Why You Need a Car Wash De-Icing System

Winter is the busy season for car wash operations located in snow belt areas. Drivers know the corrosive effects of salt on the underbody of their vehicles and regularly wash in winter time to protect against those damages.

Salt’s corrosiveness is not limited to metal – it also damages concrete. Your car wash concrete.

6 Ways a Car Wash De-icing System Reduces Damages, Costs and Liability to Improve Profitability


The first reason is so you can continue to wash cars. Ice buildup on the lot, bays, or equipment may keep it from operating effectively.


Melting snow and ice can be less expensive and more effective and environmentally friendly than using mechanical and chemical alternatives. The most obvious of these alternatives would be salt. When it snows or gets cold enough to freeze the water coming out of the car wash, operators will throw down bags of rock salt to either melt the remaining snow or keep the water from freezing. This has its downfalls, however. If you are a full-service operator, you have probably witnessed the drive-off person trudging through the salty exit pad and stepping right onto the drivers side floor mats that the workers at the vacuums just got done cleaning. Worse than that, do your customers have to walk through that same salty exit pad to retrieve their car?


Salt and/or other de-icing chemicals will do damage to your lot, and may kill surrounding landscaping. Concrete has high strength when it is compressed, or ‘squeezed’. However, it is extremely weak when it is subjected to tension, or ‘pulled’. Salt can take advantage of this weakness. Although concrete appears to be a very dense material, it can and does absorb water.

When you spread salt on your concrete to melt snow and ice, the salt dissolves the snow and makes a salt water mush. The melting action of the salt allows water to enter the concrete. If the temperature then drops and the water freezes, the growing ice crystals can blast apart the concrete. And since salt is also hygroscopic, it attracts and retains water. It can cause concrete to become more saturated with water than it would otherwise. The presence of this extra water in freezing conditions is the problem. The volume of water increases by 9 percent when it freezes within the concrete matrix. The pressure of the growing ice crystals can cause the surface of the concrete to fail. It usually chips off.

Freshly poured concrete is most susceptible to damage. Concrete placed in the late fall needs at least 30 days of drying time. Ironically, this is the time when most car wash construction is happening. This young concrete is still highly saturated with water. The water within the concrete can freeze and cause the surface to pop off.


Even before the salt goes down, heavy snows must be pushed aside. So you’re faced with a crew full of shovels or the quick and handy snow plow. Both cost money and time. And although the plow is quick, it is also heavy and made of a material which is tougher than concrete. Inevitably, it will nick up your lot. Some may say “nicking” up the lot is an understatement, as some plows obviously do worse damage than others.


Radiant snow melt systems keep your facility looking nice. Are you in an area that is well kept and demands aesthetics? More importantly, do you have an upscale customer base? Some operators have installed radiant systems for this fact alone. Customers appreciate a clean walkway and will remember that when they leave.


Keeping your facility ice-free is also a big liability reducer. The cost of a system can pay for itself by preventing legal action toward you. In addition, many insurance companies see the immense value in these systems. This could mean substantial discounts on your premiums.