In-Bay Automatic - May 2010

Rehab In Twenty Days
By Jimmy Sisk

With our economy in recession and operators seeing less revenue from their older equipment, it is more important than ever to find creative ways to minimize downtime and cut costs associated with the installation of new equipment.

When Chet and Lee Varner, owners of Hasty Car Wash in Thomasville, NC, asked about replacing their 12-year-old touch-free with a new soft-touch automatic, we immediately went to work looking at their existing site to determine any up-fits that might need to be completed to accommodate the new equipment.


The first concern we had was that the bay was only 30 feet long; to have room for all the equipment proposed, the bay needed to be extended by 8 feet. This extra length would allow for maximum travel of the machine and house the new extreme roll-up doors that would operate automatically in freezing temperatures.

Our next concern was that we were replacing the old machine around the holidays of 2009; schedules are tighter with employee and subcontractors being off, as well as unpredictable winter weather. We also faced the potential of missing excellent washing days after snow events or experiencing cold days when customers would not want to use one of the existing six self-service bays.

After discussing the basic electrical and plumbing up-fits required, we considered the additional length needed to install the machine properly. The Varners agreed, and decided to add the additional length, but wanted to start the project as soon as possible and minimize the total time of the project from start to finish. They also wanted to make the new addition as visually appealing as possible to alert customers that something new had happened at the site.


The automatic bay before rehab.
The automatic bay after rehab.
Preparation for the new concrete pad.
New roll-up doors operate automatically in freezing temperatures.
The new soft-touch automatic equipment is in place.
The automated pay station is mounted in a brick structure and topped with the wash menu.

After leaving the meeting, we decided that conventional construction would be too time consuming and not defining enough — the project would call for non-traditional methods. In a typical bay lengthening, one end wall — either entrance or exit — of the bay is modified to enlarge the existing opening. Concrete and/or asphalt is removed to provide for the new bay floor and footing for the new walls and the roof is lengthened to cover the new section. In most situations, this requires an architect or engineer to design the footings, walls, and roof extension. Permits would be required and the process from start to finish could last six to eight weeks — or longer.

After several meetings, we came up with an innovative idea to use modular glass building technology to create the additional length we needed. The modular structure would be custom fabricated aluminum with a powder-coated finish for strength and durability. It would be covered with translucent polycarbonate panels, which would make the bay totally enclosed and very visually appealing. This design would be much faster as it could be fabricated in as little as two weeks and, in our situation, would not require permits as the entire structure is simply bolted together and then fastened to the walls and concrete floor. We also decided to add neon stick lights and a lighted wash-menu sign for additional visual appeal. This would provide the customer the new look that they wanted.


After working out details for the new modular structure and removal of the old equipment and entrance end wall, modification began. The removal of the wall required us to cut the walls from top to bottom on both the left and right sides with a concrete saw and then remove the wall in sections with a forklift. This removed all the brick above the old door opening, and widened the opening to 16 feet. Once the entrance end wall was removed, the concrete and asphalt was removed approximately 40 feet from the entrance of the bay as well as the existing automated pay station’s mounting base. The modular structure only required us to pour a concrete pad approximately 10 feet from the existing wall. However, the customer wanted to repair an existing problem with the asphalt. This phase took approximately three days.

Next, the concrete entrance and area where the new structure was to be mounted was formed, poured, and finished. While the concrete work was going on, we protected the unfinished area and pressure washed the existing bay. We then painted the walls with bright white swimming-pool paint and the floor a battleship grey. We’ve found that, in most cases, the swimming pool paint seems to be more resilient and keeps a brighter color longer than most other products. You can buy this product at most local paint stores or pool distributors.

Day 8
The equipment manufacturer delivered the wash equipment, and our technicians uncrated and began laying out the equipment in the bay. Technicians began working in the equipment room mounting the various pieces on the wall so the electrical and plumbing could be connected as needed. The modular structure was laid out for assembly and measurements were taken to ensure correct fit.

Day 9
The entire new modular glass structure was set into place — we installed the upright left and right walls first and then the roof. The structure was completely assembled in less than eight hours with three technicians.

Day 10 through 20
The automatic doors were installed and conduit and electrical work began. Over the next two days, the automated pay station was installed and its brick structure completed. During the following five days the electrical work and the installation of the automatic equipment continued. The final three days offered many challenges as we struggled to tie up all the loose ends with the various subcontractors and complete the installation to begin testing. We began testing the equipment on day 20. We experienced no real obstacles, and testing went well with only minor adjustments required. The machine finally did a test wash for the first time very late on the 20th day.

Day 21
The next day brought beautiful weather and the chance to test the machine with the hopes of opening that day. It was Christmas Eve so we knew it was either open today, or wait until after Christmas should we find start-up issues or items of the installation incomplete. After a few test washes of our company vehicles, the machine was opened to the public for free to allow for further fine-tuning of the wash. With no real problems, the machine was opened to paying customers and eventually washed over 80 cars on the first day it was opened.

The tireless efforts of the wash owners, the equipment manufacturers/suppliers, and our own team, made this daunting project a huge success.

Jimmy Sisk is vice president of Car Wash Concepts Inc. in Thomasville, NC. A manufacturer and distributor of car wash equipment since 1969, the company specializes in turnkey projects in the Southeastern United States. To contact Jimmy, e-mail or call (800) 733-9760.

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