Automatic Car Wash, just those words alone give me an uneasy feeling…”Why?” you may ask. Well, there are thousands of washes in your area from touch-less to automatic to hand car washes…but let’s just say that VERY few of them will NOT seriously damage your car’s paint/clear coat.
First, an automatic car wash should NEVER be your first option. Weather and circumstances permitting, you should always wash your own car. If you’ve never washed your own car, Forma’s Detailing Tips section is a great resource to learn the proper techniques. However, if you find yourself in dire needs of a wash and ABSOLUTELY cannot do it yourself, then this post will help you understand which type of car washes are safest for your car.
- Touch-less Washes: If you can’t wash your own car, your first go-to option is a touch-less wash. These types of washes use pressurized water instead of brushes to clean your car. Since there is no heavy scrubbing by dirty brushes, this will prevent your paint from getting swirled or damaged. However, even these washes aren’t ideal; a lot of them use harsh chemicals that may breakdown your wax, sealant or other coatings. Secondly, these washes are sometimes ineffective if your vehicle is heavily soiled. To have the perfect finish, we recommend following up each and every touch-less wash with Forma’s Detail Spray. Using this detail spray after each wash will ensure that you get rid of all the dirt and grime that may have been left behind by the touch-less wash.
- Hand Car Washes: The biggest problem with hand car washes is that most people automatically think that these washes won’t harm your paint. This is COMPLETELY FALSE! Most hand car washes are a volume-based business; meaning, their primary concern is washing as many cars as possible, thus not giving your pride and joy the proper care it deserves. The first sign to look for is– how long does it take them to wash a car. If it is anything less than 15 minutes with 2-3 people working on it, you probably should go elsewhere. A proper hand car wash can take up to 30-45 minutes depending on how detail-oriented the personnel are in their job. The second sign to look for is are they using a “two-bucket” method for washing and how often are they rinsing the wash mitt. Ideally, the wash mitt should be rinsed after every panel. Furthermore, since the dirtiest parts of the vehicle are the lower sections (bumpers and side skirts), you should make sure that your vehicle is washed from top to bottom. While you’re looking at their washing technique, pay close attention to how liberal they are with suds and wash soap. The more suds or foam you see on your car, the better. Also, it would be wise to ask the manager if the soap is PH neutral, and if he or she says no, run for the hills or recommend that they look into Forma’s highly concentrated, PH-neutral car shampoo. If the washing passed your inspection, let’s examine their drying technique. A lesser-known fact is that improper drying can also swirl or damage your paint. The first sign to look for is if they are using circular, “wax on, wax off” motions to dry the car. The proper way to dry is to work top to bottom in vertical or horizontal motions. Pay close attention to the quality of towels they are using; make sure these towels do not appear heavily worn, dirty or wet. Also, ensure that they use new towels on each vehicle. Lastly, a quality wash will always use pressurized air to force water out of areas such as door handles, grills, and trim; this way you won’t get those annoying water splatters after you start driving.
Finding a quality wash is not an easy task. The majority of car washes are more concerned with the quantity of cars they do, rather than the quality of work they perform. We hope that this guide was a helpful resource in finding a quality wash in your area. If you want to learn proper car care, we invite you to visit our “Detailing Tips” page on our website.