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The Complete Car Wash Equipment List for Your Business

From tunnel systems to wheel and tire brushes, here is a list of the most important pieces of equipment needed to run a successful car wash business.

Because car washes usually operate like well-oiled machines and take only a few minutes to enjoy, it can be easy to overlook all of the components that go into building one. If you’re just getting started with building a car wash business, it’s vital to know the must-have car wash equipment of today. Below is a list of must-have equipment for any car wash. 

The Car Wash Equipment Your Business Can’t Do Without

Water Treatment Systems

Depending on the type, car washes use 3,500 to 10,000 gallons of water on average every day. In order to separate fresh water from gray water and minimize overall water waste, every car wash needs a water treatment system. 

In today’s increasingly eco-friendly society, water treatment systems that recycle water are required in certain states. Efficient water treatment systems can help you prepare for government regulations that may be headed your way while lowering your business’s water bill. 

The main types of water treatment systems used in car washes are:

  • Reverse osmosis systems: These systems use a pump to force water through one or more submersible membranes in order to remove nearly all total dissolved solids from it. 
  • Water reclaim systems: These systems allow your car wash to reclaim water from the car wash settling tanks by processing it and sending clean water back out to be reused. 
  • Water restoration systems: These systems use cyclonic separation to reduce solids down to five microns.

Most water treatment systems will need a water storage tank, usually underground, to allow larger sediment to settle at the bottom of the tank and lighter sediment to rise to the top. Water storage tanks are also sometimes called oil/water separator tanks, clarifiers, or settling tanks. 

Tunnel Car Wash Systems

A tunnel car wash system has different types of washing mechanisms that a car moves through, usually on a conveyor belt, to get clean. These car washes are usually the most expensive to build and maintain because of the extensive amount of heavy equipment needed. An effective tunnel car wash consists of heavy equipment that’s capable of removing grease, dirt, bird droppings, pollen, and other messes from a car’s exterior. 

Conveyor Systems

Conveyor systems pull a customer’s car into the tunnel car wash by aligning the tires on a motorized track using chains and rollers. The conveyor automatically moves the car through the rinse stage, cleaning, waxing, tire cleaning, and often drying as well. 

The two common types of conveyor systems are surface conveyors and over-under conveyors. Over-under conveyors require a trench, and the rollers return to the start of the conveyor by traveling underneath. Surface conveyors do not need a trench as the chains and rollers return to the starting position via tracks alongside the conveyor.

Pressure Washers

Pressure washers come into play in touchless, tunnel, and handwashing car washes. High-pressure equipment delivers water, soap, or chemicals during the cleaning process to reach areas that brushes cannot clean. They are a vital step in getting tough residue off a car’s surface without scratching or damaging the paint. 


Once cars are sparkling on the outside, many customers want to tackle the interior as well. Some car washes offer self-serve vacuum stations that customers can pull into after they leave the car wash, while others have employees who vacuum the cars. Either way, you’ll need several vacuums available at your car wash. 

There are two main types of vacuum systems used in car washes: central vacuum systems and canister vacuum systems. Central vacuum systems are tied to a motor in the back room, while canister vacuum systems have a small motor located inside the vacuum.

Pump Stations

Pump stations in car washes are used to pump high-pressure water, air, and steady streams of foam. There are many different packages available when you’re setting up your pump station. Pump stations are located out of sight, usually in a back room or maintenance room. A car wash back room is the home for tunnel support equipment that controls the water, air, gas, and chemicals used in the car wash. 

Self-service car washes might also have pump stations. These stations take incoming water and mix it with chemical solutions. These pump stations can also pump the mixtures to the car wash bays and tunnels.

Wheel and Tire Brushes

Car washes have a few different types of brushes to clean cars with, including top brushes, wraparounds, mitter curtains, rockers and low-side washers, and wheel and tire brushes. Commercial-grade car wash wheel and tire brushes are the large, round fixtures with soft bristles or microfiber flaps that rotate along the lower part of your car wash to clean a car’s lower half.

Your One-Stop Shop for Top-Grade Car Wash Equipment and More

The pieces of equipment listed above serve as the bones for your car wash business, but there are numerous other parts and components that you may need to keep your business running smoothly. Chemical solutions, spray guns, hoses, wands, nozzles, tunnel controllers, and pay stands are just some examples of additional parts to keep in mind. As always, educating yourself and your team is a great first step toward understanding the inner workings of a car wash. 

Choosing a car wash equipment supplier that can serve as a one-stop shop for all of your equipment needs will only make life easier. National Carwash Solutions (NCS) is the largest end-to-end provider of car wash equipment, chemicals, services, and support in North America. For both your education and your equipment needs, contact NCS today. 

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