How to prevent legal disputes in carwashes

If you have just opened your carwash or plan to open one soon, you may have many technical, marketing, and practical questions in your mind. Then, once the technical and marketing is resolved, you might have to face the challenge: “Ok, I want to offer a good service and fully satisfy my clients – but what shall I do about the problematic ones? How can I protect myself from uncomfortable situations?”

We had an opportunity to take part in a seminar called “Carwash operator’s liability: Basic principles for roll overs and conveyers.” held in UnitiExpo Stuttgart. Dr. Michael Bolte, who gave the seminar, has broad experience in Administration law focused on carwash businesses. He presented many examples of car damages that happened in carwashes and were taken to trial (in Germany), final resolutions, video records from carwashes, and court statements.

So what can you do to prevent car damages in carwashes and how should you behave in case of a client’s complaint? Here are some guidelines:

Operator manual: You should have received an “Operator manual / Instructions” from the company that sold you the carwash machine. While the manual itself could be a little long and tiring to read, go through it as an owner and make every person who works at the carwash read it carefully. The manual will help answer many common questions you might have, such as “shall the client stay in or out in the conveyer or roll over carwash?”

Checklist: Make a checklist with all before and after procedures to be conducted by the attendant. The control of brushes, chemicals, electricity, and so on. The carwash attendant should complete the checklist and sign it every time. This is very important in case of damage caused in the carwash. The insurance agency will ask you for this document.


Visual-check: The visual check is one of the most important controls you should do. Be sure that it is on the checklist.

Everyday trial: Complete the trial every day before the first client comes in – you should be sure that everything works properly.

Maintenance: I’m not really sure what this sentence means. Do you mean “Make sure maintenance work is performed regularly by the responsible carwash operator?” The periodicity for the maintenance should be found in the manual. The overview of these controls made by an authorized operator will be required by the insurance company in case of any damage that occurs in the carwash.


Cameras: Despite the initial cost of this, having cameras installed is absolutely worth it. A video record is the first thing that can help during a dispute.


General liability insurance policy: Manage a general liability insurance policy with some insurance company that will protect you against damage caused by negligent employees or malfunctioning equipment. Such a policy can pay for eventual claims from customers who got injured or whose cars were damaged while being in the car wash.

Finally, according to the law, there should be proven that any damage was caused directly by the carwash and did not exist before – this is the obligation of the client. You, as a carwash operator, should prove that the carwash control routine is in order (all points mentioned before) and having a video record directly from your carwash will make all cases very simple to resolve


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