Innovation keeps car washes moving forward

Innovation Spotlight: 3 solutions to bolster savings, sustainability and service at the car wash.
Car going through a wash with big brushes grazing its sides

Innovation continues to keep the car wash business in constant change and forward momentum. Whether it’s an eco-friendly bacteria-based treatment of wastewater, a smart management system for ultra-concentrated car wash chemicals complete with real-time mobile alerts, or arch lighting capable of producing millions of different shades, new solutions have launched in Canada, giving indication of where the industry is going in the next two to five years.

Saving water

In the recycling of water, the innovation the industry is seeing dramatically reduces waste of this important natural resource, while still giving vehicles a spotless, odourless clean and rinse. 

Since 1994, Aquadetox International has been developing systems for biological wastewater treatment, including in food processing and the hotel industry, with the car wash sector being their largest client base. According to the company, which is based in Germany and has more than 6,500 clients, a single car wash wastes up to 400 litres of clean drinking water.  

With a fully automated low-maintenance Aquadetox system, a car wash operation can reclaim about 90% of its annual water use (both freshwater and wastewater).  

“The Aquadetox system captures the same biological process by which stream water is naturally kept clear and clean with bacteria cultures growing on the moss and rocks,” says Craig Wood, distributor of Aquadetox North America in Burlington, Ont. "And so, dirty water that flows into the system comes out clean through this bacteria.”

In fact, the reclaimed water is clean enough to re-use throughout the entire wash cycle.

Aquadetox North America launched this summer after the company’s success with its car wash system in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Wood has 30 years of engineering experience in the oil industry and is familiar with refining processes and environmental issues.

In addition to doing right for the planet, the solution addresses water restrictions being enforced by municipalities during dry, hot weather conditions. It also makes financial sense for car wash operators for their long-term profitability and membership programs.

“Mostly the system pays for itself in about three years thanks to the cost savings in water use,” says Wood, noting the amount of H2O some large-scale car wash operations use per year would fill 21 Olympic-sized pools. 

It can accommodate new builds to retrofits from other reclaim systems. He adds that the Aquadetox system includes an app for web-based monitoring and a 24/7 helpline; plus, it doesn't require high maintenance.

“We are getting a great response in Canada and the U.S. to the Aquadetox system. We offer car wash owners a complimentary, no obligation cost/savings assessment to discover how much they would actually save and what the ROI is, because each installation is a custom job,” says Wood.


Transchem Ipad being held
Transchem's new True-Vue 2 is designed for maximum efficiency. With sensors in each tank, customers can track supply and set up mobile alerts to avoid runouts

Chemical consolidation

The issue of sustainability has also been driving the adoption of ultra or hyper-concentrated car wash chemistry, as their compact sizes translate into lower shipping rates, while still lasting a long time because they haven’t been diluted with water in advance.

Their manageable size also makes it easier and safer for staff to maneuver.

To that end, Cambridge, Ont.-based Transchem Group, which sells the car wash chemical products Turtle Wax Pro and AutoLux, has launched an updated model of its chemical monitoring system, True-Vue. With the new True-Vue 2, all the cables and chemistry are neatly consolidated into one tidy system.

“We wanted to create an ecosystem that supports this very concentrated, very efficient chemistry,” says Mack Ewing, director of strategic initiatives at family-owned and operated Transchem. “It really cleans up the back room, making the chemistry safer and easier to handle.”

True-Vue 2’s deluxe model, a full suite, auto-pilot solution, includes sensors in each tank, which enable customers to set up mobile alerts and track supply on an online portal.

A customer can have an alert sent to their phone—‘Make sure to refill it and avoid any runouts’—when one of the containers gets to 20% capacity, explains Ewing.

He notes that while some car washes have 12 different chemicals in use based on the wash selected, many have only six, “and so, if they run out of one, they’re significantly limiting the ability of the wash to give a good experience to the customer. That can lead to negative reviews, complaints or requiring a rewash, which is why running out of a chemical product is considered a cardinal sin in car washes.”


PDQ's LaserGlow Arch features 61 individually controlled lighting segments, which provide ample colour choices and marketing opportunities

Clean entertainment

Given that it helps protect vehicles from paint damage, more and more car washes are adopting a touchless car wash system rather than a brush wash model. According to Verified Market Research, the touchless car wash market size in Canada was valued at US$213-million in 2022 and (growing at a CAGR of 5.87%) is projected to reach US$336-million by 2030. 

PDQ Manufacturing Inc.’s LaserWash 360 Plus touchless wash system features rounded arch corners, smart chemical timing and tilting arch functions, and is now available with the new LaserGlow Arch, which the company calls “the most advanced lighting option in the industry.” The LaserGlow Arch features 61 individually controlled lighting segments, with each segment capable of displaying more than 16 million different colours.

With 13 pre-loaded programs and five operator-driven programs, the colours can be selected to match the wash brand, holidays, seasonal promotions and even the hues of local sports teams, which PDQ is positioning as a 24-hour marketing tool. “The addition of the LaserGlow Arch lighting option,” says David Dougherty, general manager, In-Bay Automatics for OPW VWS, of which PDQ is part, “is an exciting new wash component that gives our customers another competitive advantage.”

This article first appeared in the September | October 2023 issue of OCTANE

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