Friction vs. Touchless Car Wash: What Do Customers Want?

Friction vs. Touchless Car Wash: What Do Customers Want?

In the world of car washes, you typically have two options: friction or touchless. Before you make your final decision, it’s important to consider which car washing method customers prefer and why. The answer hinges on diverse factors including customer demographics and evolving industry trends. When business owners understand these preferences and align them with overall business goals and capabilities, they can tailor services to meet customer demands.

While recent years show an increase in popularity for the touchless car wash, each method has an array of factors and advantages for business owners to consider.

What Is a Touchless Car Wash?

A touchless car wash combines high-pressure water jets, detergents and sometimes warm air to remove dirt and grime. The process relies on computer-controlled laser sensors to detect the shape and location of the vehicle in an automated process.

These washes can process one car at a time, working for around five minutes, and they work well on vehicles that have aftermarket accessories, which may complicate running the car through a soft-touch car wash. Because of this fact, the touchless car wash is gaining popularity.

Additional benefits of the touchless method include:

  • Full-time operation: Customers can use this service any time, day or night, extending the hours of operation to increase revenue.
  • Paint protection: This system uses no brushes, which minimizes the risk of micro abrasions.
  • Minimal labor: With an automated system, there is less need for human intervention, which lowers labor costs.
  • Fewer components: The design of a touchless car wash means fewer components need maintenance over time.

Touchless Car Wash Products

Cleaning a vehicle without brushes means that water pressure, water quality and the chemistry of cleaning products play an essential role in the quality of the wash. For a touchless car wash, the ideal cleaning solution is an acidic cleaner that features powerful foaming and lubricity abilities. For a two-step wash, a neutralizing agent follows the cleaner. Both loosen dirt, grime and more while rinsing off quickly.

What Is a Friction Car Wash?

A friction car wash uses high-pressure blasters with foam or cloth brushes that apply mild friction. This method lifts organic matter and stubborn remnants off surfaces and hard-to-reach places for a thorough cleaning.

Friction car washes are typically fast with the ability to clean multiple vehicles per hour. Plus, they’re more reliable when dealing with heavy dirt and grime on both surfaces and hard-to-reach places, thanks to the flexibility of the brushes.

Here are more reasons why friction is considered one of the most popular types of car wash:

  • Less chemicals: This method uses less detergent or chemicals in a single wash, helping reduce operational costs.
  • Innovations in brush design: Most new brush fingers or strands are designed to tear off before causing any damage or abrasions during a wash.
  • Consistency: These automated systems provide consistent results, ensuring each vehicle is cleaned uniformly.

Friction Car Wash Products

When it comes to the best products for friction car washes, use a pre-soak blend of polymeric surfactants, alkaline builders and soil-suspending agents. This combination is integral to the cleaning process as it loosens dirt, grime and road film. Following this with a good low-pH detergent leaves a clean and shiny finish. These products work well with both traditional friction washing and the hybrid iteration of a friction car wash.

What Do Customers Want?

It’s important to educate customers about all available methods of cleaning their vehicles to empower them to make informed decisions. While friction car washes are familiar, some consumers may believe the brushes will scrap the paint off their car by leaving micro scratches. Others may use the touchless method out of habit, and not consider the benefits of cleaning their car in a friction wash.

One way to determine what customers prefer is to analyze a variety of metrics. Take the following steps:

  1. Conduct market research: Dig into local trends to identify which type of car wash is the most successful in your area.
  2. Consider feedback: Keep an eye on customer reviews and feedback on the kinds of car washes mentioned.
  3. Account for customer demographics: Specific groups of people may prefer friction over touchless or vice versa.
  4. Keep up with industry trends: Get insight into shifting customer trends by staying current on industry news and innovations.
  5. Adapt and optimize: Focus your business efforts on offering and optimizing the more popular car wash preference.

What Should Car Wash Owners Consider?

What Should Car Wash Owners Consider?

Business owners considering what type of car wash to offer should remember to account for both business goals and general consumer preferences. With the car wash market value in the United States expected to reach over $17 billion in the next few years, the decision of friction vs. touchless car wash is important, and making the right choice can help you thrive as part of that market share.

Here are some factors that car wash owners must consider:

  • Water usage: Consider water conservation efforts and local regulations regarding water usage. Customers are more likely to pick an environmentally friendly option, so you might consider choosing a system that uses less water.
  • Upfront payments: Evaluate the initial investment of each system and forecast how long it may take to see a return on that investment.
  • Maintenance costs: Evaluate ongoing maintenance requirements, and consider that touchless systems have fewer moving parts that may need maintenance.
  • Layout: One system may require more space or a specific layout. Compare this to the space available before investing in either car wash system.
  • Seasonal considerations: Weather conditions can impact the chosen system’s performance, particularly in colder states.

Find Touchless and Friction Car Wash Products Here

Find Touchless and Friction Car Wash Products Here

Whether customers prefer friction or touchless car washes is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. Customer preferences vary according to location, demographics and personal preferences. By conducting market research, monitoring performance metrics and clearly understanding the differences between these two methods, your business can effectively cater to its customers’ needs.

For over 40 years, JBS Industries has supplied high-quality car wash and industrial cleaners. We understand the ins and outs of this industry, offering products to suit every car wash business. With a large selection of highly concentrated products to choose from, you can transform your car wash and ensure top-quality service for every customer. Contact us today and find out how our products can boost your business.


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