On the Job

Attention to detail important at the car wash

Otto Torres has been with Belmont Car Wash since 2002 and is now in charge of making things run smoothly on a day-to-day basis.
David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
Otto Torres has been with Belmont Car Wash since 2002 and is now in charge of making things run smoothly on a day-to-day basis.

On a typical weekend day, as many as 500 cars roll through Belmont Car Wash in Belmont, with another 100 cars detail cleaned. “Washing your car is like taking a shower or brushing your teeth — it makes you feel better about yourself and also maintains the finish of your vehicle,” said Otto Torres, who found his first job at the car wash after immigrating from Guatemala 12 years ago, then worked his way up to on-site manager.

Q. You recently attended a car detailing workshop sponsored by the New England Car Wash Association. Can you share some tips that you learned?

A. One thing we saw was how remove light scratches by using a swirl remover. This clarifies the paint for a higher gloss. Then use a heavy-duty polish compound with an orbital and a buffer with wool or foam pad.


Q. Who are the customers that stand out in your mind?

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A. We have some regulars who purchase the unlimited car wash pass, and they come as often as every morning and afternoon. A lot of them have luxury vehicles — BMWs, Mercedes, Maseratis — they’re professionals like doctors and lawyers. One of them gives me a copy of his recent book when he sees me, so I ask him, “Do you have any new books today?” He gave me one about leadership — I liked that one.

Q. How does the car wash attempt to conserve water?

A. We don’t use city water except for the final rinse. We have our own well system, including two wells and a storage water tank that holds 10,000 gallons of water. Unlike some car washes that reclaim water and use it again, we don’t do that. We make sure to give the car a good wash and rinse.

Q. One of your tasks is to keep the equipment and supplies going — is this a tall order?


A. The equipment has never broken down since I took over. We recently installed a $40,000 conveyer belt which will go 10 years before needing a fix. The spin brushes can occasionally have a glitch, but we stay overnight at least once a month looking for loose or damaged parts. As far as the supplies — towels, soaps, polishes, other chemicals — we buy as much as 55 drums of these and keep them in the storeroom.

Q. Ever have any mishaps in the car wash tunnel?

A. When you’re washing as many as 10,000 cars — that’s how many we did this May — something is bound to occasionally happen. There are some people who aren’t thinking when they’re on the conveyer belt and accidentally put their car in drive because they’re distracted by children or texting. Then they can hit the car in front of them.

Q. What kind of car do you drive?

A. I had a black car, and I said never again. It was too difficult to keep clean and the dirt really showed on it. So now I drive a 2005 Honda Accord, and I wash it frequently. I don’t want to tell people I work at a car wash and then have a dirty car, because then they don’t believe me.

Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at cindy@