Design - November 2010

Layout Basics
By Jim Stinson

Two of the first steps in developing a successful car wash entail decisions about wash location and wash format. Once site and format selections have been made, a prospective operator can turn to site layout. The following three pages offer example layouts for three different conveyorized car wash formats: express exterior, full-service, and flex-serve along with pertinent information regarding each site.


This is an express car wash location on a corner lot.

  • Lot size: 239’ deep x 172’ wide
  • Conveyor: 125’ over-and-under, 3’6” roller spacing
  • Traffic count: 32,500 cars per day on Washington Ave.
  • The location visibility is excellent from 400’ when approaching the site
  • Line-up area (queuing) is over 150’

Traffic speed by the location is 30 mph. Traffic consists primarily of shoppers attracted by the business fringe area. This site has heavy residential surroundings with multiple-family housing. The closest competition is about 3.5 miles away.

The intersection of Washington Avenue and Lincoln Road is lit at night. The site is designed to allow entry from either street. The primary access is from Washington Avenue. The site is on the going-home side of the traffic flow.

There are two gated entry systems (pay stations) with 25 free vacuums. The vacuum area is accessible after the customer has gone through the express wash. There are three handicapped vacuuming areas (per code). The site has an escape lane for vehicles, should they need to leave the site prior to washing.

The site requires a 20’ setback from Lincoln Road and 50’ setback from Washington Avenue.

The demographic profile for this area shows that the customer base in a five-mile radius fits the target market for successful car wash advertising, allowing the potential owner to implement an aggressive marketing strategy.

All utilities (water, electric, and sewer) are available at site.


This is a full-service car wash.

  • Lot size: 150’x 290’
  • Conveyor: 150’ over-and-under, 7’4” roller spacing

This is an inside lot with good visibility from the traffic passing by the location. The car wash is located in a business fringe area.

The daily traffic count by the location significantly impacts the amount of business a site will do. Ideally there would be a minimum of 20,000 vehicles a day by the location; a conservative capture rate of 0.75 percent to 1 percent of the daily traffic as an estimated daily car count. This allows the use of a cautious approach when looking at the financial engineering for the project. The traffic speed by this location is in the 30 to 35 mph range, which allows the po-tential customer to be more aware of the businesses in the area.

The car wash facility is laid out with customers entering from the frontage road where they proceed directly to the greeting and vacuum area. The wash has plenty of stacking room for vehicles to enter the property without disrupting on- or off-site traffic flow.

Balance is very important when planning site for a full service wash. Balance is having adequate room in the vacuum and detail areas to maintain a steady flow of vehicles through the wash, while taking in new customers and exiting completed vehicles back into the traffic in a timely fashion.


This is a flex-serve car wash on an irregular lot.

  • Lot size: 261’ deep x 155’ wide
  • Conveyor: 100’ over-and-under, 3’6” roller spacing
  • Traffic count: around 30,000 cars per day

This location was selected because of the lack of wash facilities in the area. The flex-serve model was choosen to appeal to a broad customer base along with offering a variety of services.

The site is zoned C-3 (car washing is an allowable use for this property) and is located in a business fringe with a lot of national chains like Starbucks, McDonald’s, and others in the area.

Demographics for this area show the customer base in a one-to-five-mile area around the location to be middle- to upper-income. This indicates potentially adequate support in the community for this type of wash.

This is an exposed inside lot with good visibility from all lanes of traffic on a one-way street with a traffic light about 400’ away. It has a 50’ setback requirement from the main highway and a 5’ side-yard setback requirement. There is also a 15 percent landscaping (green space) requirement.

The site has good ingress and egress and plenty of stacking room for vehicles coming into the site. There is ample employee and handicapped parking. The site is laid out with two gated express lanes and four full-service lanes. One lane is designed to accommodate handicap vehicles. All utilities (water, gas, electric, and sewer) are available at site.

Jim Stinson is domestic sales manager for Houston, TX-based Hanna — a division of Jim Coleman Company. You can visit Hanna on the web at

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