(888) 423-3191

LED Car Wash Lighting

Request Price Quote

Car Wash Facilities LED Lighting

MyLEDLightingGuide's LED car wash lighting fixtures are designed to withstand the harsh environment of a car wash plus save energy and more. Shop for vapor tight and waterproof fixtures online....

Imagine a car wash business trying to attract customers in a high traffic area filled with bright neon signs and other businesses. One of the best marketing tools such a facility can use is high-quality lighting. Lighting plays an important role in attracting and retaining customers – from the welcome signage to the car waxing lighting. LED car wash lighting can transform your car wash and help grow your business.

With the help of a lighting designer, you can choose the right lights to make your car wash facility stand out in an overcrowded area. You can make it inviting, safe, and profitable and encourage repeat business while saving money with lower energy consumption.

Different Types of Lights Used In Car Washes

Compact Fluorescent Car Wash Lights

CFL lamps use a curved tube and have an electronic ballast at the base. They have a short lifespan of 6,000 to 15,000 hours and their lamp life greatly reduces when they are constantly switched on and off. Not all CFL lamps can be used with lighting controls like dimmer switches. When combined with controls, some of them will burn out quickly.

The standard CFL lamp only has a UL rating for dry locations, making it unsuitable for car washes. CFL lamps are also very sensitive to extreme temperatures. When they are installed in areas with low temperatures, they may fail to start. If they do, they will produce poor-quality light. These lamps also contain mercury which is a toxic substance that’s harmful to the environment and humans when discharged, either because of accidental damage or during disposal.

Metal Halide Car Wash Lights

Metal halide lamps are a type of high intensity discharge (HID) lights. They contain a mix of gases – xenon, argon, and mercury – plus various metal halides. When an electrical arc meets this fusion of gases, the lamp produces light.

But while the lamps are the brightest of all HIDs, they have a poor color rendering index (CRI) of around 60-65, compared to LED car wash lights (whose CRI is 75 and above). They are expensive to manufacture and require a substantial amount of energy to produce light, thus are inefficient. The high amount of power they draw contributes to more carbon emissions into the atmosphere. LEDs use one third of the power metal halides use.

The lamp life of MHs is between 10,000 and 20,000 hours, meaning they need frequent replacements and more maintenance than LED car wash lights. These lights can take up to 15 minutes to warm up and if they are turned off for whatever reason, they need a cool down period of about 10 minutes before they are switched on again. The light they produce is not consistent, resulting in shadows and dark spots.

Metal halide lamps, like CFLs, contain mercury which is a toxic substance. They require a special disposal method that is stipulated by the EPA.

Induction Car Wash Lights

Induction lamps are also known as electrode-less lamps. They produce light using an electromagnetic field which activates mercury in argon and krypton gases. They are quite expensive to purchase and their ballasts can cause radio frequency interference (RFI) because they create an electromagnetic field. They also use mercury, which as we have said, is harmful when released to the environment.

Fluorescent Car Wash Tubes

Fluorescent lights have a low initial cost and were a popular lighting system before LEDs started taking over. However, they are quite expensive in the long run due to the fact that they burn out fast and require regular replacement. They are designed to work with special electrical components like ballasts which easily wear out.

These lamps were considered the most energy-efficient before LED car wash lights came into the picture. LEDs use half the electricity fluorescents use. Fluorescents require a high amount of energy to operate, increasing carbon emissions into the atmosphere. In cold temperatures, they don’t operate well and start flickering, which is very bothersome to human eyes. And like the aforementioned lights, they contain mercury.

LED Car Wash Lights

Most of the resistance to adopt LED car wash lights stems from the fact that they have a high upfront cost. However, many business owners have discovered that they can quickly recoup their investment with lower electric bills (up to 80% lower). This makes LEDs a more affordable option in the long run. They use less energy than traditional lights and still produce high-quality light.

As more commercial establishments adopt LED lighting, the initial cost is likely to reduce. Also, rebates and incentives from the government and utility companies help reduce the upfront cost. LEDs have a long lifespan and are almost maintenance-free. They have the L70 rating and retain almost all their lumens till the end of their lives.

With LEDs, money is not spent on replacement lamps and labor, they are cost-effective and a reliable choice for busy establishments. They don’t contain delicate components like ballasts that need frequent replacement. Compared to traditional alternatives, they are sturdy and shatter-proof and are an excellent choice for car wash facilities with harsh conditions.

LEDs provide high-quality light and render colors excellently. Employees and customers are able to clearly see the actual colors of vehicles and gauge how dirty or clean they actually are. 

Some LEDs are specially designed to withstand the harsh conditions in car washes – like rigorous cleaning chemicals, hot wax, mist, constant humidity levels, hot water splashes, and high pressure washes. Whether it’s freezing cold or blazing hot, they can withstand extreme conditions without flickering or burning out.

The Downside of Traditional Car Wash Lights

Poor CRI

Metal halide lamps have a poor color rendering index, meaning that objects appear differently than they would under sunlight. In car washes, customers and operators need to see exactly how the cars look before and after the wash. Dirty patches cannot be easily seen under light with a poor CRI.

High Maintenance Costs

Fluorescent tubes, MHs, and CFLs generally have a short lifespan. They also have delicate parts like ballasts which easily get damaged, requiring frequent replacement. The cost of buying lamps, labor, and transportation is high when added up, making them expensive to maintain.

High Energy Consumption

Traditional car wash lights require a high amount of energy to operate. Most car wash owners think that their high electricity bills are mainly because of equipment like vacuums, dryers, and blowers. Yes, they use a big share of power, however, traditional lighting systems are a culprit as well. Even with low-quality illumination, the electricity they require is still high, which contributes to more greenhouse gas emissions.

Long Warm-up Period

Metal halide lamps have the longest warm-up period; they need 10-15 minutes to generate 90% of their light. They cannot be switched on and off quickly. In case of a power interruption, their arc tubes need about 15 minutes to cool down completely before they can be switched on again. In a busy facility like a car wash, this can be very inconveniencing.

Fragile Hence Unsuitable for Harsh Conditions

The operations in a car wash are harsh and involve impact and pressure. There is constant high temperature and humidity from the hot water and hot wax, high water pressures, and corrosive washing detergents. Metal halide lamps are fragile and in case of high impact or shock, can easily get damaged. They cannot tolerate the constant high temperatures and humidity.

Can’t Work with Lighting Controls

Lighting controls are meant to enhance energy efficiency as they ensure that light is used only when and where it is required. Unfortunately, pairing controls with metal halide lamps and fluorescents affects their light output and shortens their ballast life, making them inefficient.

Inability to Tolerate Extreme Weather

Traditional lighting systems do not work well in extreme temperatures. During winter, they produce poor quality light or their ballasts may completely fail to work. They require a substantial amount of heat to operate, so they will end up burning out.

Environmental Hazard

Fluorescent lamps and metal halide lamps both contain mercury, a toxic chemical. Mercury is most dangerous when it is vaporized. In case the lamps are damaged because of an accident, during maintenance, or at disposal, it can be easily released into the atmosphere.

If lamps are not disposed of properly, this toxic chemical ends up in landfills, lakes, and rivers. It kills the fish and harms human beings and animals.

Types of LED Car Wash Lights

Interior LED Car Wash Lighting

LED vaportight lights are typically found in the interior of the car wash, especially in the bay and tunnel area. They are excellent for automatic bays where equipment might block the overhead lighting. They must be vapor-tight and IP-rated lights, corrosion-proof and able to withstand high pressure water jets.

LED vapor tights are the most common type of lighting in self-serve washes and laser wash tunnels. LED tubes or panel lights can be used to enhance the interior, providing even illumination coverage in the self-service bay area.

Exterior LED Car Wash Lighting

Exterior lights in car wash facilities are typically LED bay-lights and LED canopy lights. They are majorly for safety purposes. They give the car wash a safe and inviting atmosphere, especially when it gets dark. They are weatherproof and rated for outdoor use.

Car Dealership Office Lights

Some car washes are normally unattended, however, others have offices with cashiers, bookkeepers and administrative staff. Workers in the office require light for visibility to perform their duties efficiently and have a comfortable working environment.

The best lights for the office area are modern LED-panel lights which perfectly replace old fluorescent technology commonly found in office settings.

Features to Consider When Buying LED Car Wash Lights

UL Listed for Wet Locations

UL (Underwriters Laboratories) is a certification organization that tests products to guarantee that they meet safety requirements. Light fixtures that are safe to use in wet locations are clearly marked as ‘suitable for wet locations’. It’s important to note that not all UL wet listed products can be submerged in water. An IP rating would give you more accurate ratings for that.

UL Logo

It’s imperative that LED car wash lights are UL listed for wet locations. These lights are also known as vapor tight lights. Vapor tight LED lights are specially made to provide quality light in harsh conditions; the enclosures protect the internal parts from vapor and moisture.

These lights are suitable for areas where they are likely to come into contact with water if it splashes, flows, or drips on them, like car washes. They typically have their wiring enclosed. Ensure that you buy lights that are UL listed, otherwise they will be a fire and shock hazard. If your LED supplier is legitimate, they will provide you with published lighting facts data and UL listing.

IK Rating

An IK (Impact Protection) rating determines the ability of a lighting enclosure to protect internal electrical components from external mechanical impact, which is measured in joules (J).

Rating Protection
IK00 No protection
IK01 Protection against 0.14 joules of impact (equal to impact of 0.25kg mass dropped on the impacted surface from 56mm above it)
IK02 Protection against 0.2 joules of impact (equal to impact of 0.25kg mass dropped on the impacted surface from 80mm above it)
IK03 Protection against 0.35 joules of impact (equal to impact of 0.25kg mass dropped on the impacted surface from 140mm above it)
IK04 Protection against 0.5 joules of impact (equal to impact of 0.25kg mass dropped on the impacted surface from 200mm above it)
IK05 Protection against 0.7 joules of impact (equal to impact of 0.25kg mass dropped on the impacted surface from 280mm above it)
IK06 Protection against 1 joule of impact (equal to impact of 0.25kg mass dropped on the impacted surface from 400mm above it)
IK07 Protection against 2 joules of impact (equal to impact of 0.5kg mass dropped on the impacted surface from 400mm above it)
IK08 Protection against 5 joules of impact (equal to impact of 1.7kg mass dropped on the impacted surface from 300mm above it)
IK09 Protection against 10 joules of impact (equal to impact of 5kg mass dropped on the impacted surface from 200mm above it)
IK10 Protection against 20 joules of impact (equal to impact of 5kg mass dropped on the impacted surface from 400mm above it)

IP65 Logo

IP Rating

An IP (Ingress Protection) rating is an international score used to determine the level of protection a lighting fixture provides the internal electrical components against solid objects and water. A lighting fixture with an IP rating will normally be labeled IPXX. The ‘X’ represents 2 digits. The first digit specifies protection against solid objects like dust while the second digit specifies protection against liquids.

The higher the number, the higher the level of protection. In some cases, there may be an ‘X’ where a digit should be. That would mean that the product has not been tested for that rating yet.

IP Rating- First Digit

Digit Size Protection Against
0 - No protection at all
1 > 50mm diameter No protection from deliberate tampering
2 > 12.5mm Fingers and small-sized tools and objects
3 > 2.5mm Thick wires, tools and similar-sized objects
4 > 1mm Most slim screws, wires, ants
5 Dust-protected Dust, unless it’s in very large quantities
6 Dust-tight Completely protected from dust and contact
X Undetermined Protection against solid objects is undefined
IP Rating- Second Digit

Digit Protection against
0 No protection at all
1 Water dripping vertically
2 Water dripping vertically with fixture tilted to 15°
3 Spraying water with fixture tilted to 60°
4 Splashing water
5 Water jets from a 6.3mm nozzle
6 Powerful water jets from a 12.5mm nozzle
7 Temporary immersion in 1m water
8 Continuous immersion in conditions stated by the manufacturer
9K Strong, high-temperature water jets

IP65, IP66, IP67 rated LED lights are ideal for car wash facilities because they are designed to resist corrosion and withstand powerful water jets.

Luminous Efficacy

Luminous efficacy is the ratio of luminous flux (measured in lumens, lm) to power (measured in watts, W). It measures how well a light source discharges light. This factor is crucial in achieving the required lighting levels. In the past, car wash lights produced 90-100 lumens per watt. Today, LED car wash lights emit 120-200 lumens per watt, providing efficient lighting and reducing energy costs.

Color Rendering Index (CRI)

The Color Rendering Index tells us how well a particular light source makes the hues of objects appear to the human eye. It is a scale with the numbers 0 to 100. The higher its number on the scale, the better the capability of the light source to show the colors of objects as the human eye would see them under natural light.

A good CRI is 80 and above. It’s very important that LED car wash lights have a good CRI so that workers and customers can see the vehicles exactly as they appear. If the cars have dirt spots, they will easily be identified. The customers also feel good seeing their cars clean and gleaming in their actual colors.

LED Color Rendering Index (CRI)

Correlated Color Temperature (CCT)

Correlated Color Temperature is an important factor to consider when buying car wash lighting. It measures the color appearance of any source of light using the Kelvin (K) scale. LEDs are available in a wide range of color temperatures, from 2700K-7000K.

Kelvin Temperature LED Lighting

2700K is warm white, 3000K is soft white, 3500K is neutral white, 4100K is cool white, 5000K is bright white, and 6500K is daylight white.

When buying LED car wash lights, the appropriate color temperature is 5000K (bright white). It provides a clean and crisp look for the car wash environment.

Lumens and Foot-Candles

A lumen is the measure of light discharged by a light source while a foot-candle is the measure of light illuminated onto an area. For car washes to be well-illuminated, they must:

  • Provide a clean and safe ambiance with uniform light throughout the workspaces
  • Provide adequate light for each task
  • Car wash facilities located in less populated areas with low light levels, like residential areas, should have minimal levels of light. On the other hand, brighter light is required for facilities located in busy areas with other sources of light from businesses like grocery stores and gas stations.


    Foot-Candle Recommendations


    Area Minimal Foot-Candle Level Standard Foot-Candle Level Brighter Foot-Candle Level
    Arches and Vacuum Bays 25 35 45
    Tunnels and Wash Bays 35 45 55
    Detailing Area 60 75 90


    Total Lumen Recommendations


    Area Total Lumens Required for Minimal Level Total Lumens Required For Standard Level Total Lumens Required For Brighter Level
    Vacuum Arch 6000 lumens to achieve 25 foot-candles 8000 lumens to achieve 35 foot-candles 11,000 lumens to achieve 45 foot-candles
    Vacuum Bay 8000 lumens to achieve 25 foot-candles 11,000 lumens to achieve 35 foot-candles 14,000 lumens to achieve 45 foot-candles
    Tunnels and Wash Bays (every 30ft length of tunnels/bays, 16ft wide bays/tunnels) 22,000 lumens to achieve 35 foot-candles 32,000 lumens to achieve 45 foot-candles 45,000 lumens to achieve 55 foot-candles
    Detailing 52,000 lumens to achieve 60 foot-candles 65,000 lumens to achieve 75 foot-candles 78,000 lumens to achieve 90 foot-candles

    To ascertain whether your LED car wash lighting system will deliver the required lumens, multiply the lumens (found on the fixture specification sheet) by the total number of fixtures. Match it with the tables above.

    The information in these tables is suitable for several car wash environments. However, for newer and larger facilities or remodels, car wash managers would need a detailed photometric plan that meets specific objectives and requirements. This plan includes factors like wall color, mount height, and more.

    Lighting Color Controls

    Other controls to consider are dimmers that adjust the light intensity. They allow car wash operators to easily control the lighting. The lights will dim when the bay is vacant, bringing down energy costs.

    Warranty Information

    Car wash lights generally operate for several hours, from dusk until dawn. For this reason, the facilities require high-quality LEDs that will last a long time. The quality is normally foretold by the warranty given by the manufacturer. Many makers of LED car wash lighting offer 5-10 year warranties.

    Get LEDs that have a 100,000 hour lamp life with a 10-year warranty, like the ones sold by My LED Lighting Guide. Do not buy those warrantied for less than 5 years. The lower the warranty period, the lower the quality. Remember, all LEDs are not equal.

    Warranty Logo

    The Advantages of LED Car Wash Lights

    High-Quality Lighting

    LED car wash lights provide high-quality illumination because they render colors well. Most LEDs have a good color rendering index (CRI) of 80 and above. They show cars in their real colors, which comes in handy when determining the level of cleanliness. Customers can clearly see how clean their cars are and easily identify any dirty spots.

    These lights also direct customers’ attention to particular services by highlighting specific areas of the facility, for example, the detail area and the vacuum area. LEDs enhance the aesthetics of the wash area and give it a clean and modern look. The lighting also gives customers a safe and welcoming feeling.

    High Energy Efficiency

    The biggest benefit of LED car wash lights is their unrivalled energy efficiency. LEDs can produce the same amount of light as traditional systems (or more) while using much less energy. They do not have a warm-up period and produce light instantly. Facilities can realize up to 80% savings in energy, greatly reducing their total operating costs and enjoying a quick return on investment.

    Incentives and Rebates

    The government and utility companies offer rebates and incentives to businesses that adopt energy-efficient lighting. When a facility retrofits all its lights, it also gets rebates and incentives.

    This reduces the initial costs for businesses and gives them the push they need to adopt LED technology. To qualify for rebates, fixtures should have particular certifications including DLC (Design Light Consortium) and Energy Star.

    Even Light Distribution

    Traditional lighting systems produce light that is either higher or lower than required in a particular area. The multi-diode design of LED car wash lights allows them to produce a consistent lighting pattern, there are no poorly lit areas or shadows. This improves visibility and safety in the facility.

    Directional Light

    With LED car wash lights, it’s easy for the light to be directed to specific areas, because their light is highly directional. It can be aimed at specific areas, enhancing light efficiency and reducing light trespass. The lights don’t need ballasts to work, electrical components that waste energy. Half of the light emitted by conventional lighting systems is wasted if reflectors are not used.


    Handling vehicles is risky in a car wash, especially because the customers may not be familiar with the operations. They are likely to drive in or out of a tunnel or bay incorrectly. With possible distractions like children in the car and cellphones, the risk of damaging equipment or hurting someone is high.

    Color changing LED lighting installed in wash zones can minimize this risk by helping the customers to know when they should go, stop, or put the car in neutral. LED lighting strips on the floor of the bay help customers to know where they should place their cars, thereby reducing accidents. LEDs offer uniform, high-quality light that eliminates dark spots. Because the facility is well-lit, vandalism and theft are less likely to happen.


    With the longest lifespan of all lighting systems (50,000-100,000 hours), LED car wash lights require little to no maintenance. They can operate for 24 hours a day for 5-10 years without getting replaced. They also retain most of their lumens during their lifespan because of the L70 rating.

    LEDs have no fragile parts like ballasts that must be replaced often. This eliminates the huge costs of purchasing new lamps, transportation, repairs, and labor for many years. They help also increase the bottom line of a business. 

    Ability to Withstand Harsh Conditions

    LED car wash lights have sturdy structures and are shatterproof. Their housings are made with aluminum and are designed to withstand the harsh conditions found in car washes and do not corrode.

    Hot water, hot wax, high pressure washes, corrosive washing detergents, steam, mist, and constant humidity are some of the conditions within car wash facilities. The lights can also endure extreme weather conditions and dimming or frequent switching do not affect their useful life.


    LED car wash lights are versatile; they allow lighting professionals to install lighting in areas where they previously couldn’t with traditional technology. These areas include automatic and self-serve bays, vacuum canopies, application arches, tunnel entrances and exits, and signage.

    Color Lighting

    Studies have shown that colorful signage and lighting at the entrance and within car washes have a tremendous emotional effect on customers. Many car wash operators now use color lighting controls with their LED car wash lights, especially in the arch area of the wash.

    For example, directing amber color to a car as it moves under the arch gives the appearance of hot lava pouring on it. In the rinsing area, blue color gives a waterfall effect. In the drying bay, red color gives a warm feeling. This all creates a wow factor for customers.

    Customers attach a high value to the service and their experience is enhanced, which increases sales and drives repeat business. Owners can incorporate color to their tunnel services and change the colors of particular areas in the car wash. Currently, many LED products have the ability to communicate with tunnel controllers to change the colors.

    Lighting Controls

    One awesome quality of LED car wash lighting is that it works well with lighting controls. The controls can be integrated in an already existing system or bought with the lights. Motion detectors and daylight sensors give car wash operators full control over the lighting.

    Motion sensors switch the lights on and off depending on the activity (motion) while daylight sensors turn lights on and off depending on the natural light available. These controls reduce energy costs even further.


    LED car wash lights are safe for the environment. They do not contain toxic chemicals like mercury, which is found in fluorescent and HID lamps. At the end of their lives, LEDs normally end up in recycling plants. They greatly reduce the carbon footprint of a business since they use very little electricity and do not end up in landfills.

    Best Practices for LED Car Wash Lights

    Light Planning

    Proper planning is crucial when installing car wash lights. Ask lighting professionals and suppliers for help with this plan. Many facilities may use a cookie cutter approach, but your plan must be specific to your needs for effective lighting. Choose a seasoned professional who is attentive to your unique requirements and committed to your business’ success. 

    A photometric plan – usually developed by lighting engineers and designers – should be designed before you purchase any lights. The purpose of this plan is to help you and the designer to see the lighting placement and coverage and to determine if the proposed lighting fixtures and quantity are appropriate. Some lighting companies, like My LED Lighting Guide, offer photometric planning free of charge.

    Even Light Distribution

    Car wash owners and operators must ensure that washing bays and tunnels have even light distribution. This enhances visibility by eliminating shadows and hot spots. LEDs generally produce consistent light, although some areas may need more lamps to achieve this.

    Use Lights When Required

    Even though LED car wash lights consume little energy, it’s always good practice to switch off lights when they are not being used. For example, exterior lights are not required during the day. Advanced lighting control features can help facilities to save energy further by switching on lights when they are needed and off when not needed.

    Talk to Us about LED Car Wash Lighting

    Our car wash LED lights are made to withstand all of the water, dirt, and soap are thrown at them all day long, for years. The waterproof car wash lights we offer are rated to last 50,000+ hours, and last, on average, 8 to 10 years, depending on the usage.

    This tremendous lifespan is up to 3 times more compared to other lighting technologies which may only last 15,000 hours, if not less in this environment. With LED, the lifespan increase is all but one of the benefits of car wash LED lights. Other benefits include better illumination, which provides for better safety and improved experiences, lower energy consumption, and even rebate eligible, since our car wash LEDs are DLC qualified. All of these benefits make our LED lights for car wash facilities the obvious choice.

    LED is by far the best lighting for car wash bays for the reasons above. If you need help with your car wash lighting design that will meet proper standards and requirements, be sure to contact us and let one of our car wash lighting professionals answer all of your questions and get you properly set up with LED at your car wash.

    LED Car Wash Lighting

    Don't Want to Miss Anything?

    Be the first to get updates and information about our products and services.

    Copyright © 2008 - 2019 · MyLEDLightingGuide · All rights reserved.

    Facebook Twitter  PInterest