Automatic car washes got their start in Hollywood in 1946, taking most of the manual labor out of washing cars. Using a conveyor belt that hooked to the car’s bumper, they moved vehicles through a tunnel while an overhead sprinkler system sprayed water down on them. As the car passed through the tunnel, three sets of manually-operated brushes scrubbed the car clean. A fifty-horsepower air blower then finished the job by drying most of the water off.
As car wash technology advanced during the 1950s, fully automated car washes came into being. Nozzles slathered soap onto vehicles while automatic scrubbing brushes replaced manual ones. By 1959, more efficient equipment made the whole process quicker. Progress continued during the 1960s, as recirculating water systems, roller on-demand conveyors, soft cloth friction washing and wraparound brushes were introduced.
Though the 1970s saw a decline in the automatic car wash industry due to soaring gas prices, both automated wheel cleaners and polish-and-wax buffers appeared during this decade. The 1980s saw a resurgence of car washes that gave the consumer choice as to the extent of the wash their cars received. Modern car washes now offer even more flexibility, including full-service, express, flexible and self-serve tunnels, with each offering different price points. As new services were added, car wash tubing and hoses needed to become increasingly chemical-resistant to withstand the treated water, soap, wax and other cleaning agents that move throughout the system.
Car Wash Equipment
Today’s car washes use a variety of equipment that works together in harmony to clean a vehicle. These systems are made up of machinery connected by car wash tubing and hoses, which are attached via fittings. While many people use “tubes” and “hoses” or “tubing” and “hosing” interchangeably, they are not the same. While hoses are reinforced and used for high-pressure applications, tubing generally transports gases or liquids at lower pressures.
Equipment that makes up a modern automated car washes includes:
- Air compressors that deliver pressurized air to pneumatic tools and equipment.
- Arches that dispense water and cleaning solutions as cars pass under them.
- Car wash doors, which are often made from polycarbonate or vinyl.
- Conveyors that pull or push a car through the tunnel.
- Dryers that blow water off of vehicles at the end of the wash cycle.
- High pressure sprayers that use pressurized water to remove dirt from places brushes and other scrubbing equipment cannot reach.
- Low side washers that clean the rocker panel along the side of a car.
- Mitter curtains that oscillate to clean top surfaces.
- Top brushes that descend to scrub the vehicle’s top.
- Tunnel controllers that regulate the timing and application of cleaning equipment and agents.
- Undercarriage wash applicators that apply a large amount of water (and sometimes rust inhibitors) to remove dirt and salt to the car’s underbody.
- Vacuum systems for cleaning interiors.
- Water storage tanks.
- Water treatment systems that recycle water.
- Wheel and tire brushes.
- Wraparound brushes for cleaning the front, sides and rear.
Fittings connect car wash tubing and hoses to all this equipment.
Materials & Applications for Car Wash Tubing
All car wash tubing must be able to withstand the cleaning agents they carry. It’s also necessary that they work with the specific fittings used to attach them to other equipment and other tubing throughout the car wash. Tubing exposed to direct sunlight should also be made from materials resistant to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. For example, nylon should not be used with barbed fittings, as this will result in leaks, while nylon should be used for car wash tubing exposed to direct sunlight, as polyethylene breaks down more quickly when exposed to UV radiation.
Polyethylene Car Wash Tubing
Used widely for pneumatic equipment, polyethylene is semi-rigid, which allows it to work with push-to-connect fittings that have no clamps. It offers increased tensile strength, stability and uniformity. A blended form of the polymer called linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) offers even greater flexibility and conformability. LLDPE can also withstand environmental stresses that affect how long the tubing lasts. Due to its toughness, car wash tubing made from LLDPE will reduce maintenance costs and downtime.
Applications for polyethylene car wash tubing include:
- chemical and wax sprayers
- control rooms
Nylon Car Wash Tubing
Made out of polyamide resin, nylon is well-known for its resistance to abrasion, corrosion, impact and moisture. With good elastic memory, it can be repeatedly bent without fracturing or causing fatigue to the material. Light yet tough, nylon car wash tubing can even withstand below-freezing temperatures. Car wash tubing made from nylon allows for lighter tube walls, reduced bend radius and better flexibility.
Nylon car wash tubing offers many advantages over LLDPE. It resists UV radiation better, so is better for tubing that is often exposed to direct sunlight. Nylon also has a higher working temperature and can withstand higher working pressures, which means nylon tubing will last longer. Another advantage includes a wider temperature range, which makes nylon tubing more stable and serviceable when used in either hot or cold extreme environments.
Applications for nylon car wash tubing include:
- chemical and wax sprayers
- control rooms
Polyurethane Car Wash Tubing
Sometimes polyurethane is used as car wash tubing, as it combines some of the best qualities of rubber and plastic, including being resistant to abrasions and tearing. Naturally flexible, it resists pressure and vacuum better than rubber or nylon.
Applications for polyurethane car wash tubing include:
- chemical and wax sprayers
- control rooms
A common type of fitting used in car washes, push-to-fit fittings work with tubing made from nylon, polyethylene and polyurethane. Push-to-fit car wash fittings include male connectors and male swivel elbows that attach directly to car wash tubing or male pipe threading, along with unions and union teers that fit tube to tube.
Retractable Coiled Car Wash Tubing for Wash Bays
Car wash tubing that can recoil helps reduce wear and tear on tube lines in wash bays. Usually made from either nylon or polyurethane, this type of tubing self-retracts. This keeps tubing away from car tires as well as out of any water and chemicals that often pool on wash bay floors. Retractable tubing is also less prone to wear due to kinking, especially when strain guards are built into the tubes. Retractable car wash tubing can even be colored-coded to help with configuring where tubes should go, along with their purpose.
Protecting Car Wash Tubing & Hoses with Spiral Wrap
Many car wash owners use spiral wrap to protect their car wash tubing and hoses. Due to their need to carry pressurized liquids and air, spiral wrap for hoses can protect against abrasion, chemicals and other factors that can cause them to fail. Though car wash tubing operates under lower pressures, it also benefits from such protection. Spiral wrap can even be made resistant to direct sunlight.
Types of spiral wrap used to protect car wash tubing and hoses can include:
- Nylon spiral wrap uses an exceptionally strong material with a high temperature range that also resists abrasion, chemicals and moisture absorption.
- Polyethylene spiral wrap designed for outdoor use features ultraviolet (UV) absorbent properties, which makes it perfect for car wash hosing and tubing that is exposed to direct sunlight.
- PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) spiral wrap can operate at a higher temperature range than most other materials used to protect car wash tubing, while also being non-flammable and chemically inert.
Spiral wrap can also offer fire resistance. While using fire-resistant material may seem counterintuitive for a business based on the use of large amounts of water, there is plenty in a car wash that can burn. Along with the possibility of a car catching fire, with leaking gas tanks posing a risk, car washes also offer a high-heat environment, automated equipment that can cause electrical fires and the potential for blazes accelerating due to chemicals. Spiral wrap can also be used to protect cabling and wires that could cause electrical fires.
To learn more about how M.M. Newman Corporation’s spiral wrap can protect car wash tubing and hoses,
contact us today.