Integrating Your Carwash and Fast Lube

Convenience is becoming increasingly important in our busy society. Time is valuable, and more and more consumers are turning to one-stop shopping. Carwash/fast-lube combinations are a result of this trend.

There are unique challenges to running a site that has both a fast lube and a carwash. Up-to-date information and accurate statistics form the basis for major operating decisions. Customer data, inventory levels and service histories become more numerous and require efficient organization. As the management demands increase, owners must be willing to invest to ensure smooth and profitable operations.

There is a growing need for operators to cross-market. However, you don’t have to break the bank to increase business. Many of the most effective strategies for cross-marketing are inexpensive or available to you at no cost.

Displays

You have a great opportunity to inform/educate about additional services while customers are waiting. Post signs throughout your waiting areas to let patrons know of your other operation(s). Depending on your budget, signage can range from simple countertop displays to full-color posters or large outdoor banners.

Packages

Everyone loves a deal. Combine several services together and offer them as a car care package. Bundle products and services that complement each other. Set a price that gives customers a sizable discount over purchasing each service individually. Then, promote the great value and savings. By offering several packages, customers will feel they have more choices. Car care packages have a high perceived value and are good for selling slow moving products and services.

Autocashier

Employ your autocashier in your effort to cross-market. Most entry units allow the user to customize screen images and audio. Use the opportunity to inform customers about your lube and other services offered.

Coupons

Nearly every carwash and fast lube uses coupons. But, you can offer something many of your competitors cannot — an extra service. While other lube shops will get into price wars and try to out-coupon each other, you can stand out by offering a discount toward a carwash.

Just add a “$3 off any carwash with the purchase of a basic oil change” coupon to whatever newspaper ads or mailers you normally use. Run the new coupon side-by-side your typical coupons. It will give consumers more choices, advertise your new service and let you test the effectiveness of your offers.

Your Database

What do you do if your carwash/fast lube has been open for a while, but you still have customers that just use one service? The answer lies in your computer — the database. Run a list of customers that have had specific services before but haven’t been in for that service for six months. Send them a postcard inviting them to come in for that service at a discounted rate. Or, mail them a certificate for a free basic carwash (with the opportunity to purchase an upgrade) to introduce them to your other location.

Personalized service doesn’t end when the customer leaves your site. A computer allows you to send customized thank-you cards or coupons: “Thank you for coming in Mrs. Bentley – Receive $2 off your next full-service oil change.” Your database dramatically reduces the time it takes to gather this type of detailed information and simplifies bulk mailings.

Fleets

Fleet customers are some of the most consistent. Wouldn’t it be great to extend that constant flow of traffic to your other profit center?

For fleet managers, time is of the essence. Enclose a flier with your next fleet statement, letting fleet managers know they can get their vehicles washed when they bring them in for their usual lube service.

Understanding Carwash Property and Casualty Insurance

There are several types of property and casualty insurance coverage available to car care business owners, including property and liability insurance which may be purchased separately, in a package, or in a combination policy called a business owner’s policy. Other types include workers’ compensation, employment practices liability, commercial automobile liability (including garage keepers) and umbrella policies.

Following are several frequently asked questions (and their answers) regarding these types of coverage.

What is property insurance?

Property insurance is designed to protect your tangible assets. The form covers the building described in the policy and includes any completed additions and fixtures, permanently installed machinery and certain outdoor fixtures. Business personal property you own, inside or on the building, and within 100 feet of the premises, is covered.

This includes furniture and fixtures, stock or inventory, and all other personal property owned by the insured and used in your business. In addition, business personal property includes leased personal property which you have a contractual obligation to insure. You’ll want to check your leases to see what coverage you have agreed to provide.

You also can include personal property of others in your care, custody or control. Be sure to ask your agent if you have this exposure because most policies do not automatically provide this protection.

Several additional coverages or extensions of coverage are provided in most property forms, whether they are purchased separately, in a package or in a business owner’s policy (BOP). Some examples are:

Debris removal. The cost of debris removal is paid up to certain limits specified in the policy.

Preservation of property. If you move your property to another location for safekeeping because you are protecting it from an impending loss (e.g., a wild fire is moving toward your premises) any direct physical loss or damage to the property while being moved or stored at another location is covered. This coverage applies only if the loss or damage occurs within the specified period of time, usually 30 days after the property is first moved.

Fire department service charge, which provides a payment that can be made to the fire department (usually a maximum of $1,000) for responding to a fire at your location. No deductible applies to this coverage to encourage you to protect your property from impending danger as a result of a fire.

In addition, newly acquired or constructed property, personal effects and property of others, property off premises, outdoor property, etc., are automatically provided, subject to policy terms and conditions.

How much coverage do I need for my business property?

You should purchase replacement value coverage for your business property as this eliminates concerns over depreciation. Effectively this provides coverage to replace your property with new property of like kind and quality. Remember, most policies will pay you the depreciated value of damaged property (also known as actual cash value) and reimburse you for the difference after the damaged property is actually replaced and you provide the insurance company with a copy of the invoice for the purchase.

Do I need general liability coverage?

Yes. General liability refers to the legal liability arising out of business operations other than auto accidents or employee injuries. The major general liability loss exposures of business firms include:

Defense costs to protect you from law suits. Even if you are found not responsible for damages, there are considerable costs involved in presenting your case to the court. This is paid in addition to the limit of coverage you purchase. If the damages are equal to or greater than the limit purchased, the defense cost protection will terminate. You want to be sure you purchase limits adequate to protect your business.

Premises and operations liability arise out of the ownership and maintenance of the premises where you do business. You are legally required to maintain the premises in a safe condition and are responsible for the actions of your employees. Customers are considered to be invitees and you owe them the highest degree of care. You must warn customers of any dangerous condition on the premises and protect them against injury.

Products and completed operations liability refers to the legal liability you have for the sale of products or work you perform on your customer’s property.

County Urges Use of Commercial Carwashes for Fundraisers

Officials in Lexington County, S.C., are promoting the use of commercial carwashes while they urge nonprofit organizations to refrain from holding carwash fundraisers in parking lots without taking precautions to capture wastewater contaminants, according to a report by The State.

As an alternative, officials are recommending groups work with professional carwash facilities to either hold charity events at their locations or sell discounted tickets through the carwashes’ formal fundraiser programs.

Although the county has not outlawed residential carwashing, officials are promoting commercial carwashes as part of their effort to preserve the health of local lakes and waterways, including Lake Murray, Saluda River and Congaree River.

Eight carwashes have come forward to help the county, and officials are hopeful more operators will formally join their campaign, the article said.

Reusing vs. Recycling Water

If you mention the subject of early reclaim systems to a carwash operator with 20 years experience and ask what thoughts come to mind, you’ll probably get a description of a piece of equipment that doesn’t do a very good job treating water, needs a lot of maintenance, has filter bags to change and replace, and produces water that offends customers with its odor. Although most reclaim manufacturers have made great gains in making their systems more user friendly, they are still missing the goal of sufficiently cleaning the water.

In general, the reason that many reclaim systems blacken equipment, destroy pumps and damage nozzles is that they simply do not remove suspended soils to low enough levels. The “filtered” water these systems produce contains high concentrations of total suspended solids (TSS) less than 20 microns in size. As the water is continuously reused, the concentration of these unfiltered particles increases exponentially. To combat their inability to remove solids effectively, some systems use a fresh water makeup line with a solenoid valve to dilute the poorly filtered water with higher quality city water. If these systems were capable of filtering the solids sufficiently, dilution with city water wouldn’t be needed. Remember, a reclaim system is supposed to save you from using city water.

Overall, the surface area and the particle-retention capabilities of the filtering or separating mechanism establish the flow rate for a given system. Some filters feature microscopic projections that allow very fine particulate matter to penetrate deeply into the filter bed. These filters can effectively remove solids down to 5 microns or less.

Due to the tight filtration and the high solids removal capacity, these types of depth filters are larger in size than typical canister or cyclone systems. Consequently, if a reclaim unit has a filtration system of small canisters or cyclones, the only way for this system to meet the water demands of the wash is for the system to only take out the very largest particles and send the water on its way. That’s the reason why water from these types of systems is black in color and wreaks havoc on nozzles — it’s simply not filtered tightly enough.

In small canisters, it would take far too many vessels for the system to produce the 100 to 150 gallons per minute or more that many of today’s high-volume washes demand. Consequently, filtration is sacrificed. The biggest problem with this is pump warranties can be voided if the solids in the water are not filtered to within published tolerances. Also, the visible signs of poor filtration are all over the walls, which is not impressive to customers.

Comparing treated, recycled water with reused, dirty water is like comparing night and day. In most cases, treated, recycled water will satisfy the requirements of publicly owned treatment works. In more and more municipalities, water departments are monitoring businesses to evaluate various impurities sent to the sewer, and carwashes are moving to the head of the list. We, as operators, must be conscious of increased regulation which can and will impact our ability to function — and our reputations in the communities we serve.

Imagine my dismay at my washes when county officials showed up seven years ago and placed sampling devices in the carwash discharge stream. They collected composite samples and sent them to a laboratory. A few weeks later, we received a violation notice stating that our water discharge was out of compliance with our discharge permit. The county gave us 30 days to resolve our discharge issues or start facing fines!

We had entirely new, much more complex issues to suddenly resolve. We were no longer talking about just clogged nozzles and dirty equipment. We were now faced with removing or significantly reducing the chemical oxygen demand, biochemical oxygen demand, total suspended solids, and oil and grease levels in our discharge. We reviewed the chemistry we were using in our wash tunnel and made some changes, but still could not meet the discharge criteria imposed by our permit. But once we installed the appropriate water treatment and recycling system, we resolved this issue entirely. Since we upgraded, we’ve been tested three or four times per year for the past seven years, with no discharge compliance issues whatsoever.