Every Day is Training Day for Car Wash Owners

Training – Many Available Resources

Training – Many Available Resources

Every Day is Training Day for Car Wash Owners

By Sydney Sullivan Knott


So you want to get into the car wash business? Looks easy, right? Just send dirty cars through the tunnel and they come out clean. Customers drive away happy and you make money, lots of money. Right? Sometimes.

There are many factors that contribute to a successful car wash operation. According to Thomas Ennis, owner of Inglewood, CA-based NS Wash

Systems, it starts with understanding the ins and outs of the business, deciding what type of wash, finding the best location, conducting market research and studying traffic patterns, looking at the pros and cons of buying an existing wash versus new construction, and evaluating equipment options.

“Some owners make decisions the hard way, through trial and error, while others take advantage of the myriad resources that are available,” says Ennis, who was inducted into the International Carwash Association (ICA) Hall of Fame in 2015. Over the years, Ennis has seen the value in participating in trade shows, from connecting with customers to staying current on marketing trends, legal, and environmental concerns. Ennis has been a member of ICA for 52 years, attending his first show in 1963 — and he hasn’t missed one yet, including exhibiting every year since 1967.


If you are new to the car wash industry, a good place to start is regional and national trade associations. The ICA website has an entire section devoted to new investors, www.carwash.org/for-operators/invest. In addition, the ICA conducts an annual new investor seminar in conjunction with The Car Wash Show, scheduled this year for Nashville in May.

According to Megan Clark, ICA director of membership, “Our goal with the seminar is to answer any question a new investor would have about getting into the industry, including type of wash to build/purchase, how to get financing, insurance, technology, human resources needs, and more.”

Brad Sorenson, director of training for Sonny’s CarWashCollege, reports that the last three years has seen an increase in new owners entering the car wash business. Banks are willing to lend money and more and more owners are building multiple sites, creating regional chains. At Sonny’s CarWash College in Fort Lauderdale, FL, quarterly new investor seminars are packed and training classes are sold out months in advance.

Paul Fazio teaches a class at Sonny’s CarWash College
Regional and state car wash associations are excellent resources, as well, especially for networking and learning about codes, permits, and environmental issues. For a complete listing, visit www.sonnysdirect.com or consult the annual Auto Laundry News Buyers Guide.

Do Your Homework

Sorenson says that buying a car wash is like buying any other business, and it starts with due diligence. “Conduct market research and study traffic patterns. Location will be the single most determining factor in your success. Even one block can make or break your business,” he explains.


Ten years ago, industry newcomer, Patricia Knott, met Thomas Ennis at a business mixer and, while car wash ownership was not something she had thought about, ever, the idea of owning her own business, revitalizing undervalued commercial real estate properties, creating a fun, family-friendly experience, and supporting the environment had crossed her mind.

Today she is the owner of the Green Forest chain of express car washes in Southern California, with locations in Hawthorne, South Los Angeles, and Bell Gardens, and opening this year in Baldwin Hills and San Pedro. She is putting to good use her background in accounting, corporate finance, and real estate evaluations.

“This industry really rolls out the red carpet to newcomers,” Knott says. “Everyone has been very nice and helpful.”

Every Day is Training Day for Car Wash Owners

Some existing owners believe in on-the-job-training, while others take classes and find information via trade shows, and industry magazines. Whichever way you prefer, experts agree that savvy owners and operators are always learning. “This business teaches you something new, every day,” Ennis notes.

Exhibitors on the tradeshow floor.

For owners, operators, and employees, trade shows are a great way to meet industry leaders, network with others, and see first-hand innovations in equipment and chemicals. For example, Sorenson notes that operators in the Northeast have been slow to embrace current trends such as automatic pay stations and free vacuums. Those that have are “tearing it up,” he says.

On the ICA website, www.car wash.org, there is a section dedicated to operators and provides industry resources, information about the association, upcoming events, and The Car Wash Show in Nashville, May 9-11.

Ennis, who started washing cars at 12 and purchased his first car wash on a handshake when he was only 20, recommends that anyone interested in owning or investing in a car wash should meet local operators, observe their operations, and ask lots of questions. Seeing a car wash operation up close will teach you a great deal about this business.


As an industry newcomer, Knott attended trade shows looking for resources and found Sonny’s CarWash College. She and her senior technician have taken their repair and maintenance classes, and she sent her manager to the management class. Knott, who is based in Southern California, wishes the college were closer. “I would send people to Sonny’s non-stop,” she says.

“I highly recommend the CarWash College for all newcomers, existing operators, and employees. The hands-on labs really help operations run more smoothly when you get back home.”

While the classroom time and instruction were great, Knott felt the added value was spending a week exchanging information and sharing ideas with others in the industry.

Sonny’s CarWash College offers group training and labs in Sonny’s CarWash Factory. Sorenson said the repair classes are capped at 15 participants and other classes can accommodate 24 studen

Hands-on training provides the best results.
Four management classes are held per year, and eight repair and maintenance classes. Classes span an entire week. For more information about the college, visit www.sonnysdirect.com. One-day investor seminars are offered quarterly.

“We train on Sonny’s equipment, right here in our factory,” explains Sorenson. “It’s easy to transfer the information to another manufacturer’s equipment. We also have maintenance videos on each piece of equipment, which can be found on our website.”

Sorenson says there are no plans for webinars or virtual training sessions, preferring the hands-on approach. He says they are looking at taking the show on the road and may be offering three-day mini courses throughout the country at local car wash locations. He notes they are looking at adding new classes covering multi-site management and marketing, safety, and insurance issues.

Stay in Touch with Your Equipment Manufacturer

While Sonny’s CarWash College covers the basics of repairs and maintenance and is familiar with most manufacturers and their products, Knott recommends having good relationships with your equipment manufacturer and chemical supplier.

Ennis agrees. “We stay in touch with our customers and we want to hear from them. Many problems can be diagnosed and solved over the phone, often saving thousands of dollars in repairs or equipment replacement. Just as important, we want to hear about anything that is frustrating our customers or a reoccurring problem. If we don’t know there’s a problem, we can’t fix it.”


It’s no secret that car washes tend to have a high labor turnover rate. Interestingly, Sorenson says there is more turnover in full service locations than in express washes. Many employees are part-time, high school students; some work during summer vacations. Hiring, training, and retaining employees are expensive parts of the car wash business and crucial to overall success.

“Employees are expected to operate the equipment, conduct routine maintenance, be personable and outgoing with customers, and understand day-to-day operations, “ says Knott. “It’s a challenge to make sure that all employees know how to operate the car wash.

“We invest in training our managers and introducing them to all aspects of the business. They, in turn, help train our part-time, seasonal workforce, and new employees,” Knott adds.

Knott takes employees to trade shows, whenever possible, so they can better understand the industry and meet the players.

When you invest in your employees, invest in their education, you will get a return on your investment,” adds Sorenson. “One of the biggest comments we hear from owners is that employees who attend our CarWash College return home excited and confident, fired up and ready to get back to work.”

Sorenson recommends investing in your employees, not only by sending them to classes and trade shows, but also by making them responsible and accountable for the successful operations of the car wash.

“We have a customer who has put the attendants in charge of a piece of equipment and it has been a win-win for the business. Anytime the student becomes the teacher, you build their confidence and loyalty and give them a sense of ownership. It’s an investment that will pay off, big time,” Sorenson notes.

Whether you attend the “school of hard knocks,” trade shows, or a car wash college, learning the business from the inside out and staying current is the best training for newcomers, owners, and employees.

Sydney Sullivan Knott is the president of The PR Group, a full-service communications firm based in Las Vegas.

car wash sign

N/S Wash Gives Car Wash Business Tips in Auto Laundry News

car wash signDrivers around the world have depended on the car washes crafted by N/S Wash to keep their vehicles clean and sparkling. What many don’t realize, however, is that the company has over half a century’s worth of experience as business owners, in addition to being innovators in the car wash industry. This knowledge has led to N/S Wash brand president Thomas Ennis recently providing his thoughts on car wash business tips to the leading car care industry publication, Auto Laundry News.

What Is Auto Laundry News?

Time-tested and well-regarded by leaders in the car care industry, Auto Laundry News’ goal is to educate car wash manufacturers and business owners on news and innovations in the field. The magazine reports monthly with entertaining, informative stories on technical breakthroughs, educational tips, business developments, interviews with leaders in the car wash industry, and much more.

This isn’t the first time you’ve seen N/S Wash featured in Auto Laundry News. In the last article, N/S Wash president Thomas Ennis shared his thoughts on how to make a car wash business environmentally-friendly in the modern eco-conscious economy. These interviews continue to add credence to both Ennis’ place as a helpful, supportive expert and N/S Wash’s trailblazing place in the car wash industry.

Which Car Wash Business Tips?

Perhaps you’ve made it to this blog because you’d like to learn some helpful car wash business tips. N/S Wash president Ennis gave his overarching advice for those hoping to start a car wash business, helping to frame the article. The owner of California-based N/S Wash places a lot of emphasis on educating yourself in the field. He suggests:

  • Learning the car wash business and keeping an open mind
  • Studying the market and traffic patterns
  • Considering the purchase of an existing business
  • Weighing your car wash equipment options, including which type of wash is best for you

Ennis also stresses the importance of taking “advantage of the myriad of resources that are available.” He discusses the significance of networking at events and trade shows, as well as keeping tabs on customer concerns and developments in eco-friendly market demands. Another car wash business owner, Patricia Knott, backs up Ennis’ suggestions here and even touches on the general friendliness of Ennis and other car wash business leaders for newcomers.

This is just a starting point for burgeoning car wash entrepreneurs. For the full breakdown on N/S Wash and other industry leaders’ car wash business tips, including the importance of job training, you’ll have to read the full article on the Auto Laundry website. You can find it here: Car Wash Business Training – Many Available Resources.

car wash business tipsReal Advice Means Reliable, Innovative Wash Solutions

At the end of the day, your enterprise is only as good as the car wash service you provide. These car wash solutions depend on well-made, adaptable, and efficient technology—the very foundation of the N/S Wash business model. The ISO 9001:2008 and UL certified company depends on its ability to provide top-performing, long-lasting car wash systems.

These let N/S Wash’s customers enjoy top-of-the-line facilities tailored to their specific needs. The car wash manufacturer knows that high-quality wash solutions lead to great reviews and strong relationships with business owners. The brand’s recent focus on efficiency and water-conservation has made it a valuable voice in the field.


Car Wash Manager Accidentally Tied to Rotating Brush

We’ve all heard the song “Car Wash,” and have likely taken our cars for a spin through one, but what would happen if your car wash took you for a spin? That’s exactly what happened to Josh Hood, the manager of Pitstop Carwash in Slidell, Louisiana, and it was all caught on tape. Within a car wash, just like in any workplace, we don’t think accidents are likely to happen—until they do. Safety is an issue we often neglect, but this video brought it to our attention, and it’s sure to catch yours.

car washThis car wash accident can teach us all a lesson or two about how to improve safety in our own car washes. Caught by surprise, Josh Hood got wrapped up in a hose and stuck on one of the wash’s rotating brushes. The hose repeatedly wrapped around Hood, tying him to one of the brushes as he spun around. Luckily, the hose never ran out, so he wasn’t squeezed too tight within its grasp, although the terrifying experience left a mark on his memory. Even after spending time in the military, Hood described his car wash ride as one of his scariest experiences. Luckily for Hood, he (and his equipment) came out unscathed. The car wash accident might have been the scare of his life, but coming out safely also taught him a lesson or two. While laughable and newsworthy, this accident could have followed a more dangerous route. For any car wash, safety is a crucial component. Here are some top tips for safety at the car wash-for you, your customers, and your equipment.

Car Wash Safety Tips:

  • Remember that safety is an ongoing process: Don’t just establish safety procedures for the sake of having them—follow them accordingly, and update them as needed.
  • Develop a safety plan: Highlight the most dangerous exposures. Equipment in motion is a risk. Floors are wet and often slippery. Electrical work in such a harsh and wet environment must be conducted carefully and to code.
  • Don’t neglect the dangers: Well-trained employees might eliminate risk, but you don’t know the driving history of your customers. It’s helpful to develop safety rules specifically for the customer. Make sure those rules are visible.
  • Inside_a_Carwash-2Proper training: Ensure that every employee is knowledgeable on the proper attire to wear to work, as well as how to operate all tools and machinery inside the car wash. Damaging a customer’s car is one worry, but injuring oneself, the customer, or the equipment is a much bigger danger. Every employee needs to be educated, even if he or she only works one day a week. Accidents can happen at any time, and that employee could be the one person there when it happens.
  • Hold employees accountable: Even if it doesn’t result in an accident, you’re bound to see employees deviating from safety procedures. Don’t let this happen. When it comes to safety, rules are in place for a reason. Make them, teach them, and stick to them. Incentivise your employees to work safely.
  • Avoid driving while distracted: This is a huge risk that is easily avoidable. There should be no cell phones, headphones, ipads, or driving under the influence. While these may seem obvious, they cause accidents more than we can count. There is a driving risk with in-bay automatics, as well as conveyor-based systems.
  • Use an aid: Let customers know when the wash cycle is complete. A stop-and-go light coupled with audio lets customers know when and how to use the wash easily.

Accidents happen, but that doesn’t mean that they’re out of your control. The best defense against a car wash accident like Josh Hood’s is to be knowledgeable of potential dangers. Implement, follow, and change safety procedures accordingly, educate every employee, and hold them accountable for their mistakes. Following simple rules can save a life.

best car washing supplies

DIY Car Cleaning: 5 Must Have Supplies

For many people, their vehicle does more than just provide transportation. Vehicles are often part of a person’s image, and a car covered in grime can send the wrong message. Keeping your car clean is important, but for people short on time or money, regular trips to the car wash aren’t always possible. If you want to tackle grime on your own time and save some money, these tips on the best car washing supplies can help.

best car washing suppliesGo for a Dedicated Soap

The best tool you can have in your arsenal is the right soap. Though not everyone agrees on the best kind of soap, the best car washing supplies often include a dedicated car wash solution. Most people turn to dishwashing detergent as their soap of choice when washing a car. However, this common solution will work against your car and strip away protective wax coatings, exposing the vehicle to possible nicks, scratches, and stains.

A Gentle Touch Goes a Long Way

After soap, the most important item for those who prefer the best car washing supplies is a durable cloth. If your car has layers of dirt and grime caked on, you might be tempted to grab an abrasive cleaning pad or scrub brush. However, cloths with any hint of texture can damage a vehicle’s finish, and a more gentle solution can go a long way to improve a vehicle’s look without doing damage.

To produce a really smooth finish, the best types of cloth are made from real lamb wool, or even cotton towels. Anything that is soft and easily washable will do a great job.

Use Liquid Wax Sprays Between Jobs

car wash illustrationOnce you’ve removed all the surface grime and soap residue, the best car washing supplies include a reliable liquid wax spray that can easily touch up spots with stains or minor scratches. While not as good as a full wax coating, these sprays will help protect a vehicle’s paint between scheduled waxes.

Ammonia Cleaners Are Best for Glass

The last part of a car’s exterior that should be cleaned is the windows, windshields, and mirrors. These areas usually collect the grime rinsed off from the other steps, so they should be the final step in any cleaning job. The best car washing supplies will have a glass cleaner that is ammonia based, which is great for removing residue from glass but should not be used on instrument panels or vinyl. Buffing with a microfiber cloth is also a good idea to prevent streaks and spots.

Inside Finishing Details

After you’ve worked to make sure your vehicle’s exterior has a great shine, don’t forget to spend some time cleaning the interior, as well. Stiff brushes are a good tool for knocking dirt loose from carpets and upholstery. An inexpensive air compressor can also be useful in blowing out dirt from your car’s nooks and crannies before pulling out the vacuum.

Give your car a thorough wash by investing in top quality car wash supplies. As one of the top transit wash system manufacturers, N/S Wash knows exactly what the professionals use.

soap to wash cars

Powder vs. Liquid Car Wash Soap

Your car is not just a way for you to get around; it’s part of your image. Washing your car isn’t as simple as it might seem—to do the job right means having the right gear. Whatever products you choose, you want to make sure they will not damage or strip away your car’s finish. Important to this is choosing the right soap to wash cars.

soap to wash carsPeople short on resources often turn to dish detergents to get the job done, but that is an unacceptable solution for true car enthusiasts. Many detergents can damage your car, stripping away the protective coating that prevents nicks and scratches. You need a dedicated car wash soap to get the job done properly. But with so many options, which one is best for your car?

Car Wash Soap for a Slick Finish

When deciding on a soap to wash cars, it’s important to know what all the options are. Getting the right kind of car wash soap can go a long way to ensuring:

  • A long-lasting finish
  • A thorough cleanse that doesn’t leave residue
  • A protective coating to prevent scratches

The best soaps are ones dedicated specifically to maintaining a car’s shine. That is why you will want to use a product that is milder and made to complement car paint. With more than 50 varieties of soap to wash cars online and in shops, it can be daunting to try and determine which is the right fit for your needs. While there are many opinions about which is the best soap, the best way to look at the decision is choosing between powder or liquid car wash soap.

Powder Soap

Soap to wash cars that is made from powder is first diluted with water. Once the soapy water is splashed on the car’s exterior, it begins to dissolve any oil and grime. The watered down detergent’s consistency makes it convenient to apply between thin crevices. Powdered soap is an economical option because it can be ordered in bulky sizes. A small amount of powder goes along way in creating the soapy mixture.

car wash soapLiquid Soap

Liquid soap is often the popular choice for people looking for a soap to wash cars. When using liquid soap it is important to read through the ingredients to make sure it is free of degreasers that can wear down the finish on your car. The best solutions usually can be purchased in large concentrations and can be easily diluted to provide a large number of washes and keep your car clean through many wash cycles.

No matter which kind of soap you end up using for your car, the best advice is to thoroughly conduct research and speak with the car care specialists at your mechanic’s shop to get the best results.

car wash manufacturers

N/S Wash Featured in Auto Laundry News

Customers across the world rely on N/S Wash when they want to make sure their vehicles are sparking clean. Through our dedication to washing the world one vehicle at a time for more than five decades, we have been able to produce equipment that has made us a leader among car wash manufacturers. One publication that featured our innovative technology and information shared by our N/S Wash brand president Thomas Ennis is Auto Laundry News.

Who Is Auto Laundry News?

car wash manufacturersOf all the publications covering the car care industry, Auto Laundry News has the longest history. Since 1953, they have featured information helpful to car wash manufacturers to stay on the cutting edge of innovation. Every month the magazine puts out content covering a variety of topics including technical information to “how-to” articles, new-product announcements, facility profiles, and analyses of industry surveys.

In addition to articles covering every aspect of the car wash industry, the publication has a comprehensive buyer’s guide to the car care industry featuring more than 1,000 entries for car wash, detail, and fast-lube product and equipment manufacturers and distributors. This publication is used daily by car wash operators, detailers, and fast lube operators and features some of the leading experts in regards to car wash manufacturers. As a standard in the industry, N/S Wash is proud to have been involved in their feature on green operations.

Innovating Eco Friendly Wash Solutions

car wash buildAt N/S Wash, we are not content to merely provide efficient washing technology. We know many of our customers care about the environment, just like us. Gone are the antiquated facilities that are wasteful and draining on water resources. Instead, modern car wash manufacturers are looking for ways to upgrade facilities to not only cut down on costs, but on their environmental impact, as well. Auto Laundry’s article “Green Operation – Make Your Car Wash More Environmentally Friendly” is a great resource with tips and tricks for doing that.

One area the article focuses on is the debate between whether foam soap or bubble systems are better. As our president Thomas Ennis explains, “Foam is a thick concentrate and it takes a lot more water to rinse a car clean.” Foam systems can easily be adapted to a soap application system and operators can change the concentrate of the foam to make it thinner and easier to rinse. He also spends time discussing the use of hydraulic vs. electric motors, and how the motors utilized by N/S Wash are much quieter and energy efficient than predecessors.

These are just a few of the tips featured in the article on how car wash manufacturers can reduce their water use to stay in business and lessen their environmental impact. Read the full article to see all the featured tips and advice from operators across the country.

Car wash

How to Make Your Car Wash More Environmentally Friendly


While reducing costs has long been a focus for businesses, modern corporations are also looking to be more environmentally aware. Car washes, with their heavy use of water, are no different. While they may be easy targets for environmentalists, there is a lot they can do to leave as little of an environmental footprint as possible.

Car wash systemUnlike the antiquated facilities of the past, modern facilities use a variety of eco friendly car wash equipment that creates a positive environmental legacy and help owners save thousands in operation costs. Below are just a few of the popular solutions being used by these modern car washes.

Reducing Power to Reduce Water Use

Hydroelectricity is a major power generator for communities throughout the western United States. As large dam-reservoir systems are often responsible for powering multiple communities, high energy consumption can be taxing on water sources. Just as homes focus on using less electrical systems to cut down on energy costs, car washes can employ eco friendly car wash equipment that will reduce energy consumption and also lessen utility costs and their impact on reservoirs.

One common strategy car washes employ to reduce energy consumption is switching from hydraulic systems to electric motors. The results from this conversion are astounding. Just ask the president and founder of our N/S Wash Systems brand Thomas Ennis: “First, hydraulics that run a conveyor or brush package will use 1.5 times the horsepower of a simple electric motor.” Ennis then explains why electric motors are more energy efficient: “For example, it takes a 10 HP electric motor to run a brush system that would require a 15 HP hydraulic one.”

While in the past electric motors weren’t considered good for the environment, they have been improved to become a vital part of a eco friendly car wash’s equipment. One major improvement, the use of waterproof cords, has gone a long way to reduce the chance for electrical shock. This has made electrical systems more viable at a reliable pace while using less power.

Foam Soap or Bubbles?

Historically, car washes have relied on foam systems to clean vehicles. Modern trends are seeing facilities embrace bubble systems, which rinse off easier and reduce water use by 20–30 percent, as explained by Ennis: “Foam is a thick concentrate and it takes a lot more water to rinse a car clean.” He adds that car washes with foam systems can adapt to a soap application system or change the concentrate of the foam to make it thinner and easier to rinse. Adapted systems reduce the amount of water use by about 21 gallons per car.

Car wash

Reclaiming Water Still Goes a Long Way

The last tip that can be for eco friendly car wash equipment is one of the oldest. Each car wash is required to have a clarifier system that separates dirt from the oil before the water enters the sewer system or storm drains. Instead of relying on underground clarifiers, many modern facilities are switching to aboveground alternatives that are easier to maintain, can be cleaned by staff, and leaks can be dealt with immediately. This helps facilities everywhere recycle used water efficiently to cut down on the need for drawing in new water from sources.

car wash with dinosaurs

Green Forest Car Wash – Bell Gardens – Grand Opening

Green Forest Opens its third car wash as NS continues to dominate the local car wash market in Southern California. In the past six months, N/S has built seven new tunnel washes and there are plans for another eight on current drawing boards. Local entrepreneurs appreciate having their equipment manufacturer in their back yard and they also appreciate N/S’s approach to themed car washes.

With so many car wash options present in the market today, it can be increasingly difficult to distinguish your business from competition. At N/S Corporation, we approach standard car wash operations with innovative and interactive themed facilities geared toward separating your business from others. In coordination with N/S Corporation, Green Forest Express Car Wash in Bell Gardens, CA recently opened their business with a uniquely individual approach, subsequently dominating their local car wash market.

car wash with dinosaurs

Innovative Technology and Fun Themes

N/S’s themed car washes are a huge hit, and Green Forest Express Car Wash is just one example. Each themed car wash implements innovative technology and a partnership commitment to help local entrepreneurs become successful in the car wash industry.

Instead of creating a standard facility with typical equipment, the Green Forest Car Wash was built around a dinosaur theme. Kids of all ages enjoy the vibrant colors, themed décor on the wash components, and even the dinosaur statues guarding the entrance and exit of this incredible tunnel wash system. This elevated experience takes the mundane task of visiting the car wash and makes it exciting, fun, and memorable.

The system employs several patented N/S Corporation innovations, including a state of the art “volcano” Bubblizer, which combines dazzling lights with patented foaming technology that evokes a “wow factor” for the customers. The location also employs our popular water reclamation technology that makes it eco-friendly.

The location is part of an effort to expand Green Forest Car Wash businesses nationwide. For those in the Bell Gardens area, make sure to check out the location to experience some of the latest innovations that N/S Corporation has developed.