Car Wash Equipment 101

Car washes can be simple DIY systems all the way to fantastically complicated tunnel washes. If you’re thinking about starting your own car wash business, you need to know the equipment you’ll need for the kind of car wash you want to run.

Car wash equipment 101 will teach you the basic things you’ll need to make a car wash system work. You can use this to help craft your business plan and start budgeting for equipment purchases.

The Major Pieces of Car Wash Equipment

Since there are several kinds of car washes out there, a good place to start thinking about equipment is by going through what needs to be done in a car wash and customer expectations. At the most basic level, customers expect to take their dirty vehicles in and get clean vehicles out. 

So we can break down equipment into these broad categories:

  • Applying water and chemicals
  • Scrubbing
  • Drying
  • Vacuuming the interior
  • A POS system for payments

You may need other things as well. A tunnel car wash will need a tunnel conveyor system and traffic signals to tell cars when it’s safe to enter and leave the wash. In cold climates, you may need to install doors and water heaters. All systems will need maintenance equipment to keep things running.

part of a car wash tunnel

The POS System

The first thing your customers will encounter, besides signage, is your car wash point-of-sale (POS) system. This is where they select what they want to buy and pay you for the service. This could be something simple, like a coin-op system, all the way to Washify’s state-of-the-art POS systems.

The POS you choose depends on the kinds of features you want to offer and the ways you’ll accept payment. Customers love the convenience of modern POS systems over coin-op systems. The reasons include:

  • No need to bring or make change
  • Ordering service through apps or a touch screen
  • Subscription services for multiple washes
  • Easy creation of loyalty programs
  • No-hassle self-service washing (for automated systems)

A car wash that uses the latest technology but still sticks with paying attendants directly or coin-op systems is behind the times. To make your business as attractive as possible to the needs of modern customers, we encourage using a touchscreen-based POS system like Washify.

Applying Water and Chemicals

There are three core parts of modern car wash systems for applying water and chemicals to cars for washing: pump stations, arches, and water treatment systems.

Pump Stations

Pump stations mix chemicals and water together into the proper concentrations before pumping the solution to the arches. You might have different pumps for high pressure and low pressure applications, undercarriage washing, wheel waxes, etc.


Arches spray the solution onto the vehicle to prepare it for scrubbing. The nozzles on the arches are crucial to maintain an even spray on vehicles and for controlling how much water you use per wash. Some arches are more flashy than others to provide a better show to the customer.

Water Treatment Systems

Your place of business may require a water treatment system for your runoff. These systems can lower your water bills and make your car wash more green and attractive to customers. There are several types of water treatment systems and you’ll need to do your research to see which type fits best for your situation.


Brushes are where the rubber meets the road for your car wash. Your customers won’t come back if your car wash leaves dirt on the car! Some types include:

  • Top brushes for the top of the vehicle
  • Wraparounds from the front, rear, and sides.
  • Wheel and tire brushes
  • Low side washers for cleaning rocker panels
  • Mitter curtains

If you have attendants, they may need car-prep brushes of their own to knock off the worst dirt before sending them through your system. If your business is in a location where people like to do off-roading or drive through fields, it’s a good idea to use these.


No customer wants water spots on their car, so a good dryer is a must. However, there are many kinds of dryers and each one has its advantages and disadvantages. Horsepower, your car wash setup, noise regulations, and other factors affect dryer performance. 

We encourage you to speak with a dryer sales representative about your car wash setup so you can choose the right system for your needs.


Once the outside is clean, it’s time to clean the interior using vacuums. The most desired kind of vacuum right now is a central vacuum system. This type of system has multiple hoses and a single motor powering all of them.

These systems are much easier to maintain, and can use less power if you get one with a variable frequency drive. They’re also quieter to operate and there’s no hose to put away when the customer finishes. If you have a smaller facility that can’t justify the cost of a central vacuum system, you can still find canister vacuums on the market.

Contact Washify Today for a Sales Demo

There are quite a few systems needed to make a car wash work, but these are the car wash equipment essentials. Washify’s POS system integrates with many kinds of car wash controllers on the market. To see if our system will work with your components, contact us for a sales demo.