BRUSH FIGHTING

A report from the front lines of automotive cleanliness

Here in Dallas, we know that you aren’t what you eat, or even what you wear. You are what you drive, and whatever the make, your means of transportation had better be a mean, clean, extremely pristine machine.

Until recently the possessor of a battered Mustang, heretofore I had not considered car washes as entertaining establishments to frequent. However, since acquiring a white Honda whose sticker price exceeded the cost of my parents’ first house, I have joined the ranks of the city’s car fetishists. If much more than a week goes by without the infant Accord having its bath, I feel uneasy.

When I turned to the Yellow Pages to decide where to have the vehicle in question lathered, I noticed some changes in car wash terminology that puzzled me. “Brushless” and “touch-less” were terms that appeared in a number of ads. What, I asked Jeffe Tiffen, manager of Brushbusters, was a brushless car wash? “First of all,” he said, “this is a touchless, not a brush-less, car wash.”

Say what? It turns out that two new kinds of car washes have developed of late. Brushless car washes use chamois-covered surfaces that clean cars with friction; touchless car washes employ infrared sensors to keep waterjets equidistant from the surface of the car. On the statistical front, there are about twenty brushless car washes in the Dallas area, and four touchless ones (Brushbusters, 7909 Belt Line; FinishLine, 17230 Preston Road; Rainbow Car Wash, 3530 N. Buckner; Royal Car Wash, 2757 Royal Lane). Prices for a basic wash are in the $5 to $6 range at both brushless and touchless establishments.

In the world of car washes, the brushless/touchless battle line is a hard-fought one. Touchless proponents say that brushless car washes still microscopically scratch paint finishes, if not to the extent that brush-type car washes do. Brushless operators say that the solutions used in touchless operations could damage cars, and the whole concept is akin to 25-cent, do-it-yourself, wand-type car washes. Ken Thompson, who owns the touchless Rainbow Car Wash and distributes touchless equipment in the Southwest, says that in the first place, he’s never seen a car hurt by a touchless car wash and in the second place, there’s no such thing as a brush-less car wash. “It may be a cloth brush,” Thompson says, “but if it exerts friction on the car, it’s a brush.”

Thompson, a thirty-year veteran of the car wash business who opened Rainbow in December 1985, has sold International AutoWash touchless systems to three other car washes in town, making Dallas the touchless car wash capital of the U.S.

Jeffe Tiffen says: “We even have a logo that’s a red diagonal line over a car going in a brush-type car wash. I think that myth about the solution hurting cars comes up because with the volume we do and the satisfied customers, our competitors are nervous. We get Ferraris and Rolls-Royces in here, and those people are

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