Automatic Car Washes: The Truth
We understand why people are tempted by automatic car washes. Simply by spending a few bucks after filling up your tank, you can get your car cleaned by a hurricane of soap and water without even stepping out of your vehicle.
If drive-thru washes did a good job, we would be all for them. The problem is that no matter how hard they try, automatic car washes create swirl marks, small scratches, and other sorts of damage to your vehicle’s exterior. While these washes succeed in getting rid of the majority of dirt, they can actually drive dirt and grit deeper into your car’s finish, creating more problems than they solve.
In order to be advertised as “green”, many automatic car washes recycle the water that is used. If filtered properly, this isn’t necessarily a huge problem, but proper filtration isn’t always the case.
When done properly, a hand wash doesn’t use very much water at all. If you want to stay as green as possible, washing by hand is the way to go.
The suds that automatic car washes spray all over your car aren’t simply soap and water, like you’d use in a bucket at home. These suds contain harsh cleaning chemicals that are often acidic, to help them quickly break down dirt. The bad news is that along with dirt, these acids will strip off any wax or sealants you have on your car’s exterior and can actually break down your clear coat.
Some car washes are touchless, but many older ones use brushes. These brushes aren’t cleaned between uses, so they will grind dirt into your paint. Yikes.
There are two great solutions: wash your car by hand, or get someone else to do it for you.
High Pressure Water
At the end of the process, many washes will spray a high powered jet of water on your car as a final rinse. These water jets are often very strong, which is not what you want on your car. When we wash cars, we are always as gentle as possible.
While we recommend you avoid all drive-thru car washes, that advice doubles for any that use those stupid spinning towels. There are two major things wrong with those: they only dry the main surfaces, leaving soap and dirty water free to run out of crevices all over the main body panels that have just been “cleaned”; and all it takes is a single pebble embedded in one of the towels to completely ruin your paint job.
What’s the Solution?
There are two great solutions: wash your car by hand, or get someone else to do it for you. The DIY method for a perfect car wash is a modest investment, all you need is a couple buckets, soap, a wash mitt, and a few micro fibre towels.
If you don’t have the time or space to do it yourself, no worries. CJ’s Autobling is the local auto detailing authority – you can always bring your car by for a quick wash or a full detail.