To make it easier we’ve created 3 Car Wash & 3 Auto Detailing packages. Need a car wash, basic wax services or limited interior work? Our Car Wash packages are awesome!
If you need detailing we feature eco-friendly steam detailing that sanitizes and deodorizes without harsh chemicals.
If you need help deciding, give us a call during Monday through Saturday, 9-5pm. Or drop by and say hello and we will assist you in person.
This size guide will help give you the most accurate service quote.
SEDAN: BMW 3 Series, Honda Civic, Ford Fusion
SMALL SUV: BMW X5, Honda CRV, Ford Escape, Station Wagon
LARGE SUV: Mini Van, Honda Pilot, Ford Expedition
X LARGE: Oversized Trucks, Passenger Van, Ford Excursion, Hummer
CUSTOM QUOTE: VW Camper Van, motorcycles, boats
Arriving before we open? We offer a secure key drop box at either location.
Bellevue Hours: 8-5pm M-Sat
Northgate Hours: 9-6pm M-Sat
Purchase 2 carwash packages (Eco wash, Express, or Exclusive)
at full price, and receive the third service free!
*This is a monthly membership, all 3 packages must be redeemed within 30 days of initial purchase
*Valid only for 1 vehicle
When it comes time to wash your car, you have five choices.
At Eco Car Cafe, we provide steam car washing, which gives you 100% hand-wash results without the water waste.
Our packages offer a wide range of car washing and auto detailing work, both for your exterior and interior.
We’re a detail shop (option #5), and as you’ll see in our comparison below, we’re confident that our car washing and detailing services are superior for your car.
Here is a closer look at each.
These places have a set of open bays where the car gets parked.
A pressure sprayer, often with a brush that has foam on it, is tethered to a main pump at the center of the establishment.
You operate the device by inserting coins to get the appropriate materials, like soap, rinse or wax. Each set of coins operates the equipment for a set time period. If you need to continue, then you add more money.
The problem: Your car won’t get as clean, both interior or exterior.
These cleaning businesses are becoming more and more popular.
You drive your vehicle into the bay between guides until an indicator tells you to stop. Then the machinery in the car wash travels on a track over your car, doing one part of the cleaning process with each pass. For example, it will first wet the car, then soap it down, then rinse it, then wax it.
These are the type of car washes you find at your neighborhood gas station. Often you get a discount on the wash if you fill your tank with gas.
The problem: Only the exterior of the car is cleaned.
With this kind, you enter into a cave-like interior of the car wash.
The front, the car tire on the driver’s side is put on a conveyor belt and you are instructed to put your car gear in neutral. The machinery guides your car through the automated cleaning system.
The car passes by each set of equipment, which is programmed to do a particular part of the cleaning process.
The problem: Like the name says, only your car’s exterior is cleaned.
With full service, your car is cleaned using equipment on a rail or track, much like the exterior only model.
However, at the end of the operation, the interior of your car is also cleaned by people doing the job manually. They also hand dry the exterior and clean the wheels if you pay extra for these services.
The problem: The equipment and method lacks attention to detail, best practices, and eco-friendliness.
These cleaning establishments are at the high end of car cleaning.
They can use either an automated or manual system for cleaning your car’s exterior. Then workers take over, clean and polish every part of the exterior and interior. They finish with a buffing to get rid of excess wax and to give the car a high polish.
The experienced staff is able to get rid of tar and other grime that sticks, bring new life to full chrome, use steam cleaning on upholstery and carpets and remove scratches and blemishes on paint.
They have the skill and products to work on every part of your car, making it look like it rolled off the showroom.
Aside from these 5 options, you should also be aware of how drive-in car washes work. They’re not very efficient, consistent in results, eco-friendly, and they waste a lot of water.
Here is a brief look at how cloth friction car wash operates, though keep in mind that the touch-less operates in much the same way.
There are two types of methods used by drive-in car washes. The touchless operation uses very strong jets of water with powerful detergents to get the grime off a car. It gets its name because just the water and cleansers come in contact with the car.
The cloth friction type uses cloths that move over the vehicle’s surface to get rid of dirt.
However, that these traditional ways to wash your car aren’t comparable to steam car washing. It gives you hand-wash results without the water waste.
First, the car is put on a conveyor track via a correlator. This is a set of wheels and rollers that slides the wheels of the car sideways to align it with the conveyor. During this procedure the car is off and the gear is in neutral.
Small rollers on the conveyor spring up behind the tire once the car is on the conveyor, which pushes it forward through the tunnel. The tunnel is the structure that houses the car wash, the long bay that full service and exterior only models are housed in.
There are actually two types of systems to move the vehicle through the car wash:
The system relies on sensors for operation. These are activated when the car passes through a beam of infrared light that runs between the two eyes, or sensors. The trigger happens when the sensors detect an interruption in the beam. This sends a signal to the DCS, which stands for digital control system.
This is the electronic system that controls the car wash’s automated processes. This system uses time to calculate how big the vehicle is. It measures how long that the beam was interrupted, and from this figures out how long the vehicle is. The washing system is then modified to suit the size.
After the car goes through the beam, it is pre-soaked by traveling through an arch with small nozzles that spray a cleaner that wets the car down before it gets the actual car wash detergent applied. It also has chemicals that help to loosen dirt and grime.
Many car washes also have an additional set of nozzles aimed at the tires. The solution they spray is made especially for the ground-in dirt that gets kicked up by tires, as well as brakes dust. It helps to brighten the black rubber on the tires.
Next the car goes through a set of cloth strips hanging from a frame at the ceiling, called a mitter curtain. A shaft controlled by a motor moves this frame in all directions: up, down and in a circular direction. By rubbing back, forth, sideways and all around, the cloth strips are able to clean all of the horizontal areas on the vehicle, including the hood, trunk and roof.
Next in the cleaning process is the foam applicator. This puts detergent all over the car, which turns into a foam capable of cleaning deeply. The nozzles that deliver the foam are adjustable, able to switch the angle of the spray and how much is delivered at a time.
The foam is a combination of water, air and chemical cleansers. The formula varies from car wash to car wash. The controls can be changed to determine how much of each is used in the final solution. Most often the chemicals in the cleaner contain a coloring in order to makes the foam look nicer and to make it easy to see.
The scrubbers are able to get rid of deep-in dirt. They are made of vertical cylinders that contain hundreds of strips of cloth. The cylinders do their work by rotating quickly, at a rate of 100 to 500 rpm. This is controlled by a hydraulic motor. As they rotate, the cloth strips spin at right angles to the cylinder. The tunnel has one or more scrubbers on each side. The vehicle is pulled on the conveyor past the scrubber units, at which point the cloth strips whip over the vertical surfaces of the car.
Some car washes also use an additioaln set of scrubbers in the form of a system of wrap-around washers. They are set on short booms set at the front and back of the vehicle, so that the entire exterior is scrubbed. These are operated by a set of hydraulic and electric motors. One large hydraulic device is joined to all the other hydraulic pumps that extend through the car wash.
To make sure the cloth strips attached to the scrubbers can’t damage the surface of the car, they are cleaned often. They need to be replaced on a regular basis in order to keep the scrubbing action effective.
A blast of water set at very high pressure can get rid of a lot of dirt. This part of the car wash process uses a concentrated stream of water that comes out of water jets that rotate. The nozzles are set in pinwheel fashion, with all the jets of water arranged to spray away from the center.
These are able to get rid of most of the dirt, grime and detergent. This is because the water shoots out so forcefully.
As the water comes out of the nozzles, it sets the water jet spinning quickly. These circular blasts of water provide scrubbing action of a very powerful force.
Some car washes have one thousand pounds per square inch, or psi—this is strong enough to knock over a person.
Each car uses about 300 to 400 gallons of water for a wash. This is an incredible amount and a waste. At Eco Car Cafe, we use steam, which saves water and is eco-friendly.
Most car washes equip themselves with a tank on the premises that holds enough water to handle its needs, especially on busy days.
Modern car washes recapture and recycle the water they use, putting it back into the tank regularly, but even so, our steam car washing is superior to any tunnel car washing in several ways.
In areas with very cold temperatures in winter, dirt, salt and mud adhere to the bottom of vehicles. Car washes in these areas use ground level nozzles pointed to the undercarriage to wash it all off.
After the car has gone through the detergent, mitter curtain and the various scrubbings, it moves to another series of nozzles on the rinse arch. This shoots out clean water to get rid of any remaining detergent and grime.
Most car washes use more than one set of rinse nozzles, often one after each stop on the cleaning line. This is the typical set of stations found in most facilities:
At the very last station in the tunnel, the last rinse is done with non-recycled water. This is necessary to assure that it is totally clean and able to get rid of any lingering residue that has managed to hang on through the extensive array of stations.
The wax arch puts a coating on the car that is water-resistant. This is not the same that a car owner would apply himself. This is made to work on all parts of the car—glass, rubber, chrome, plastic that is painted, even metal.
The clear film that remains is quite thin and does not need polishing. It does not give the vehicle as much protection as what the owner would put on. It also doesn’t get rid of or conceal miniscule scratches.
Wax is applied in a car wash in one of two ways. The first is using an arch and foam applicators, usually a triple, foam model, which puts on foam wax, using a strong coating.
This is followed by a set of scrubbers and then mitter curtain, then a rinse. The other method is less involved, using liquid wax, followed by a trip through a rinse arch.
The system then automatically dries the car before it leaves the tunnel. This dryer sets out burst of hot air through a set of nozzles. They are capable of drying the car’s surface quickly.
The nozzles for hot air have a device called the silencer that acts as a muffler. It lessens the noise of the forced air. After the vehicle is dried in this method, attendants using towels give the car a once over to be sure all the water is removed.
To quicken the drying time, some car washes put a chemical coating on just after the final rinsing. As a rule, exterior-only operations set the dryer heat temperature higher than do full-service washes, which depend on attendants to finish the job.
The set of rollers that keep the vehicle moving along the conveyor track within the tunnel gently push it off when it comes out of the structure.
At an exterior-only car wash, you probably remain with your car during the entire operation. This is a lot of run for the kids. After you get out of the tunnel, you are requested to put your vehicle in park. After than you can turn on the ignition and leave.
But in a full-service detail shop, like Eco Car Cafe in Seattle and Bellevue, you are out of the car during the entire operation.
Attendants get rid of trash and vacuum the rugs and upholstery. Often they clean the interior windows, dashboard and doors. An air freshener is added and the exterior is dried by hand. Depending on the package attendants will even polish the wheels and chrome.
The vacuuming system that a car wash uses is not your standard vacuum from home. Instead it uses a central motor with an array of hoses extending out from it. These either stretch overhead to the individual stations for finishing or snake underground to each station.