Equipment Information


Why Self-service Car Washes?

Self-service car washes are sometimes referred to as coin-operated, wand-type, or “do-it-yourself” car washes.  Coin-operation is a misnomer, since self-service car washes may be initiated by:  coins, bills, tokens, credit card and/or remote control.  Self-service car washes are facilities in which vehicles park in the bay and the customer exits to wash their vehicle. 

Self-service Car Wash Investment

Self-service car washes are also referred to as entry level businesses into the car wash industry.  They operate full-time to maximize income, while requiring minimal managerial and employee involvement.  Self-service car washes may be constructed with a relatively low investment, on less expensive property and operate while unattended. 

Many other advantages of self-service car washes:

·         Offer an excellent return on the investment,

·         Payment is received prior to services rendered,

·         Equipment operation and maintenance are simple,

·         Customers provide labor to wash vehicles and

·         Inventory in minimal.


Self-service car washes are “destination businesses”.  Meaning self-service car washes are the intended destination for service and less likely impulse purchases.  This type of business relies more on relative distance from customer’s residence and other intended destinations (bank, grocery store and/or pharmacy).  “Destination businesses” require lower by-pass traffic counts thus the site may be less expensive and facility requirements less stringent.  Property, development and other site improvements may be equal to or less than building and equipment costs.  Many more locations present opportunities for profitable facilities by lowering overall development cost.  

Full-time Operation

Self-service car washes typically operate 24-hour per day and 7-days per week.  Income is derived is with minimal involvement and most self-service car washes are open for business while unattended.  

Part-time Employment

Janitorial and light maintenance should be performed daily.  Most facilities require one to three hours to complete daily tasks.  Related businesses may be pursued while capitalizing on income from your self-service car wash.

Related Businesses

Other related businesses popular with CustomKraft self-service operators included:

·         Roll-over automatics are car washes where cars enter in the bay and the wash equipment travels back and forth to wash and rinse the vehicle.

·         Tunnel car washes are facilities in which vehicles enter the bay via a conveyor and are pulled through wash and rinse mechanisms.

·         Self-storage warehouses permit customers to rent space to store possessions.

·         Coin-operated laundries are businesses in which articles of clothing may be laundered and dried by the customer with coin-operated machines.


The cost of self-service equipment is largely determined by number of functions and selected features (equipment costs range from $12,000 to $30,000 per bay).  More income may be derived from car washes by offering more features.  The building construction cost is also variable due to materials, techniques and regional requirements (building costs range from $12,000 to $50,000 per bay).

Anticipated Income

According to industry surveys, typical existing car wash revenues in the United States are approximately $1,500 per self-service bay per month.  Sites with higher traffic and better demographics (see Site Analysis Worksheet) may yield higher revenue.  Variable or utility and supply expenses will equate to about 30% of gross receipts.  Typical results are not guarantees of income and actual results may vary.

Return on Investment

Typical 6-bay car wash:

Estimated equipment cost                              $120,000

Estimated building cost                                  $180,000

Property and improvements                           $150,000

Total construction costs                                 $450,000


Anticipated Monthly Gross Revenue               $1,500 X 6 = $9,000

Monthly Expenses of 30%                              $<$2,700>

Monthly Payment for $450,000 Facility*         $<$4,250>

Net Monthly Revenue                                      $2,050

Rate of Return is 15% without improved adjustment for depreciation.

*Assuming fifteen year 7.75% financing for $450,000 (total project).

Payment Receipt

Self-service car washes are businesses in which payment is received before services are rendered.  Customer satisfaction is measured with convenience, aesthetics and reliability. 

Simple Operation and Maintenance

Operating a CustomKraft self-service car wash is the equivalent to a very well-paid janitorial position.  Primary operator duties include washing the bays and debris clean-up.

Daily, weekly, monthly and annual maintenance schedules are easily accessible.  Maintenance training is provided by CustomKraft and on-site training is also provided by thorough regional distributors. 

Customer Labor

CustomKraft self-service car washes deliver a high level of customer satisfaction.  Customers provide their own labor to wash, rinse and vacuum their vehicle.  The best sites offer customers convenience and value.  By providing functions and features not available otherwise, self-service car wash owners promote vehicle interior and exterior detailing thus increased use and improved revenue.  

Minimal Inventory

CustomKraft self-service car washes require detergents, conditioners, vending supplies and few spare components.  Automatic proportioning valves allow operators to determine chemical replacement schedules.  Ample vending shelves promote restocking before vendors are depleted and a few spare components serve the multiple bay locations with repetitive wear components (vacuum nozzles, spray guns and/or foam brush heads). 

Investment Decision

Once a decision is reached to purchase a self-service car wash, the next phase is to decided on a supplier.  A quality distributor will facilitate a successful business.   CustomKraft documentation and training programs insure a long-term partnership and satisfaction.

Purchasing CustomKraft Self-service Equipment

Factors to consider when purchasing CustomKraft self-service car wash equipment are 1) quality of components, 2) ease and need of maintenance, 3) simplicity of design, 4) company support and 5) price.  If all equipment were built with the same components and design, it would be easy.  Many consider self-service equipment as, “just a pump and motor”.  However, it is not that simple.  Minor differences in equipment make significant differences in required maintenance and equipment longevity. 

Quality Components

In the absence of experience, select equipment with components designed to function at higher capacities.  The selection of quality components is based on aesthetic quality, durability and lowest       real cost.  

Aesthetic quality of components will improve the overall appearance of the finished product and generally reflect the grade of the component.  The best components have substantial construction      and a sturdy appearance.  In addition, better component materials will have good chemical
compatibility and permanence.  

Durability is longevity or the ability of the component to survive.  An example would be pumps
designed to operate at 4.0 gallons per minute (gpm) at 2,500 pounds per square inch (psi), will last longer operating at 3.5 gpm at 1,250 psi.

Real cost of a component is more difficult to determine.  The real cost is equal to purchase price x requirement of repair or replacement.  The cost of repair or replacement is significant, due to lost production and operation time.  Therefore, solid components are desirable to lower the real cost.  

Ease and Need of Maintenance

CustomKraft equipment operates for long periods without maintenance while optimizing versatility, performance and machine life.  CustomKraft equipment requires less maintenance and has easy accessibility for maintenance or component replacement.  Component arrangement allows access
for service with minimal difficulty.  CustomKraft equipment designs require less maintenance to
meet the demands of busy owner/operators. 

Simplicity of Design

Simplicity of design may be categorized by the ability to understand operation and the overall
reduction of components to perform the task.  Components should have logical placement and workings.  CustomKraft designs are easily understood and have clear flow patterns.  CustomKraft electrical systems are color-coded with high and low voltages isolated.  CustomKraft designs are
driven to improve performance and reduce components.  CustomKraft designs have the best
value with the lowest operation cost. 

Company Support

The finest equipment manufactured will need maintenance and replacement components.  Company support may be measured by equipment warranties, certifications, system documentation and training furnished.  The distributor network and proximity to the site will determine response time for service.

Warranties are offered for items that will not fail during the specified period.  Manufacturer’s issue warranties for in respect to quality of components used in fabrication.  Longer warranties commonly indicate a high quality component. 

CustomKraft equipment carries Edison Testing Laboratory (ETL) and Canadian Edison Testing Laboratory (CETL) markings and listings to assure proper application of components.  All-inclusive manuals for parts and troubleshooting permit customers to self-educate and perform service for the equipment.  CustomKraft also provides training seminars and electronic materials (CD’s).  Our local distributor will provide an important lifeline to insure a profitable facility.

Purchase Price

Usually the predominant factor in choosing equipment is actually the least important.  Project costs
are driven by land and structure.  Equipment costs are a much smaller percentage of the project.
Location and appearance are crucial, but so are system reliability and ease of operation.  Purchasing equipment based solely on price overlooks reliability, versatility or required maintenance. 

Differentiating Equipment

A precursory inspection of self-service equipment reveals similar pumps, motors and stainless steel frames.  With closer examination, major differences are found in models, support components and certifications.  Better components require less maintenance plus have increased warranties and efficiencies.    


The bay meter is the point-of-sale and is contacted by every customer.  It is essential to   present a clean, high-quality and aesthetically pleasing bay meter.  Quality of the mechanism is determined by appearance, ease of operation, security and dependability.  Well-defined instructions permit smooth operation of the system with
little familiarity.  Customers demand mechanisms that accept money easily, activates
the equipment and operates properly.   Many bay meter options are available due to varied site locations.  The most basic meter box should be stainless steel with a high-security lock, employ a rotary switch, electronic coin acceptor and digital display timer.  Up-scale sites will dictate the use of more options. 

Notable options include:

  1. bill acceptance
  2. credit card acceptance
  3. piezoelectric touch-button selection
  4. cycle indicator lights
  5. remote cycle controller to change cycles from the bay hose.    

Click Here for Coin Meter Page

CustomKraft manufactures primarily with CAT PUMPS triplex ceramic plunger pumps.  High-pressure pumps are considered the heart of self-service car wash equipment.  There are only a few pump brands used throughout the industry.  Pump selection is typically based on familiarity or standardizing with existing systems.  Ceramic plunger pumps and the reduction of components have contributed to quieter operation, increased reliability and easier serviceability.  Some pump models produce higher pressure and/or volume capabilities.  When making a pump model selection, consider component availability, capabilities and warranty.  The most popular models are 5CP2120W and the 310 models.    


Baldor electric motors which drive bay pumps are the largest energy consumers on CustomKraft’s self-service pump module.  Motor efficiency is established by National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA).  Standard (Standard E) motor efficiency is set at 86.5%, while super efficient (Super E) models improve the efficiency to 90.5%.  Baldor motors have better customer support to answer inquiries and conduct warranty exchanges.   



                                                                                 Standard E                                     Super E

Drive systems also influence efficiency of the motor to pump operation.  The CustomKraft timing belt drive is 99% efficient, requires no tension adjustment and has an anticipated life expectancy of 10 years.  The direct drive system is 99.9% efficient, requires no tension adjustments or maintenance.  However, this system drives the pump at full revolutions per minute (RPM) of the motor, causing higher crankshaft and bearing wear, shortening pump life.  The most common drive is a single “Vee” belt.
It is only 67% efficient, requires routine tension adjustment and belt replacement every two years.  Increasing efficiency with multiple
“Vee” belts makes an incremental improvement to 70%, but also requires monthly adjustment and replacement every two years. 

Click Here for Timing Belt Drive Page

Although stainless steel frames and tanks seem rather straight forward and ubiquitous throughout the various self-service brands, minor differences play an important role in durability and reliability.  CustomKraft increases the metal thickness or gauge used to reduce equipment vibration and durability in shipment.  By decreasing vibrations, the mounted components will have a longer service life.  Component fasteners must be strong enough to withstand years of use.  Plastic chemical tanks develop cracks and leaks, requiring repair or replacement, so CustomKraft uses only stainless steel and gravity feed on all systems.

Click here for stainless steel frames PDF

There are several automatic proportioning valves and fluid level controls available.  CustomKraft equipment designs use gravity feed on all cycles, eliminating the need for check valves or failure points.  Ideally, chemicals are proportioned into stainless reservoirs to be distributed to the pumps.  Component material and chemical compatibility is influential in choosing proportioning valves, since the valves come into direct contact with water
and detergents. CustomKraft uses stainless steel and brass component materials to improve durability.

CustomKraft’s high volume level control is designed to operate for one billion cycles.  This exceeds
all other controls available, for years of dependable service.    

Click here fluid level control PDF

  CustomKraft builds with both electric motor starters to variable frequency
.  The variable frequency inverter allows for maximum versatility with
  smoother operation, decreased energy consumption and the reduction of
  components.  The inverter operates a standard three phase electric motor at
  several speeds, allowing the system to deliver several pressures using a single
  pump and motor per bay.  The inverter ramps the motor up to speed, drastically
  reducing the inrush amperage demanded at start-up.  The unit will operate a
  three phase motor with either single or three phase input voltage. 

  Motor starters with digital operation (on or off) are used most commonly.
  Starters are less efficient than inverters and will demand 8 to 10 times operating amperage (motors operating at 9 amps during operation, draw 70 to 90 amps at initiation).  Motor starters will only operate phase correct electric motors (single phase electricity will operate only single phase motors).  Although starters have limitations, their simple operation is appealing.    

Click here for Variable Frequency Drive

CustomKraft utilizes stainless steel solenoids for durability and chemical compatibility.  Brass, plastic or blended solenoid bodies are available but have restricted application.  Brass will crack and chip around the orifice seat, while plastics tend to be less tolerant to heat and have poor thread memory (tensioned threads will loosen over an extended period, causing leaks).  CustomKraft’s stainless solenoids are designed for maximum versatility and permanence. 

The seal material is just as important as the body.  Common seal materials are Buna, Viton®, PTFE
and Teflon
.  Consider the characteristics and chemical compatibility of each of the materials for the

CustomKraft solenoids are sealed with Viton®, it is a fluoroelastomer and  offers excellent resistance
to aggressive chemicals and seals well with minimal pressure.  PTFE (
PolyTetraFluoroEthylene) and Teflon
are fluorocarbon-based polymers. They offer high chemical resistance, low and high
temperature capability and "slipperiness".  The products create a hard surface and will only seal well with pressure applied.  Buna N or Nitrile is the most commonly used seal material.  It is a copolymer of butadiene and acrylonitrile.  It is not recommended for carbon aggressive fluids such as tire cleaner or presoak.       

Click here for low pressure manifold PDF

Bay components are contacted by the customer and will influence the satisfaction of operation.  CustomKraft has applied stainless steel whenever possible for clean, aesthetic durability.  The overhead boom, wand holster and wand flex for smoother customer feel and decrease component damage.  Bay signage is colorful, simple and concise.  To help with ease of operation the bay signs is color coordinated with the bay meters; to facilitate cycle selection.




  CustomKraft inlet manifolds supply water into the chemical reservoirs and
  through the system.  The use of copper piping is used due to vibration during
  operation, water hammer induced by positive action valves and pipe corrosion.
  Copper piping is also best to reduce leaks and increase durability.  CustomKraft
  is crimped and warranted against leaks for 50 years.

Click here for CustomKraft ProPress

High-pressure delivery lines to the overhead bay booms are thermal plastic hose.  Thermal plastic
hose does not retain chemical residue from changing products and is able to freeze and thaw
without bursting.  Thermal plastic hose has an extremely long life expectancy but, has poor abrasion resistance and must be well insulated from chaffing. 

Regularly overlooked components are the low-voltage controls.  CustomKraft’s improved safety and simplicity are achieved by using components with increased quality.  Fused transformers will protect expensive components from over-amperages and possible damage.  Digital bay timer with last minute alert improves customer satisfaction.  Pulse weep systems reduce water expense by reducing water usage during freezing conditions.  Lighted DIN connectors for all solenoid coils will simplify
diagnostics and indicate operation.  Plug-in connectors for control wire allow the meter faces to be interchanged for diagnostics and make faster field replacement.

Although component selection seems tedious, it will influence the durability and reliability of the
system more than any other factor.  It is the job of the design engineer to make the proper selection
for the consumer.   But it is the consumer’s job to be vigilant and consider all factors.  Purchasing CustomKraft’s quality equipment is a sound business practice and a good investment.   

CustomKraft has developed the simplest, most reliable equipment for self-service car washes. 


CustomKraft Industries 4611 W. Bethany North Little Rock, Arkansas 72117
501-955-5959 800-869-1448 Fax: 501-945-3408