By on May 15, 2017

2017 Car Wash Show, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About Cars

Some trade shows embrace the purist of missions, refraining from creating pointless content in hopes of mindless media coverage. The Car Wash Show caters to professionals in the car-care business with nary a sensationalist notion and not an autoblogger in sight on the show floor. This show isn’t about clicks, reach or engagement.

Which was precisely why I attended, embedded with my Mumbai-based cousin in the trade to learn more.

Not that the show was all business. There were several vehicles pointlessly getting “washed” by dry brushes to garner attention.

From those tacky POS baubles and accessories to the coolest tech for automated car washes, everything a car wash or quick lube (or both) owner needs was at the show. I saw big vendors known around the world, met little guys (mostly from the U.S. and China) obviously hungry for business, and plenty in between. How many ways can you dress up an editorial about a trade show without resorting to SEMA-like cliches?

To wit, I will answer The Best and Brightest’s queries:

Jeff Waingrow: Why is it necessary, in automated car washes, to put an utterly disgusting smelling “perfume” in the soap that is sprayed onto the vehicle? My cars and garage reek from it for days. Does anyone actually like this?

SM: This was, ironically, the item my cousin wanted to import to his Mumbai operation. And there were at least 10 vendors devoting large amounts of their booth to this, as people want their car to smell like something better than a used, dirty car. So yes, people love it and it’s both a personal and a cultural preference.

Zoomzoomfan: Will there ever be a car wash (with brushes) that doesn’t scratch a vehicle’s paint all to hell?

SM: Until mankind designs a way to touch something with zero friction, I recommend you stick to touch-less machines. Or scratch wash it yourself.

FormerFF: What product do they have/recommend for application to plastic headlight covers to prevent them from getting cloudy?

SM: I only found products to “restore” headlights, from packages with two stages (a liquid abrasive and a glaze/sealer) to full-on orbital power tools with sanding pads. For what it’s worth, I’m happy with doing a semi-annual wax (polymer-based) to the headlights when I do the body.

Mikey: Is waxing still necessary with the modern clear coat? What product can I use to beautify and help preserve the “leather” areas of the interior?

SM: This was a trade show for people making money off your queries, but the lessons learned there apply to you: Yes, waxing is still necessary and there’s a whole cottage industry of chemists telling you which product is best for your clear coat.

Surprisingly, there was little in the way of leather conditioners at the show, but again, there are many blends that do the same thing. I’ve used everything from Obenauf’s to the free lotions you get at hotels. The free stuff’s conditioning power doesn’t last as long, but hey, it’s free.

Corey Lewis: What brand of interior cleaning products do the owners of these companies use, assuming they still sometimes clean their own cars?

SM: If you think these guys won’t give the ultimate endorsement of their own company, I have some prime beachfront real estate in Wyoming I’d like to show you.

Lolcopterpilot: Whatever happened to the Mr. Clean autodry filters? Is there any plan for the company to sell filters again? I haven’t been able to find a similar, easy method to use filtered water to avoid water spots after washing my car.

SM: I asked a few people; nobody knew. Not surprised, as this is a personal use tool: Google told me Proctor and Gamble is Mr. Clean’s parent company. It’s no surprise P&G isn’t retailing a somewhat not-disposable product (doesn’t seem to fit their business model), but it still makes the bits you need: Amazon sells the filters.

Jammyjo: Is there any alternative to the rail-and-rack system that draws cars through the wash? Damage to alloys with low profile tires is what keeps me from ever using automated washes.

SM: Yup, STI Conveyor Systems had its products moving at a pleasant clip throughout the show. It was both impressive and reassuring to see the car wash industry utilizing the latest technology.  Here’s a photo:

2017 Car Wash Show, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About Cars

Here are more shots from the 2017 Car Wash Show:

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16 Comments on “Your Dirty Questions Answered at The Car Wash Show 2017...”


  • avatar
    -Nate

    Pretty neat .
    .
    I occasionally use a touch less automated car wash, I wish they’d maintain it though ~ the sprayer bar stopped moving down to reach the grille and bumpers a few years ago and there’s always bulbs out ~ doesn’t look fancy like most of these machines do but no plastic panels to fad and crack and no damn brushes to ruin the paint and rip 30 year old trims and mirrors off….
    .
    -Nate

  • avatar
    brettc

    I’m currently paying $15 a month for Scrubadub’s “Express wash” thing where I can go as often as I want. I don’t care how scratched the paint gets now since VW will be getting it back eventually. I do need to hand wash it and get the rail dust and tar off it from the winter. Also needs a wax. I like the Turtle Wax Wash and Dry stuff combined with a Meguiar’s drying towel. I also have the Optima Wax, available on Amazon.

    However, I won’t subject my wife’s car to Scrubadub’s automated wash since we’re keeping it and it’s blue metallic. I wash hers by hand when I can and hose it off at the coin wash or take it through a touchless wash in the winter time. It would be great if automated washes could actually clean the car without brushes, but I don’t think that can happen. The touchless washes do a ‘good enough for government work’ job at least.

    • 0 avatar
      IHateCars

      I avoid Touch/Touchless altogether as most car washes recycle their water. Depending on how good the filtration systems are, you may be pelting your paint with small particles of grit on the next wash.

      • 0 avatar

        It depends here in the NE some of the older ones (pre 1997 or so) still use fresh water but most do know recycle. The recycling on I use near work is fine because I assume the filter system is well maintained.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    is there any point to using soaps and conditioners on automotive leather? it’s not like they’re traditionally tanned hides; they’re sealed with so many polymers and whatnot I’d probably rather just have vinyl instead.

    • 0 avatar
      IHateCars

      I use the Leatherique system annually on my interior leather surfaces. You are right in that the leather interiors are pretty well sealed but they still develop a greasy shiny surface due to dirt, lotions, grime on hands, clothes and whatever over time. A good leather cleaner/conditioner will remove those layers of grime and restore the nice matte sheen as it was when new. You can really see the results on leather covered steering wheels in particular.

      • 0 avatar
        Superdessucke

        I’ve had success with Lexol products. It’s kept an E36 BMW M3’s leather looking good for nearly 20 years, which says alot considering those cars did not have the best made leather!

    • 0 avatar

      this is an interesting point I used to do leather conditioner on my Durango and Volvo but haven’t the last few years as the kids were beating on it anyways. They seem no worse for it.

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    Pfft ultimate endorsements are no fun.

  • avatar
    2drsedanman

    I’ve found using my leaf blower after rinsing saves a lot of work on the windows and blows the water out of the mirrors, grill, wheels, etc. I used to do this when I had motorcycles but found it works pretty well on cars too.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Awesome photo of the 71′ Chevelle.

    That was the exact color of my 72′ 454 SS. Rare color combo.

  • avatar
    WheelMcCoy

    Thanks Sajeev. You know it’s a serious show when there are no booth babes around. :(

    My car slipped off the track in an automated car wash. It was in winter, so I bet they didn’t de-ice it properly. Fortunately, they were honest and a man with a clip board met me at the end of the of track. The right side of the front bumper was damaged and they paid for the replacement.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Windows are the ban of my existence when it comes to detailing cars. I’ll spend an entire weekend on a car and wake up the next morning completely frustrated at the windows. Best practices recommendation?

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Check out Autogeek.net Seriously the people on those forums are obsessed with car cleaning. I drive by their location every now and then so I decided to look up what they sell. That lead me down a rabbit hole in their forums where I lost hours learning about multi step car cleaning products and procedures I didn’t know even existed.

  • avatar
    zoomzoomfan

    I use the touchless wash during the winter just to get the majority of the salt and crud off the car, but I try to wash it myself during the spring and summer. Have to get up at the ass crack of dawn to beat the brutal Kentucky heat and humidity, though.

    Good answer to my question. “Until mankind designs a way to touch something without friction…” HA.

  • avatar
    AJ

    Mr. Clean’s filters were great! I have one new on in my garage yet, but the sprayer being plastic fell and broke. I didn’t use their soap, just the filter as it did a great job with the hard water that I have.

    When they stopped making them, I went to just using them before I would wax (Zaino actually) a car… well before I broke the sprayer.


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