Member Discussion

Best Practices For Surveillance In A Car Wash?

Does anyone have experience in installing surveillance cameras into the automatic wash bays at a carwash? Our customer is having trouble with people claiming that his equipment is damaging their vehicles. He would like for us to install a couple cameras in each bay to view the equiment as it operates and to verify if it makes contact with the vehicle or not.

I have a few concerns in doing this. It gets cold her in the winter so fog will be a big concern during the wash, so much that the camera may not be able to see. If the camera is able to see realistically how long will it last in the environment? The discussion on "Worst business to install surveillance" gave some helpful insight as to what types of camera body styles to use and which ones not to.

If you have had any success in doing this please share, or even failures will help out as well.

Keefe, thanks for referencing the "Worst business to install surveillance". A few relevant comments summarized below:

  • "They will always need lens covers cleaned from overspray if you install anywhere near the bays. There is usually no way to move the cameras away from the bays to keep water and dirt off of them."
  • "I would definitely install vandal resistant domes and conduit to each camera. Megapixels would be a definite requirement especially for forensic recording purposes. I would also try to have a camera facing a camera to protect them."
  • "We always make sure to always use glass. Round domes would never work since they use plastic. They usually go with bullets or the eyeball style domes that uses glass instead of plastic."
  • "Use glass, not plastic. It will pit and fog over time with the chemicals used, but typically takes several years before it requires replacement."
  • "The housings are fully sealed , wiring run through sealed PVC conduit and LiquidTight tubing. We typically do a cleaning twice a year, which helps prevent corrosive build-up on the glass; more often if the site calls to complain about fogging."
  • "A liberal treatment of Rain-X or similar product will help minimize buildup, whether you're talking a glass window or a plastic dome."
  • "The most common way to get that evidence is a good view (or views) of the car BEFORE it enters the wash, so if someone comes back claiming that your system scratched their baby, you can pull up the proof (hopefully) that it was scratched before it even went in."

To the last comment about getting a before pic.... consider also getting an AFTER pic to complete the story. That way if there is no scratch going out...proof positive.

re RainX... this stuff work well but is temporary. There is a product called Aquapel that last months on a car I wonder if it could be successfully used in this environment?

Outdoor rated camera works just fine. We have cold weather, but not freezings in the south. I am a proponent of fixed focal length camera, elimantes screw ups and out of focus shots.

Typically 4 cameras, 2 on either side of the vehicle, at the entrance and exit of the tunnel.

2 mp cameras work great.

We have a couple of carwashes that have had cameras installed for 3 years now. We used Sony CH-160 bullet cameras, and have had no problems. The customer loves them, and has added more since we installed it. They have a total of 20 cameras; up from the original 12. The cameras are focused on the gas pumps, vacuums and vending machines, three at the entrance covering the sides and top of the cars, 4 inside the carwash, and 3 at the exit. Since the cameras on the sides of the entrance are fairly low, we pointed them towards each other in case we experience any vandalism.

I agree with John, must be in conduit, and must be glass, and I prefer bullet cameras.

I never thought of the Rain-x solution, I'm going to recommend that to my customer. Thanks John.

Thank you all for your feedback and information... we will be installing these cameras next week so I will keep you informed as to how everything works out...

Hey Keefe, can you update on this project? What cams did you go with and what are the results now? Any changes you would make?

I have some similar projects coming up. Your experiences will greatly appreciated.

word to the wise, do not use standard rainX on a poly dome. bad things happen. They make a plastic specific product.

thanks Armando - is it a fog/haze from damaging the poly or other?

It hazes up the glass over time. Depending on the exact make up of the poly it can also make it fog up like an old set of headlights.

Here is a link to the Rain X Plastic Water Repellent.  It is readily available in stores and online.

thats the stuff. use that. but again,. DO NOT use regular old rainX on a poly dome.

We just installed 2 - 4megapixel cameras with wdr on the each side of the entrance of the tunnel and 2 on the exit. The glare is so bad on the dark color vehicles. It is hard to make out any kind of scratches. Any suggestions?

Did you find a solution? I have a similar problem at a car wash ,


We were just at a car wash customer installing another camera and while there we noticed that after a few washes the camera view is all fogged up. Investigation revealed that the mist from the automatic spray equipment is condensing on the camera and will stay there obscuring the view until it drys naturally. Per customer request the camera in each bay views is mounted to view the vehicle as it enters the washbay so as to capture license plates (the issue was vehicles damaging the apparently very expensive automatic washbay doors so customer wanted plates).

My tech and I were brainstorming solutions and the 2 that stuck with us was to either siphon off some of the 10,000 MPH wind coming from the automatic dryer at the end of the wash with a piece of ductwork and aim it at the camera to effectively dry it off at the same time as the car, or use a separate small heater in the mechanical space of the building which is centered between the washbays, start it with a signal from the wash equipment and duct it to near the camera. We both liked the solution that grabs airflow from the vehicle dryer although it appears that that is only a very large squirrel cage blower and isn't actually heated so that may not work as well as a source of heated air.

Neither of these thoughts made it to the carwash owner since we did the job without seeing him plus the fact the he just finally paid us after dicking us around on another job so the trust level is currently low and he has won an attitude of disdain from us over that incident.