How Car Washes Work

By: Jeff Tyson

Touch Up

The end of the line

As the car comes out of the tunnel, it is pushed off of the conveyor track.

In an exterior-only system, you most likely remain in the car. When it comes out of the tunnel, you put it in park, start the engine and leave. In a full-service car wash, an attendant drives the car over to the finishing station. Here, attendants clean the interior of the car, removing trash and vacuuming. They usually clean the windows, wipe down the dashboard and doors, add some air freshener and hand-dry the exterior. They may also clean and polish the wheels and polish any chrome, depending on the service options available.


Attendants at Bunkey's Car Wash hand-dry a car.

The vacuum system at a car wash is a lot different from your typical home vacuum. It normally has a large central vacuum with multiple hoses connected to it. The hoses are usually either stretched overhead to each vacuuming station or buried underground.

This vacuum is about 6 feet (1.8 m) tall and over 2 feet (0.6 m) in diameter.

The air pump on this vacuum is very powerful, which is necessary to support all the hoses and handle the distance that each hose must cover.