It pains me to see all the folks pulling into automatic car washes with their brand new vehicles. They simply don’t realize the damage they’re causing to their car’s paint. I’ve been detailing cars for many years now and personally had to fix the damage caused by automatic car washes.
Swirls… all I see are swirls when I shine light on a black car that’s been through automatic car washes its entire life. The owners thought they were doing a good job keeping their ride clean, but they didn’t realize it was causing swirls and scratches all those years.
Car Washes Use Recycled Water
Since they’re designed to be environmentally friendly, most automatic car washes will recycle the water. The water will go through a filtration system, so it can be re-used again to wash more cars. It sounds great, and being environmentally friendly is a great thing – but the filtration systems are not perfect. Small pieces of debris will still make it through to be used in the “clean” water when it’s all said and done.
That grit will cause scratching on the surface of any vehicle that it gets used on.
Poor Choice of Cleaning Chemicals
In an attempt to maximize profits, these automatic car washes use some of the cheapest cleaning chemicals to wash vehicles. Even though your car will look clean when it leaves, the acidic car shampoo has already done its damage.
If your car was waxed, it will have stripped away the wax or shortened the lifespan of whatever protective coating that’s on your paint.
If you don’t have any protective coating, then it most definitely started to erode the paint. You won’t notice it immediately, but after years of using an automatic car wash, you will begin to see the paint has faded quickly.
Touchless Car Washes Don’t Remove All Dirt
Automatic car washes are sometimes touchless, meaning the only thing that comes into contact with your car is water and soap. A combination of high pressure water and poor choice of chemicals will definitely strip away protective coatings.
The touchless washes often fail to remove all the dirt from vehicles, especially in tight areas. Wheels often don’t get cleaned thoroughly either.
Look Close! The Rotating Brushes Are Typically Covered in Dirt
Traditional automatic car washes will use rotating brushes to scrub your car – but you don’t realize that the guy before you was in a jacked-up F-250 covered in mud. Maybe he was 5 cars ahead of you, the damage will be the same. These brushes don’t get thoroughly cleaned and rinsed off themselves, so they are going to scratch your paint the eff up!!
Hand Drying is Always the Best Option
Another problem with automatic car washes is the drying technique at the end, where you drive off and let the hot air dry your car. Even if you creep through and go as slow as possible, it’s often not sufficient. Water will continue to drip from your mirrors are other tight areas – often leaving water spots on your car.
If you decide to go through an automatic car wash, go with a touchless wash, and be ready to apply a protective coating or spray wax after. Get out, dry the car, and use a spray wax and microfiber cloth to apply.
But really, avoid automatic car washes at all cost if you care about your vehicle’s paint.
Car enthusiast with a strong love for detailing cars! I’m always keeping up with the latest industry news and watching out for the newest cars to be released. Wishing a lot of these fancy concept cars would come to life but they never do. Follow me for automotive news, detailing tips and repair help.