Bubble battle

With one new car wash, and another revitalized, there's no excuse for ridin' dirty in Bristol

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 3/20/19

Seemingly overnight, car washes are a big business in Bristol.

For a long time — since the late 1960s — there were a few self-service, coin-operated bays on Gooding Avenue, behind the …

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Bubble battle

With one new car wash, and another revitalized, there's no excuse for ridin' dirty in Bristol

Posted

Seemingly overnight, car washes are a big business in Bristol.

For a long time — since the late 1960s — there were a few self-service, coin-operated bays on Gooding Avenue, behind the Almacs. Then in the 1980s, an automatic tunnel was installed in that same location. DeeJay's car wash operated there for years, until changing ownership in 2017 and closing for repairs.

The new owners invested some $800,000 into the property, which recently reopened as Blue Wave car wash. Owned by the Blackman family, Yvonne and her son David, they also own and operate the Blue Wave car wash in Middletown, with the help of Pete Fabiano, their general manager.

The upgrade took some time, and included a major electrical upgrade, as well as the removal of 21 tons of sediment, executed with the assistance of environmental contractors.

"The whole tunnel has been rebuilt to brand new, high-tech standards," said Mr. Blackman.

The tunnel utilizes "brushes" made from an ultralight closed-cell neofoam material that, according to Mr. Blackman, deepens a vehicle's surface shine after repeated use. A visit to the control room, the brains of the operation, reveals a shiny new computer and electrical system that looks capable of landing a rover on Mars. Upon emerging from the tunnel's dryers, you can hit the road right away or, if you want to take a moment and admire the shine, you'll find a station set up with complimentary towels.

Meanwhile, up on Metacom, where the Cathay Dragon used to be, a rival has emerged.

Bristol Express car wash, which opened Feb. 1, is owned by Zach Rivers, who also owns Judge Roy Bean's. He has rehabilitated the site, which includes an adjacent commercial building.

Bristol Express is fully automated; there may or may not be anyone on site when you arrive. No matter, directions are easy to follow. Automation also allows for extended hours, currently 5 a.m. to midnight — though the wash is manned during peak hours to help answer questions about this unit, which is one of the first in the area. There's no need for an attendant to wash the back bumper, the machine works around the car and does the front and back.

"You drive in and it washes around you," said Mr. Rivers.
Drying agents and spot-free treatments are part of the standard package. A touch-free option, using only high-pressure jets, is also available.

Both clean your car, exceptionally well, with little to no effort on your part. There's a slight learning curve up on Metacom, but it's not steep. "It takes people a little getting used to, but there are signs to guide you through," said Mr. Rivers.

Blue Wave, on the other hand, prides itself on its "manned" automation. "Our directions are drive in, put your car in neutral, drive out," said Mr. Fabiano.

Both offer a full slate of car spa services, from standard to extras like hot wax, rim-cleaning, and an undercarriage rinse, especially welcome this time of year with winter's salt buildup.

Pricing is comparable, with small differences. Blue Wave offers a monthly subscription for real clean-car aficionados; Bristol Express's automatic payment system concludes each transaction with a taste-of-Vegas electronic slot coupon dispenser.

No matter which you choose, Bristol's got a pair of formidable foes in the fight against flying fallout.

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