Today’s farm report comes to us from Ben.

It’s January in Minnesota and it’s cold and the duck pond is half frozen over. Plus the car is a mess and it’s too cold to get it washed.

When I was growing up, this wasn’t considered a problem. Other than spraying the car off with a hose once in a while, or letting it sit out in the rain, I hardly ever remember getting the car washed. Kicking off the snow warts was about all that was involved in exterior maintenance of the car. Maybe that was just us. The first car I remember was a Chevrolet; a Bel Air or Impala, or maybe Caprice. They all kinda looked the same, didn’t they? Pea Green. And a Chevy C20 truck that was blue. But I don’t remember either ever being washed or cleaned in any manner. And they weren’t rust buckets.

I got to thinking about carwashes. I remember taking my cars to the hand wash places before prom or something important. Not being really familiar with how they worked, I ran out of time before I had washed all the soap off. I drove out and was drying it outside when the guy who ran the wash, who turned out to be a guy I knew, came over and asked me what I was doing and told me to run it back in again and rinse it off. He paid for that. That was my first car wash lesson.

I have a carwash membership these days. I average about 2 washes per month, which is almost cost effective. I do like the convenience of just being able to go whenever I want. And they’re nice people and I like it when the woman who is the owner is on the wash line because I know I get a better wash when she’s there. I tip the guys too, I think that helps. I don’t get too many washes in January or February. (Another time I sure wish I had a heated garage). And those nice warmer late winter days, there’s 15 cars in line at the wash. Even 5 cars back it takes 20 minutes to get into the wash so I need to plan accordingly and decide if it’s worth it. And it’s just going to get dirty again so I need to justify it in my mind that at least I’m taking the first layer off.

I did some research. The first carwash was created in 1914 in Detroit. Workers pushed the cars through an ‘assembly line’ process and each person had a dedicated job. By 1920 some carwashes had large, shallow, pools to drive around to clean off the tires and undercarriage before moving into a stall for cleaning. The first automated wash came in 1951. 

There have been a lot of innovations and changes. It was interesting to read how brushes were a big deal and if they made to much noise when scrubbing, people didn’t like that. White wall tires were hard to keep clean and several methods were tried including boys in a 4’ deep pit on the sides to scrub those whitewalls with a steam cleaner or brush. Or the method of attaching a log chain to the front bumper to pull that cars through. That worked as long as the driver followed the rules; Sometimes it would pull the bumper off the car. That was fixed by going to ropes instead of chains so at least the rope would break before it pulled the bumper off.

And the carwash people used to get in the car themselves, which some people didn’t like, or maybe the drivers didn’t like the claustrophobia caused by a tunnel, so the washes got taller and wider and windows got added.

Some washes can handle 250,000 – 300,000 cars annually. Or more. *

Considering how much a car costs now, it’s worth keeping clean. Plus, it just feels better to drive a clean car. In fact, that was a jingle from a local carwash place 30 years ago. “You’ll feel better driving a clean car!” Mermaid Carwash hired a lot of high school kids. He paid a bonus if you kept your grades up. I knew a few kids that worked for him and it sounds like he was a good boss. Eventually he was bought out by a chain.

It will warm up here soon then I’ll get the car washed. The truck too.

Ever been part of a carwash event?  Tell us about your carwashes.

67 thoughts on “Carwashes”

  1. Currently I have a car wash membership. The sticker on the windshield is read automatically. I might cancel it as I don’t drive as much as I previous years. A horrible experience was with an automatic system that went around the car. I had my 6 and 4 years old kids with me. Something must have gone wrong with the controls because it went around and around and around for what seemed an eternity. It cycled through the pretreatment, soap, scrub, and rinse a half dozen times before my honking the horn finally got the attention of an attendant who got us out of there. The kids were terrified, and I admit to becoming anxious.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. I seldom get the cars washed. Since the pandemic began, I haven’t been to the “good” car wash, where you have to get out of the car while they wipe down the inside and wait behind glass in a waiting room.

    Car washes usually offer several levels of service, with alleged wax treatments, etc. I’ve always suspected those are baloney. I can’t imagine what kind of effective wax could be sprayed across the car by the gallon, only to go down the drain, and then rinsed off that could be effective. I suspect it’s just kabuki to wring a little more money out of patrons. What do you think?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Agreed… It’s just too hard to believe that anything they spray on the car in that short amount of time and then rinse off as you say, would really be worth any extra bucks and do any good.


    2. I’ve always wondered about the wax option, as well. I really don’t like to think that an outfit I’m doing business with would deliberately sell me a worthless product, but I suspect it happens more than we realize.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. My father ran a combination coffeeshop, gas station, and car wash. It was the do it yourself, hand-held wand kind of car wash. Two stalls. He had this huge, ridiculous looking tank with a motor and large hose on a trailer that he used for cleaning mud and dirt out of the drain pits. My mom called it The Honeywagon. Dad rarely washed any of our vehicles. He would sometimes drive our car into a stall for me to wash when things were slow. I hardly ever go to the car wash. No idea why.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. “Honeywagon” is a term used for the big manure tanks too. The ones on wheels used to clean out pits and haul it to the fields. We never had one of those, we just had ‘box spreaders’.


      Liked by 1 person

    1. I tried to find athe car wash scene from Move Over Darling in which Doris Day goes through the car wash in the car and of course, it’s a convertible. But I can only find one picture in a long montage on YouTube. But suffice it to say, Ben, you made me think of it today.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. I have fond memories of when the automated towers of spinning brushes became a thing we looked forward to.

    The “bristles” were all green on the one we usually used and I thought they looked like hula skirts.

    It was an experience to be in the car while all that happened (and since we also were tasked with cleaning the car with buckets of water, sponges, and the vacuum cleaning, we also appreciated the automaticness of it all).

    Fast forward decades and it was also an adventure for the s&l, back in the “oh look, road construction!” days.

    I would have no more thought of getting the car washed without him than buying myself an ice cream cone when on my own.

    We are simple people with small pleasures.

    Liked by 7 people

        1. I have for many years envisioned a very small pond with a fountain of some kind in the backyard. But clearly this has not happened yet. And if it ever does, there will be no ducks. Guinevere would lose her little mind.

          Liked by 5 people

  5. I’m like you, Ben. Reluctantly wash the cars in winter only to know that they’ll be dirty again in a few days. I figure it’s a good idea not to let the salt get too much of a foothold on the undercarriage. I do the discount card thing at Kwik Trip and get the Elite wash for $6 a pop. And yeah, the fancy wax and spot-resistant finish stuff is probably a scam, but when I’m not really paying for it anyway, I don’t care. And the stuff works well for a day or two I think.

    I at least try to plan my washes so they don’t come right before a storm or warm weather that melts a lot of snow and mucks up the street. So, coincidentally, today is CAR WASH DAY! 🙂

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I had the same thought today. When I came out from the gym I really noticed how filthy the car was and thought it’ll be warm enough today!

      Liked by 3 people

  6. Dad eventually sold the car wash building to the Farmers Union next door to park their trucks. He was tired of all the work and didn’t want to invest in an automated one. I remember seeing the glossy ads he got for the automated ones. They looked fascinating

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Rise and Shine, Baboons,

    I don’t do much with washing and cleaning our cars because it is something that Lou really enjoys doing. He can putz around with our cars for hours, cleaning, vacuuming, fussing, changing oil, and applying Armour All, so I just leave it all alone because it is Not My Job. I appreciate this so much, too. When we had a camper he spent all our camping time fixing things on the camper, and campers are built flimsily enough that there is a lot to repair. And he was happy with that.

    Liked by 5 people

  8. When I first moved to the Twin Cities I was involved with the youth group at the church we attended at the time. This means that I have also been involved in several carwash events. And it’s funny how they all end up the same way. By early afternoon, after the kids have been going at it for a couple of hours, someone sprays someone else or throws a soapy sponge and eventually everyone is soaked. And it’s really funny right then but within the hour the whining starts because everybody’s soaked. With age and wisdom, if I were involved now, I would tell every kid to bring a set of dry clothing. Why I never thought of that back then I can’t say.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. My brother went to an automated car wash that he had been to many times, with his two young kids. The usual warning was posted that any damage was the responsibility of the car owner and not the carwash owner. They drove in and when the wash began, there was a loud metallic banging on the roof of the car. It didn’t stop. I don’t remember if he was able to drive out mid-wash or if he had to stay with his two terrified children until the bitter end. In any event, it turned out that a long, heavy chain was wrapped around some part of the mechanism and had been beating on the top of the car, causing substantial damage. The rule of who was at fault was not enforced, so no legal action was taken.

    Liked by 5 people

  10. OT – There’s currently a live streaming from NASA (until 1:30 PM I think) about the Webb telescope if anyone is interested. They have been talking about all sorts of technical details and challenges, and interviewing scientists of various stripes about the reasoning behind various aspects of the telescope. Quite informative, and most of it, way over my head, but interesting. Here’s a link:

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’ve been following the Webb news for a couple of weeks now. So when the solar sails opened up two days ago, it was a big deal. I almost wrote about it this week but then I remember that not everybody likes space stuff as much as I do.

      Liked by 3 people

        1. And I, for one, am grateful for that. After all of these years, I appreciate that anyone still values the daily interaction on this blog enough to be motivated to submit a blog on any subject. Thanks.

          Liked by 3 people

  11. By the time my sister was in high school there were car wash fundraisers, I think, but my class missed out on that. I rarely wash the car unless there’s some special need for it to look good, but if it had a metal instead of plastic body I probably would to remove some of the salt.

    But if I had a choice, I’d pay the kids doing the fundraiser.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I too, Ben, do not remember us ever washing a car on our farm. Nor do I remember the black 1938 Chevy being dirty. I assume this is selective memory. I should write a blog about the history of that car. It had a long life.
    The yearbook held fall and spring car washes every year when I was a student and the first four years I advised it. It did not make that much money so we stopped. Almost 50 years ago.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. I have two half written, now past their sell by dates, sort of, but just not very stimulating. It is hard to focus with my three huge worries. I will try on this one, if I canm dig out the right two pictures

        Liked by 1 person

  13. My car mostly gets washed when it is rained on or snowed on. A trip through an actual car wash is an extremely rare event. Once a year in the spring, if that.

    In the winter I try to find someplace to scrape the snow and ice off. In years past, I had a favorite Starbucks where you could park underground in a heated garage, and all the snow and ice would melt off while you enjoyed a flat white or a cocoa. That garage closed to the general public sometime during the pandemic, so my new garage hangout is the library on University Avenue. Their underground parking isn’t very heavily utilized. No coffee or cocoa is available there, but you can browse the new fiction or the CD’s and check out something interesting while your car sheds its crusty layers in the garage below.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I think you must mean the Rondo library. I had not thought of that, because I tend to use the Shuang Hur lot next door (because I do periodic pantry restocks there).

      I find that underground parking a bit sticky to maneuver in, so tend to avoid it. It’s not as bad as the one at the Trader Joe’s up on Randolph tho…

      Yes, I am a parking wimp.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Shuang Hur is one of my favorite Asian markets in St. Paul, but I don’t shop there often anymore because parking has become damn near impossible. I now go to Ha Tien on Surburban Ave. on the East Side where the old Byerly’s used to be. Have you been there, mig? It’s right next door to an Aldi store, which is really handy.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’m not even sure where Suburban Ave is, will have to consult Google 🙂

          Since I have ythe luxury of working from home on my own schedule, I can usually do my shopping when there aren’t too many other shoppers – mid-morning, middle of the week is often pretty slow.

          If I drive over and see it is crazy, I just give it a miss until another time.

          I will also park a ways out at any given big box place and “get some steps in”.

          I am that big of a parking wimp.

          Liked by 3 people

        2. I distance park at big box places too. Partly for the extra steps, but mostly because it’s easier to find the car. I try to park in an area where, if I forget where I parked, I can just walk out to the far edge, turn around and scan the rows, and there I am.

          Liked by 4 people

    2. My plus for winter: my car sits about 40 feet from my apartment door in a heated garage. My minus: I have a Scion (Toyota really, no longer made), a little black box, meaning a flat backside the full height of the car that gets very dirty this time of year. Once when the back was very bad a cop walking by tols me that technically by law I needed to clean off the license plate, and he was right of course. So I do was the plate now and then between my 3-4 times a year drive through of the KwikTrip by me.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. And Ms Madeline Island, you would hate my garage. I have to turn in between a car and a post to get into my spot with not a big turning area. Backing out is even more tricky. But I have been doing it for 12 years. If my daughter drives my car, which used to come up now and then, she had me drive it out. Now she rips it right in and out.

        Liked by 3 people

  14. Since it is so cold here, salt isn’t used to melt snow on the roads. There was some talk of using oilfield waste salt water instead, but that has so much other bad stuff in it I don’t think the salt water is used much if at all.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. car washes were a thing in the 70’s
    i had a 73 buick river is and i loved it and the gas station i went to offered free washes if you bought premium gas
    premium was 43 cents vs regular at 40 cents so 24 gallons made it72 cents for the wash with the wax ( wax is an amazing addition ) and it gave me underbody wash and wax 3 or 4 times a week
    this went well with my crisply ironed shirt creased pants and briefcase with hot stuff suits to go call on big dogs at target menards and fleet farm in my dress up days
    current car hasn’t been washed in 3 months but it needs it being out in the salt every day delivering
    i miss you guys
    i’ll try to get here more
    i love the posts thanks

    Liked by 5 people

  16. Once, dad decided to wash my car just before Husband and I were to head to Wisconsin from Luverne to see Husband’s family for Christmas. There was a sudden cold snap and the car doors froze shut. I was pretty ticked at him, since he hardly ever washed our cars and there was no need to wash our car then.

    Liked by 4 people

  17. I stopped at a Kwik Trip yesterday for gas and figured I’d see about getting a carwash. There was a line of cars out past the building itself, maybe 15 cars. I didn’t get a wash. But last least I cleaned the windows while at the gas pump.

    Cold here again; I give the ducks two buckets of corn when it’s this cold.

    Liked by 2 people

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