My friend used to think that automatic car washes are the best things that happened since sliced bread – that is until we became friends.
When it comes to car washes, there is more than what meets the eye. Often, automatic car washers use tools and products that harm your car little by little.
Are automatic car washes bad for your car? It depends, but here’s the quick answer: Yes, it’s bad if their products and methods are bad, and no if the tools and products are great.
Let’s first talk about what actually goes on in most automatic car washes.
How Automatic Car Washers Clean Your Car
They use products with harmful acids.
Ever watched morbid movies where a character gets showered with flesh-dissolving acid? The result is pretty ugly.
You’ll be shocked to know that most car detailers and washers use products with that same sort of acid. Hydrofluoric acid is used in a lot of car washing products, and it’s so bad that the CDC issued a special warning for people who work for the car wash industry.
Why is this relevant to you? Well, if a product has an acid strong enough to melt human flesh, then it’s strong enough as well to dissolve the protective layer of your car’s paint.
Their “cleaning brushes” are actually studded with dirt.
Modern automatic washers now have brushes that are “softer” than their predecessors, but these brushes still damage your car’s paint.
The thing is, these brushes aren’t washed in-between cleaning different cars, so the dirt and grime from the car before you is still on those brushes when it’s your turn.
So every stroke means micro scratches on your paint that will add up in time. Still wondering where you got those scratches and swirl marks?
Even their “cleaning rags” aren’t clean at all.
Hand-drying is a thing in many car washers, and some say that this is safer than machine drying. But take a moment to look at their cleaning rags. I mean take a real close look. Do you see granules of dirt? Are there dust and other debris? If there are, that’s not a clean rag, and it will scratch and ruin your paint.
Are Automatic Car Washes Bad for Your Car? YES (In Most Cases)
Considering how abrasive and dirty the tools and products used in automatic car washers are, it’s safe to say that they can really mess up your car after just one wash.
However, NEVER clean your car by yourself if you haven’t researched about it or at least asked a knowledgeable friend first. There are some really gross car cleaning mistakes that can ruin your car’s paint beyond repair.
Also, it’s good to know that there’s what we call a “touchless car wash” or a “laser car wash” where literally nothing touches your car during the wash. The main advantage is, well, nothing touches your car, and so there is no chance for scratches.
On the downside, the chemicals used in this car wash type are usually harsher than those used in regular car washes. Although these chemicals are highly effective in dissolving dirt, they will also strip the protective wax layer off of your car, further exposing it to damages caused by abrasive materials.
Also, touchless car wash doesn’t completely clean your car (but if you ask me, that’s a lot better than having a completely clean car with lots of scratches!).
The Final Verdict
With everything said about automatic car washers, the best course of action for you is to learn how to clean your car properly.
Do it yourself. Get a friend to teach you or watch tutorials on YouTube. It’s actually pretty easy, and with enough practice and guidance, I’m sure you can do it.
Share this post with your car owner friends, and ask any questions you have in the comments section below!