Car Wash Glossary


Acid – A chemical substance whose properties include the ability to react with bases or alkalies in water solutions to form salts.

Alkali – A chemical substance (such as hydroxide or carbonate of sodium or potassium) which reacts and neutralizes an acid.

Alkalinity – A property of water soluble substances (or mixtures) causing the concentration of hydroxyl ions (OH-) in water solutions to be higher than the concentration of hydrogen ions (H+).

Biodegradability –The capability of organic matter to be decomposed by biological processes.

Boom – In a self-service wash, the arm extension that holds a hose and nozzle for washing the vehicle. The boom can be wall-mounted for 180° movement or ceiling-mounted for 360° movement.

BTU – British Thermal Units, a measure of energy.

Caustic – A strong alkali. When used alone the term usually refers to caustic soda (sodium hydroxide).

Centrifugal Separator – Device to remove large dirt particles from reclaim water flow.

CFM – Cubic feet per minute.

Chemical Metering and Feed System – Apparatus for delivering chemicals from the equipment room to the application in the wash bay.

Chlorination – Process of adding chlorine to water to inhibit bacterial growth.

Cloth Friction Wash – Using wash material against the vehicle’s surface to remove dirt.

Correlator – In-ground device to align the vehicle wheels with a wash conveyor by providing a mechanism for the vehicle to slide laterally. The Correlator is located at the beginning of the entrance of the conveyor.

Detergency – The ability to clean or remove soil. Generally detergency is associated with the action of a cleaning agent such as soap, detergent, alkaline salt, or a combination.

Dissolved Solids – Fine particles of dirt and other debris in water not distinctly visible to the naked eye.

Exterior Wash – Carwash service that includes only a cleaning of the outside of the car. Often this refers to an unattended wash, where no detailing services are offered.

FNPT – Female National Pipe Thread

Foam – Bubbles formed on liquids by the process of agitation.

FOB – “Free on board” means that the seller delivers when the goods are loaded. This means that the buyer has to bear all costs and risks of “loss of” or “damage” to the goods from that point..

Front-to-Rear Cloth Mitter Curtains – Cleaning material moving parallel with the travel of the vehicle.

Full-Service Wash – A conveyorized or tunnel wash that provides a complete wash, vacuuming and drying, usually by hand.

FWP – Front Wheel Pull

Gantry – A framework that spans a distance, often moving on wheels.

Greaseless – Not requiring lubrication.

Hand Wash (conveyorized) – A conveyor wash with workers wearing large mitts that wash the vehicle, rather than using mechanical mitters and side washers.

Hard Surface Cleaner: A product formulated for cleaning painted surfaces, washable floor coverings, plastics, metals, porcelain, and other surfaces.

Hp: Horsepower

Hz – Hertz

Kwh – Kilowatt per hour

Lubricity – The measure of resistance to friction on a surface.

Micron – One millionth of a meter.

Mitter – Machine that suspends and oscillates wash material on the horizontal surfaces of a vehicle to effect cleaning of the top surfaces of an automobile

Motor Control Center – Enclosure containing starters, switching, and overload protection devices for electric motors which are utilized throughout a carwash system to operate various motors on different devices and machines.

Opaque – Not letting light pass through; not transparent or translucent

Over-and-Under Conveyor – Type of conveyor that has hidden pushers continuously traveling on a level under the surface. Only when a pusher is needed to push a car is one lifted into the working position.

Ozonation – Process of injecting ozone into water to inhibit bacterial growth.

Palletized – Self-contained in a single unit, mounted on a skid.

pH – A measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution, numerically equal to 7 for neutral solutions, increasing with increasing alkalinity and decreasing with increasing acidity. The pH scale commonly in use ranges from 0 to 14. [p(otential of) H(ydrogen).]

PLC – Programmable Logic Controller.

Polish Wax – Foam applicator which applies a colored chemical to the vehicle as it passes through the wash bay. Provides extra service that generates additional revenue and is eye pleasing to the motorist.

POS – Point of Sale.

PSI –  Per square inch of air pressure.

Reverse Osmosis – The removal of organic and suspended impurities from water by the use of one or more semi-permeable membranes.

Rinse Aid – Wax-like chemical applied to the vehicle surface after the final rinse for easier water removal during the drying process.

Rocker Panel –  Portion of a vehicle’s side that is below a straight line between the tops of both tires.

Roll Bar Assembly – Rotating device that spans the correlator and directs a vehicle’s tires onto the wash conveyor.

Roller-on-Demand – Carwash conveyor operational feature that moves a pusher into working position on the conveyor track to move a car through the carwash.

Rollover Wash –The type of wash where the customer drives into position and sits stationary while the equipment moves over and around the car.

Rust Inhibitor – A chemical applicator for the under side of the vehicle in the wash process that inhibits rust formation.

RWP – Rear Wheel Push

Self-Lubricating – Pre-lubricated and not requiring additional lubrication.

Self-Service Wash – A wash where the customer performs all the labor. Generally, the customer drives into a bay and washes the car by means of a high pressure hose and a foaming brush.

Silencer – Pan-like dryer attachments filled with acoustical foam that cover the dryer producer inlets to reduce noise levels.

Spot-free – Carwash industry term synonymous with reverse osmosis.

Translucent – Letting light pass through while diffusing it.

Triple Polish: Foam applicator which applies three different colored chemicals to the vehicle as it passes through the wash bay. Extra service that generates additional revenue and is eye pleasing to the customer.

UHMW polyethylene – Ultra High Molecular Weight polyethylene, a type of plastic.

Undercarriage Wash Applicator – Device to deliver high volumes of wash water to the underside of vehicles to remove mud and salt. Can also be used as a rust inhibitor applicator.

Wash Material – Industry term for cloth used for cleaning in a friction wash.

Water Hardness – Soluble metal salts, (principally those of calcium and magnesium, and sometimes iron and manganese) that when present in water in sufficient amounts create cleaning problems. These metal salts remain on a vehicle after the water evaporates leaving white spots.

Weep System – A system using dripping water to prevent freezing in hoses in cold climates.

Wetting Agent – A substance that reduces the surface tension of a liquid, causing the liquid to spread across or penetrate more easily the surface of a solid.

Wheel and Tire Chemical Applicator – Device for spraying cleaning solution onto wheels and tires.

Wrap Around Washers – Rotating brushes attached to knuckling arms for cleaning the front, sides and rear of vehicles.

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