Splash and Go Car Wash is proud to be a part of the automotive industry. The automatic car wash and its technology are often used, but customers may not know much about the evolution of the car wash industry. Just like the automobile itself, the automatic car wash is rich in history.

Ever since cars were first invented in the late 1800s, people were taking the time to wash their vehicles. Detroit, Michigan is where the first production line car wash originated. Two Detroit men by the names of Frank McCormick and J.W. Hinkle opened the “Automobile Laundry.” Cars were pushed by hand through an assembly line like tunnel. Not until the 1940s did the automatic car wash make its debut.

The Rich History of the Automatic Car Wash


The land of dreams is not only for actors, singers, and stars. Hollywood, California is the home of the first “automatic” car wash. Workers were still scrubbing and drying the vehicles, but instead of an assembly line, a winch system was put in place. The first automatic conveyor car wash was in business. 

In 1946, a man named Thomas Simpson invented the first semi automatic wash system,  taking most of the manual labor out of the car wash tunnel. A conveyor belt hooked to the bumper of the car, whilst an overhead water sprinkler system with three sets of manually operated brushes washed the vehicle. To finish the job, a 50 HP air blower dried the automobile. 

car wash history

1946 was a pertinent year in the car wash industry. A man by the name of Leo Rousseau founded Minit-Man Inc., the first car wash equipment business. Minit-Man Inc.’s first customer, Paul Maranian, opened Paul’s Auto Wash, an establishment that went on to wash close to 400,000 cars a year. 

1950’s and the Automatic Car Wash 

1951 marks the year the automatic car wash became fully automated thanks to Archie, Dean and Eldon Anderson. Seattle, Washington is where the Anderson brothers invented the completely hands-free automatic car wash. The brothers added nozzles to slather soap and water onto the vehicle, along with automated brushes and the 50 HP air blower invented in 1946. 

Dan Hanna, another pivotal pioneer in the automatic car wash industry, opened Rub-a-Dub in Milwaukie, Oregon, in 1955. Rub-A-Dub expanded to 31 locations, and as Hanna’s corporation grew, the equipment used at Rub-A-Dub improved as well. By 1959, Hanna was installing the faster, more efficient equipment used at his car wash chain, into other automated car washes around the world. 

where the car wash began


Dan Hanna did not stop in the 1950s. By the mid-’60s Hanna Enterprises developed into the main source and developer of car wash materials, becoming the greatest car wash equipment manufacturer worldwide. Throughout the 1960s, fully automated car washing systems were introduced and installed all around the United States. 

Major inventions in the car wash industry in the 1960s include recirculating water systems, soft cloth friction washing, roller on-demand conveyor, and wraparound brush. 

history of the car wash and where the industry is headed


With gasoline prices soaring and the economy declining, the automatic car wash industry took a hit. Two key inventions from Hanna Enterprises did take place during the ’70s, however. Both the automatic wheel cleaner and the polish’n’wax made their debut in the 1970s.


Fortunately, as the 1980s began, the U.S. economy strengthened and progressed.  In addition to a renewed economy, automobile ownership increased and the car wash industry recovered. The flex-serve car wash was introduced in the 1980s. Flex-serve means a combination of offerings. Customers were now allowed to choose the type and extent of the automatic car wash services they wanted. 

Although today’s model of the flex-serve car wash is different from the original model, the 1980s was key to making the car wash industry what it is today. 

how the automatic car wash came to be

The Automatic Car Wash Today

Just like the automobile industry itself, the car wash industry has changed and evolved in great ways over the years. Today, the car wash industry is high-tech, customer-oriented and reliable. More diverse than ever before, the automatic car wash today offers full-service tunnels, express tunnels, flex tunnels, and self-serve car wash set-ups that can all be touchless or contact cleaning. With a variety of price-points and car wash options, the automatic car wash industry is customer-driven to the very last detail.

A big issue the world addresses and cares for today is the environment. Commit to do your part and take a look at how the automatic car industry is conserving and repurposing water. An eco-friendly car wash is the way to go, and the automatic car wash industry has made leaps and bounds to be as efficient as possible in more areas than one. Express car washes use enormous tanks of cleaning solutions with assorted colors, all rated green. Your favorite Lee’s Summit car wash, Splash and Go, implements expert processes of water being sprayed and collected, as quickly as possible, greatly reducing the amount of water used per wash.

learn all about the automatic car wash history to where the industry is at today

Next time you are considering washing your vehicle by hand, Splash and Go Express Car recommends assessing the efficiency and effectiveness of visiting your local express car wash. 

Looking to the Future

Where does the car wash industry go from here? Just as cars are ever-evolving, so are the automatic car washes. The efficiency, speed, and convenience of the automatic washing will keep improving and developing. Splash and Go Express Car Wash predicts the automatic car washes will become local destinations in the community and part of everyday life. 

Trends to look out for in the car wash industry are short, conveyorized tunnel washes implemented in small-town America, the rebuilding of many outdated car wash facilities, and modernized technology to match vehicle technology advancements. Splash and Go Express Car Wash is on the forefront of wheel cleaning equipment. Right as you enter the car wash, your vehicle is put through a two-stage treatment to get their wheels and tires clean. 

Since January of 2010, Splash and Go Express Car Wash has been providing outstanding services to the community of Lee’s Summit, MO. The local express car wash utilizes the best products with the latest technology and superior customer service. Visit us today!