and lift it off vehicle surfaces. There were complaints. Customers suspected the tough bristles were scratching the paint. Belanger came to the rescue with soft cloth technology that sought to change some of the touchpoints, making them more paint-friendly. Today, brush technology has moved from hard plastic nylon brushes to brushes constructed of soft strips of cloth and closed-cell foam media. These advancements better protect vehicles from damage while delivering a heightened level of clean.

It comes down to getting control of the basics, suggests Paul Facciol, VP Shine Auto Wash and Storguard Self Storage. “We did our homework upfront and have been able to fine-tune as we’ve moved forward,” he says, adding that their experience has allowed them to make many adjustments to the wash process that have helped them become one of North America’s volume leaders with through-put around 2,500 cars on a busy day.

Shine uses NEOGLIDE technology to maximize wash results. According to Facciol, they read a report on the technology from Mercedes and were sold on the system. “Mercedes showed us that hand washing actually grinds grit into the paint surface while NEOGLIDE flings grit and dirt away from the car during its 360 degree rinsed brush rotation.”  NEOGLIDE inhibits water absorption and resists grit and dirt becoming embedded into the brush material. The result is extremely gentle on current model soft clearcoat vehicles.

According to Bernard Aoun, sales director — equipment division with Entretien de Lave Auto Laval (ELAL), they have noticed that car washes with brush wash technology are making a comeback in the Quebec market over the last few years. “The advantages are numerous,” he says. “This technology offers more consistent quality and a faster wash than a touchless car wash. The brush technology has been greatly improved over the last few years. Most manufacturers now use variable speed frequencies (VFD) to allow an optimal adjustment of the brushes. There is also the material used which polishes vehicles at the same time it washes while being 100% waterproof which prevents car dirt from remaining on the brushes.

“To obtain an optimal result, we always recommend that our customers provide a high-pressure pre-rinse arch at the start of the wash cycle to dislodge the dirt that the brushes cannot reach. Also, it’s important to use high-quality chemicals to ensure that the brushes are always well lubricated. This lubrication will prevent the brushes from gripping vehicle antennas or mirrors and will ensure an optimal wash quality at all times.”


The right brush for the job

Twenty years ago, rocker brushes used to be 18-inches tall. Changes in car and truck body designs now mean these brushes must be much taller to reach popular SUV and heavy-duty truck designs. 

Wrap-around brushes have the same issue. With larger vehicles, wrap-around brushes may not fully unfold, extend or fit the shape of some vehicles as well as they should. This poor fit can provide a lack of necessary pressure on rear surfaces to remove road dirt.  One advancement that is helping to fix this challenge is Sonny’s new Dual CounterWeight Top Brush (DCW). The DCW starts close to the ground to wash the front bumper and grille, move along the windshield, and go up to the centre of the roofline before reversing the direction of the brush rotation to hug the rear of vehicles. This flexibility greatly improves the cleaning of hard-to-reach rear windows and tailgates on both trucks and SUVs.

Over recent years, synthetic brushes made of nylon and polypropylene have been the standard in most tunnel wash locations. These synthetic types of brushes that feature shorter filaments with fewer bristles on brush heads are stiffer and better suited for heavy scrubbings on tires and filthy older model cars. Softer materials such as cloth or foam are gentler on paint, trim and other surfaces.

Plush brush materials are another softer touch method for overall vehicle cleaning. These can range from 1/4-inch to 1-inch thickness with longer tufts reaching deeper into crevices and providing more overall surface area for cleaning.

Use hog’s hair brushes for prep work or final touch-up at tunnel washes on headlights, license plates, and door handles.  Hog’s hair brushes are tapered and feathered and work well with lubricants to deliver the softest, most effective option when used for foaming brushes in self-serve car wash operations.

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5 tips for tip-top brushes

  • 1

    Use a low-pressure hose to rinse wash site floor surfaces to ensure sand and grit goes down the drain where it belongs and doesn’t end up on brushes.

  • 2

    Adjust brushes to ensure precise and careful positioning for the types of vehicles going through the wash. 

  • 3

    Operate brushes at the correct RPMs and with the proper force.

  • 4

    Wash brushes every night with a high-pressure hose.

  • 5

    Examine brushes daily for signs of wear.

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