Keeping Vehicles On the Roll at Local Car Wash

By Cindy Atoji Keene

On a typical weekend day, as many as 500 cars roll through Belmont Car Wash in Belmont, with another 100 cars detail cleaned. “Washing your car is like taking a shower or brushing your teeth – it makes you feel better about yourself and also maintains the finish of your vehicle,” said Torres, who found his first job at the car wash after immigrating from Guatemala 12 years ago, then worked his way up from cleaner to on-site manager.

Q: You recently attended a car detailing workshop sponsored by the New England Car Wash Association. Can you share some tips that you learned?

A: The workshop covered how to clean cars quickly and efficiently, including detail work, express waxing, and cleaning upholstery and leather. One thing we saw was how remove light scratches by using a swirl remover. This clarifies the paint for a higher gloss. Then use a heavy-duty polish compound with an orbital and a buffer with wool or foam pad.

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Q: Who are the customers that stand out in your mind?

A: We have some regulars who purchase the unlimited car wash pass, and they come as often as every morning and afternoon. A lot of them have luxury vehicles –BMWs, Mercedes, Maseratis – they’re professionals like doctors and lawyers. One of them gives me a copy of his recent book when he sees me, so I ask him, ‘Do you have any new books today?’ He gave me one about leadership – I liked that one.

Q: How long does it take a car to go through the automated drive-through?
A: About minute and a half. The tunnel is 135 feet long. First there’s the pre-rinse, soap diluted with water, then water spray and foam or soap, then the first set of microfiber cloth spinners called ‘mitters.’ After that we have spray water, soaper, then turn-around spin brushes made of cloth. A tire brush and high pressure water cleans the wheels. Finally, an underbody wash and high-pressure final rinse and drying blowers. Then two girls wipe off with hand towels to finish. Last year, 87 thousand cars went through the tunnel.

Q: How does the car wash attempt to conserve water?
A: We don’t use city water except for the final rinse. We have our own well system, including two wells and storage water tank that holds 10 thousand gallons of water. Unlike some car washes that reclaim water and use it again, we don’t do that. We make sure to give the car a good wash and rinse.

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Q: One of your tasks is to keep the equipment and supplies going – is this a tall order?
A: The equipment has never broken down since I took over. We recently installed a 40 thousand dollar conveyer belt which will go 10 years before needing a fix. The spin brushes can occasionally have a glitch, but we stay overnight at least once a month looking for loose or damaged parts. As far as the supplies – towels, soaps, polishes, other chemicals – we buy as much as 55 drums of these and keep them in the store room.

Q: Ever have any mishaps in the car wash tunnel?
A: When you’re washing as many as 10 thousand cars – that’s how many we did this May – something is bound to occasionally happen. There are some people who aren’t thinking when they’re on the conveyer belt and accidentally put their car in drive because they’re distracted by children or texting. Then they can hit the car in front of them.

Q: What kind of car do you drive?

A: I had a black car, and I said never again. It was too difficult to keep clean and the dirt really showed on it. So now I drive a 2005 Honda Accord, and I wash it frequently. I don’t want to tell people I work at a car wash and then have a dirty car, because then they don’t believe me.

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