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Here are some questions we hear now and then

Will a car wash hurt my car?

Automatic stationary or drive-through car washes are more popular than ever because they save time and hassle. But are automatic car washes safe for your car? In fact, in many instances, they are the “safest” course of action for many car owners who want to keep their car clean.

In fact, automatic car washes can be safer for your car’s finish than washing your car yourself because do-it-yourselfers sometimes don’t use enough water to safely remove dirt; or they wash the car in direct sunlight — which can burn spots in the paint. Or they use the wrong type of soap — such as dishwashing detergent, which removes protective wax and leaves a chalky residue on the finish, or use the wrong sponge or towels. Any one of several common mistakes can end up doing more harm than good, resulting in an expensive professional detail shop to attempt to restore the finish.

Many drivers prefer drive-through, automatic car washes to doing it themselves at home. Automatic car washes are quick, inexpensive and protect the driver from the elements. But some might not be safe for your car. It depends on the car wash with how they prep the vehicle and what type of material is used to clean the cloth. When a heavy soiled vehicle enters the prep area do the attendants first pressure wash the vehicle or just send it through? To prevent possible scratches the vehicle should be pressure washed first. Does the wash equipment use brushes or cloth? The old style brushes can scratch your finish where the new cloth or foam cloth doesn’t. We don’t know of a wash in Oregon that still uses brushes in the wash equipment but did hear a customer tell a story about a wash in Idaho and Utah that still does.

One of the most common damages blamed on car washes is scratched paint. For those who rarely have their car washed, a parking lot scratch or ding becomes apparent after the car is clean and not as a result of the car wash itself.

Power antenna could be a victim of car wash machinery. A power antenna is hollow for the plastic gear inside the antenna to go up and down and should always be lowered before going through a car wash. Standard solid antennas should be fine. Most car washes will advise you if they see something that could be damaged.

Aftermarket equipment are items added to the vehicle that are not from the vehicle manufacture and are not covered for damage. These items like bug guards, mud flaps, wiper wings, body moldings and many more are not usually attached securely and may be damaged. The wash attendant will advise you, then it’s your decision to proceed.

Who is Responsible?

When a customer accuses a car wash of damaging their car, the two parties must determine who is responsible. Usually the manager will be consulted, and both parties will try to determine whether the equipment could have caused the damage or if it looks like it was there and now has become noticeable because the vehicle is clean. If the car wash personnel or equipment damaged the vehicle, the car wash will pay for repairs at a body shop.

How often should you have your vehicle washed?

That depends on how quickly it gets dirty — and how dirty it gets. For some cars, once a month is sufficient — especially if the car is lightly used and kept in a garage. But some cars will need a bath more often, especially those that are parked outdoors where they’re exposed to the elements; bird droppings, tree sap and so on, driven on gravel roads winters, or where the roads are salted or de-icer is used when it snows.

The question really is based on one’s personal preference on how they want to keep their vehicle and clothing clean. Weekly washing will keep your vehicles finish on all surfaces preserved and keep the possibility of getting your clothes dirty when you enter or exit. Moss, mold, and gunk can damage your vehicles finish when its left to itself. We have seen many cars that were parked “under a tree next to the hedge” for months that arrive with brown, black and green yuck all over. After a $5 to $10 Heavy Duty Prep they are clean of the yuck but damaged to the point of needing a professional detailer to attempt to buff off the damaged area and bring back a shine.

Customer Julie F. left her 05 Chevy at her parents while she was away at college. When she arrived at the car wash her car looked like she drove it out of a swamp. We did the best we could but then she paid $185 to get the paint restored and still several moldings had irreversible damage.