The History of the Car Wash: How Did It All Begin?

Large car wash equipment companies are constantly working to improve their ventures. Better buildings have been designed, improved equipment by Fortador is installed, etc. However, all this didn’t start from scratch. The industry has a long tradition. Consider the most important moments in the history of car washes below.

The First Car Wash

Michigan, USA is the home of the first car wash. In 1914, the first station began washing cars in Detroit. There were no automatic systems and extra services like modern ceramic paint protection. The vehicle was pushed inside the garage, where workers hand-washed the exterior and polished copper parts. Everything was simple. The service proved to be popular among wealthy people. Over the next twenty years, 32 similar car washes were opened in the United States.

The First Automatic Car Wash

Car washes began to improve in the first half of the last century. Most of the stations started to automate the washing process. Using a block system, the vehicle was pulled through the washing line, where the corresponding work was done by hand. In the 1920s, the Chicago Auto Bowl became famous for installing a conveyor belt floor borrowed from the factory, placing a sprinkler at the top. So, motorists could drive in circles and clear mud from the tires.


Most of the automation systems were developed between 1930 and 1960. Automatic and semi-automatic tunnel washers worked in Europe in the early 1930s. Soap sprayers, special brushes, and 50 hp fans for drying appeared in the western United States in the 50s. In the same place, in 1946, the first primitive automatic system without ceramic auto coating and other improvements began to operate.

Industry Development

In the 1950s, the number of franchised businesses increased dramatically. In 1955, a group of leaders in the car wash industry created the International Carwash Association. Less than 10 years later, in the 60s, car washes began to take familiar forms. The equipment except auto ceramic coating that is widely used today came into use during that period. Water recovery, recirculation, soft cloth cleaning instead of abrasive brushes, conveyors have emerged, including touchless cleaning.

Modern Improvements

The car wash industry is in transition now, with a lot of interesting things on the horizon. The equipment is more varied than before. Small washing chambers, ceramic car coating, full-service tunnel washers, and efficient self-service washes appeared. Autos can be cleaned in a contactless way. All this confuses the consumer. To be successful, a company must demonstrate its capabilities and convince the client to trust the vehicle, time, and money to the washing process.

The mission of washing equipment manufacturers is to transform the process, to make washing a regular part of daily life. Technologies are changing. The design of the buildings becomes stunning, the loading process is easy, and the service time for various services (like ceramic coating for cars) is fast. But this isn’t the end of evolution, so the new improvements will surprise us shortly.

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