JC's Car Wash, 9715 Walnut Hill / Photo by Benjamin Hager

This isn’t your mother’s car wash …  or maybe it is. Over the decades, we’ve seen the emergence of spot-free rinses and foot-off-the-ignition tunnel conveyors, making car washes quicker and more convenient than ever. But as it turns out — in the car-wash biz as in any other — old-fashioned customer service still trumps new-fangled technology.

Reporting by Rachel Rice, Elizabeth Miller and Laura Chuckray

Rain Checks

No one wants to spend his hard-earned money on a car wash and then have all of the shiny newness washed away by rain the next day. Thankfully, some car washes now have rain checks, meaning that if you purchase a car wash and it rains soon afterward, the business will wash your car again for free or at a discounted price with rain check warranties usually ranging between a day and a week.

Customers have to be able to prove that they received a car wash within the time allotted, so hold on to the receipt. Also, check the fine print because some car washes provide rain checks only with their more costly washes. Tunnel washes tend to provide the service, as most self-serve washes don’t provide receipts, and some are without employees.

Take advantage of rain checks at these neighborhood locations:

JC’s Car Wash: 48 hours on all washes

Flagship Car Wash: 48 hours on all washes

Water Works: 48 hours on all washes

Flagship Car Wash & Lube Center

The words “car wash” and “gift shop” are not often conflated. Flagship Car Wash might be considered a pioneer in the genre. Inside the shop, the waxy smell of decorative candles mingles with the pungent perfume of hot black coffee. Customers can browse shelves of bottled car fresheners, and run-of-the-mill convenience store fare is available for purchase, as is a selection of birthday cards. The gift shop doubles as a waiting room with typical perks such as comfy seating, television and complimentary beverages. Hidden in the corner is another novelty: two arcade games, which appear to be a big draw. Children — both the standard 8-year-old sort and the even less elusive 30-year-old male type — happily play Pac-Man while waiting for their rides to roll through the tunnel. The low hum of Pac-Man’s voracious appetite is constant … occasionally interspersed with a little smack talk.

Unlimited washes

The latest trend in car wash sales is allowing customers to pay one price for an entire month of washes with no cap. It’s a system that rewards loyal customers who tend to clean their cars at least once a week.

For example, at Water Works an unlimited month of $12 exterior washes costs $34.99. Quick math shows that the price is right for someone who might purchase three or more washes in a month’s time.

Soak up these deals

Wildcat Card allows customers to take $2 off the Special, Wildcatter, and Luxury Wash at JC’s Car Wash.

Flagship Car Wash offers half price Wednesdays, half price Monday-Thursday from 8-10 a.m. and will upgrades any wash to an oil change for an additonal $19.99 (excludes express wash ($7) and detailing).

Check the Water Works website, waterworksautospa.com, or its marquee for a special each week.

JC’s Car Wash

There is nowhere Alesia Ritenour would rather have her car cleaned and detailed than JC’s Car Wash — and for good reason. Located on Walnut Hill west of Audelia, JC’s is a neighborhood favorite in Lake Highlands. Ritenour is a longtime customer, but her respect for the establishment reached a new level a few years ago after she lost a diamond earring. “I searched my house and went through everything, and I just couldn’t find it,” she says. Four months went by, and Ritenour forgot all about the earring. She took her car over to JC’s for a wash, and was waiting outside for the employees to finish drying it. An employee beckoned to Ritenour that her car was ready, and as she reached for her keys, she realized that in his hand was the diamond earring. “I was shocked that he found it. It was so honest of him to do that. I was so excited and happy that I hugged him,” Ritenour says. “Later, I just kept thinking that the experience really says something about the people they hire at JC’s.” The car wash has been a neighborhood fixture for years, and for the past several years, the Carbajal family has owned it. Jennifer Carbajal has spent several summers and afternoons working at the family business and says she and her mother, father and sister “like to make people feel good.” It was true for Ritenour, who has told everyone her story and added to the number of JC’s devotees, including a sister and nephew who drive to our neighborhood from Highland Park for a cleaning.

Wave Wash

PHOTO BY Can Türkyilmaz

Frank Meneghetti grew up in Lake Highlands, and in 1997 he opened his first Wave Wash on upper Greenville as a self-serve car wash. It wasn’t long, however, before the tunnel car wash concept launched in Dallas — the kind in which drivers shift into neutral gear and let their cars be pulled by a conveyor. Meneghetti seized on the growing trend in 2001, and his Greenville location became the second tunnel car wash in the Dallas area. In 2004, Meneghetti opened another tunnel wash, this time in his former neighborhood on Northwest Highway. “What a tunnel does is allow for more equipment to be in one space, so it allows for more cleaning and more drip time,” Meneghetti says. Small touches are a big part of the business over at Wave Wash. “We always give candy to children when they come with their parents through the wash,” Meneghetti says. “We give dog biscuits to dogs, and we always wash Dallas Police cars for free. We are very supportive of the Dallas Police, and that is something that we are very proud of.”

Water Works Auto Spa

The site of Water Works Auto-Spa has been some form of car wash for more than 40 years. Water Works is its current incarnation. In 2007, accountant Jeffery Blansit renovated the old site and turned it into the state-of-the-art facility it is today. The suspension bridge design that looms to the right of the waiting room and wash tunnel has won design and renovation awards in the car wash industry. The aesthetically pleasing façade is a source of pride for Blansit, who says his bent toward customer service is the major driving force behind the car wash’s success. How does he know what his customers want? “I read the customer satisfaction surveys every week,” he says, brandishing a large stack of bright yellow paper for emphasis. It’s the reason Water Works offers many unique detail and wash services (Blansit will wash your airplane on request) as well as fan favorites such as the waiting area’s free WiFi.

PHOTO BY Can Türkyilmaz