Camera Systems - The Problem and the Remedy

By Jennifer Spears

09/01/15
Note the positioning of the cameras.

“That damage on your vehicle was already there!”

How many times have those words left your mouth? A few? More than a few? How many times have you had to cut a check for damage to a vehicle your wash didn’t cause? Several? More?

Anyone who works with vehicles in any capacity (detail, full-serve, flex-serve, express-exterior washes) must have the ability to inspect each and every vehicle as it enters the facility plus as it exits.

Let’s discuss why you need both before we move on. Vehicle inspection to ascertain the condition of the vehicle is only half of what you need.

Signs like this at the wash can eliminate
some of the fraudulent claims.
A sign that says

“Cameras on duty at all times”
might do even better.

Consider this possibility: One of your customers could leave your facility, go to their favorite mall or store and get hit while they’re inside. The vast majority of people aren’t going to leave a “sorry-I-damaged-your-car” note with contact info.

Your customer’s vehicle could be dented, scratched, or parts could be missing entirely. What’s their next thought? You’ve guessed it.

It happened at the wash.

Most of these people aren’t trying to rip you off. They truly believe it happened at the wash. You just have to prove them wrong. And just your word isn’t enough anymore.

Having inspection cameras at the wash entrance is awesome. You can prove that the damage they just returned to your wash with was not there when they entered the wash. Great! But what do you do if you don’t have cameras at the exit? Proving they didn’t show up with damage and they left with no damage is the only way to counteract all claims.

YOU NEED THIS

Now let’s talk about the “whats” of inspection cameras. What you don’t need. What you do need — and the super important, pink elephant in the room: what’s it going to cost.

If you remember nothing else, remember this one word. Megapixel. You want to stop all of your claims. High-resolution analog cameras with around 700TV lines of resolution can’t do that.

Full 1080p megapixel cameras have around 2000TV lines of resolution. You’re talking three times the resolution…per camera. That can be the difference between proving a claim is bogus and being horribly frustrated when you have to fork over money for damage you know you didn’t cause.

Whether blatant damage or subtle, cameras see it all.

Megapixel doesn’t necessarily mean IP either. There are hybrids out there that blend the ease of installation and use of analog with the quality of IP.

Is changing your coax cabling a problem when going IP? No worries. Some megapixel cameras use the same coax your analog cameras do, and possibly the same camera power supply.

Something else you need? Hard-drive space. Why? Megapixel cameras record at much higher resolution. Yay! But: megapixel cameras fill up your hard drive faster. Ugh! Don’t be caught when you need footage off your system a day after it’s been recorded over. And don’t go lower than 3TB on an HD system.

Let’s take a minute to talk about placement. The ideal distance to mount camera arches is around 3’ to 4’ away from the side of the vehicle. But what if you can’t mount it there? Certain megapixel cameras made for car inspection have the ability to zoom the camera lens, and that should solve the problem. An added bonus: normally this feature doesn’t even come with a higher price tag.  

YOU DON”T NEED THIS

Now let’s switch to what you don’t need: You don’t need a separate network to run your cameras. This is beneficial for two reasons.

First, setting up a separate network for the camera transmission back to a network video recorder is cumbersome, expensive, and problematic. Add on the ability to access it remotely and you’ll be signing up for IT classes.

Second, some megapixel camera systems only need one connection to the network for your remote access. Super simple. Just make sure you work with the manufacturer of your equipment who offers unlimited tech support, and they should be able to walk you through everything you need to know about your DVR.

Full-time access to your system is a must. You can watch the cameras from your phone or laptop anytime. Super helpful when you’re on vacation and your manager calls saying they have an angry customer who won’t believe the scratches on their vehicle didn’t happen at the wash.

Don’t want to change all of your cameras over at once? You don’t need

Vehicle inspection system head on.

There are hybrid DVRs on the market that can handle both analog and megapixel. Already have a system? Awesome! Swap your DVR and add an inspection system to start. Then you can change your analog cameras out one at a time to megapixel. Or you can start with a megapixel for all of your cameras.

The options should be customized to fit your location. No two locations are identical. A cookie-cutter system from a local cost-saving warehouse will not get you what you need. Especially not if you expect it to last in a car wash.

Trust me. You want to do this once — not a second time when everything you’ve already installed is broken and the customer service you were promised disappeared after your check cleared.

Also, you don’t need a bazillion cameras to cover all angles of the vehicle. Six does an exceptional job. If the system is set up correctly, two cameras should be watching the front and rear views of the vehicle. The middle cameras will cover the sides of the vehicle. And the top cameras will get all upper surfaces (roof, hood, trunk, etc).

One more thing: you don’t want infrared. It is detrimental for this application. Infrared shines off of reflective surfaces. Almost all vehicle surfaces are reflective. This can make “things” appear on the side of a vehicle when there’s nothing there. And it will hide “things” that are there, which you want to record.

Good color cameras or day/night cameras are what you’re looking for to capture the best footage to disprove damage claims.

COST/WORTH

Okay, we’ve covered what you need and don’t need. Let’s talk cost — cost of what it’s worth to you. So…what’s it worth?

Everyone is different. Every facility has different clientele. The issues and factors to consider are just as diverse. What kinds of vehicles are you paying claims on? Low end or high end?

Systems can pay for themselves in as little as one claim. Additionally, the system will be in place for years to come. You don’t have to rely on human eyes, human documentation, or human errors anymore. You’ll have eyes on the vehicles from the moment they enter your facility to the moment they exit.

These systems are important for a lot of auto related properties and they are not all that costly. A few thousand dollars will get you an exceptional system these days. What about piece of mind? When you take a vacation you’ll have complete coverage on every vehicle.

The customer is not always right, and with vehicle inspection cameras you will now have the video evidence to prove it.

Jennifer Spears is the sales manager with CarWashCameras.com. With more than 15 years’ experience working with car washes and more than 7,000 camera systems under her belt, she’s seen it all. Jennifer welcomes comments and questions and can be reached at (866) 301-2288 or jennifer@carwashcameras.com



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