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The first automatic car washes appeared in the mid 1950s. Mechanized car washes consist of tunnel-like bays into which customers drive their cars. Some car washes, following the exterior express trend, allow their customers to pay through a computerized POS, or point of sale unit, also known as an "automatic cashier", which in many cases may take the place of a greeter. The mechanism inputs the wash PLU into a master computer or a tunnel master automatically. When the sale is automated, after paying the car is put into a line-up often called the stack. The stack moves sequentially, so the wash knows what each car purchased. After pulling up to the tunnel, an attendant usually guides the customer onto the track or conveyor. At some washes, both tires will pass over a tire sensor, and the system will send several rollers. The tire sensor lets the wash know where the wheels are and how far apart they are. On other systems, however, the employee may have to guide the customer on and hit the 'Send Car' button on the Tunnel Master.

While on the conveyor or track, the attendant will usually ask the customer to put his or her vehicle into neutral and release all brakes. Failure to do so will inhibit the conveyor. The rollers catch the tires, pushing the car through a photo eye, which measures vehicle length, allowing the computer to tailor the wash to each individual vehicle. The equipment frame, or arch, vary in number. A good car wash makes use of many.
A vehicle in the high pressure rinse stage of the wash, just beyond the wraps. Also visible is the conveyor.
A vehicle in the high pressure rinse stage of the wash, just beyond the wraps. Also visible is the conveyor.
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