Automated Tunnel Wash System Equipment vs. Manual Car Prep

Car wash owners and investors want to balance costs with a high-quality experience for customers.

Like many industries, technology has allowed for changes that can increase production and efficiency while lowering labor and operational costs.

Tunnel car wash systems have long utilized manual operators for prewash preparation. Commonly one or two workers will guide customers onto the wash conveyor while using power spray wands and/or pressure guns to preclean dirty vehicles before entering the wash. The inconsistencies of both labor and severity of vehicle condition (bugs, dirt, mud, snow, ice, etc.) create all sorts of challenges for operators.

With today’s offerings, operations are weighing the benefits of manual prep vs. automated high pressure systems like Petit’s Accutrac 360-t. A patented automated high pressure cleaning system, the 360-t can be used for automated prep, hybrid tunnel, or touchless tunnel wash applications.

Discover how manual and automated prep options impact a car wash business.


Obviously, moving to automated prep removes the need for manual operators. This can reduce labor costs or allow for the reallocation of those workers.

Investing in an automated system will increase costs in the short term but provide significant savings over time. Aside from minimal scheduled maintenance, operating an automated prep system is very economical and can improve efficiency.


Prepping vehicles manually leaves room for human error. Some workers are rockstars while others might be more complacent, leaving a level of inconsistency and feelings of disappointment for customers. Moving to an automated process removes the risk of low quality work by employees while providing measurable improvements in performance and production.

While car wash owners may like the idea of welcoming customers with a manual prep phase, that experience can inconsistent as well. Beyond the performance of work duties, an employee’s appearance, attitude and overall customer service is often challenging to monitor and control.


With even the best of intensions, manual preppers will struggle to reach all areas of a vehicle, every time, consistently. Automated high-pressure prewash systems provide a better, more consistent experience.

Petit’s Accutrac 360-t delivers a higher level of consistency when used for prepping vehicles. The system utilizes oscillating nozzles that provide high impact cleaning power to all surfaces, including better coverage of license plate areas on the fronts and backs of all vehicles. Every surface is contacted twice, ensuring surface level debris like bugs, salt, and dirt are removed before the vehicle contacts the tunnel’s friction components.

Could your tunnel car wash benefit from an automated prep system? Contact Petit to learn more.