Shared from the 2018-01-11 Star Tribune eEdition

Car washes clean up with warmer weather

But booming business isn’t expected to last long with cold blast heading into town.


JOEL KOYAMA • The recent warmup after weeks of freezing temps has made for slushy road spray with ample amounts of grime and salt.

The line of cars stretched down the block and around the corner this week at the Central Car Wash in northeast Minneapolis as drivers took advantage of the brief respite from the bitter cold to clean their discolored cars.

Across town at Soapy Joe’s Carwash on St. Paul’s W. 7th Street, drivers in lines 20 to 30 vehicles deep have waited upward of 20 minutes to get layers of dirt, grime and salt off their chariots.

Business boomed this week at metro area car washes, fueled by a January thaw that finally sent temperatures above freezing after two weeks of subzero cold that even shut some places down.

“It’s been pretty crazy,” said Daniel Garcia, the front desk manager of Central Car Wash at 1814 Central Av. NE. “People are even calling to see if there is a line.”

More often than not there has been, as the number of cars Garcia has washed has doubled from 200 on a typical winter day to more than 400 every day this week. He’s even had employees working on their normally scheduled day off to help keep up with demand.

That clean-car feeling likely only lasted a day or two though, with rain, snow and cold roaring back Thursday.

Winter snow and chemicals put down to clear the roads can do a number on a vehicle, said Joe Lindsay, the owner of Soapy Joe’s, and it goes far beyond making a blue car appear white or gray.

“It’s very important to get your car washed,” he said. “Minnesota winters do more harm to vehicles than people think. Salt can cause rust to build up quickly and snow that builds up in wheel well and axle can turn to ice and be harmful.”

It’s OK to wash your car when temperatures are in the 30s, even the 20s, Lindsay says. But when it’s below zero, it’s tough even for car-wash operators to stay open. Soapy Joe’s shut down a few days during the recent cold snap. The cold was too hard on his employees and the equipment.

The International Car-wash Association recommends washing your vehicle at least once or twice a month in the winter. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that owners of most trucks, SUVs and passenger cars wash the underside of their vehicles to remove corrosive salt in order to prevent brake-line failures.

Of course, this is Minnesota and shiny cars usually stay that way for only a block or two after leaving the carwash. By Thursday, the grime will be back, but with arctic cold arriving, car wash lines will be back to being short.

Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768

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