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58 comments on Ask-A-Pro: Should I Take My Car Through A Car Wash?

  1. Mo says:

    i avoid car washes at ALL costs. even if it means my car stays dirty for weeks at a time until i have an opportunity to clean it. Todd hit it all on the head with his response, so i dont have much to add.

  2. Fabian says:

    Hey Todd,

    Since I know you’re from Ohio, would you recommend Mike’s Carwash for a quick wash?



  3. Dave_PA says:

    The only reason and time that I use a car wash is in the winter and that is a touchless. The reason I go there is for the underwash (where you are basically driving over a ‘hose’) and it’s helping wash the salt off the car.

    Todd, could you recommend an alternative what would work better in removing under carriage salt from the winter?


    • David,

      Running it through a touchless during the winter like that is fine as long as it isn’t a regular thing. Just make sure you’ve got a durable sealant on the car to get you through. Don’t tell anybody, but I’ll run my car through the touchless a time or two during the winter to get all of the salt off of it after a bad storm…then I’ll follow that up with an ONR wash at home or the shop and a quick touch-up with a spray wax.

  4. F40Fan says:

    Is a “wand” wash okay during the winter months and to get rid of road grime until I can do a hand wash?

  5. Eugene says:

    Another great article. You are so right. for example, I had one vehicle swirled big time after using a car wash during winter. Never again. Washing by hand, or not at all, for me – even if the car stays a little dirty a little longer.

  6. Mao Dechert says:

    Many thanks for that details. It’s very appreciated! Best regards.

  7. Peter says:

    This is a good, but a bit scary article. I wonder what’s the best way to fix those years of car wash abuse? I’m looking into buying a CPO car but even those all seem to have been exposed to harsh brushes and have swirls all over.

    • Peter,

      Once the vehicles get swirled up like this, you need to either hire a professional detailer or learn about the tools, techniques, and products to do it yourself. Fortunately for you, there are hundreds of articles here in the Detailed Image Blog that can help you with the entire process.

  8. shannon says:

    Any advice on washing a brand new spanking truck during winter?? 3 months, and haven’t shined my new truck….. once.. Auto ca rwash is too easy but dont want to mess up …

  9. Mr. Barry Hodgetts says:

    Do not use automatic car washes I used one and the brushes caught hold of the wipers ripping them off . This caused damage to the bonnet of the car resulting in an an estimate for a re spray and replacement wiper of £200 plus vat. Beware the company’s put up signs USE AT YOUR OWN RISK disowning responsibility for any damage

  10. Riverfront Details says:

    Todd,as a 28 yr Detailer I find that the definition of professional Detailer is used to scratch up lots of cars.I’m building two automatic washes right now,1soft cloth and 1 touchless. You can not clean a car without some friction,the latest NEW wash technology is not perfect but will give you 90% better wash than old.the salt must come off the car as soon as possible. The spiderwebs in the photo above are also results of people washing in a circle while applying to much pressure without proper lubricant SOAP. Thank you for your insight. Greg @ Riverfront Details.Boiler Up !

  11. liz says:

    Here is my problem. I just bought a brand new 2015 BMW 335i. Straight off the truck with no miles. It was prepped and ready for pickup. It had been washed and waxed and looked beautiful. I did not examine close enough to see if it had a scratches or swirls from the wash & wax but at first glance I didn’t notice anything.

    As we finished up financing they offered us Simoniz Glasscoat. A polymer that chemically binds with the clear coat to create a ceramic glass resin to protect against pine tar, bird droppings, acid rain. Lifetime warranty. Seemed like a good idea.

    But, they had to remove the wax they just put on in order to apply the Glasscoat. Now the car looks like I washed it. I see many fine lines and circular marks as if someone buffed the car. Most noticeable on the the horizontal surfaces. It’s a Black Car! I did not expect that. They have offered to remove the Glasscoat, buff everything out on the hood and trunk and reapply the Glasscoat.

    My question is – what does it take to remove the Glasscoat and is all this just going to make it worse or show no improvement. What should my expectation be.

    I sure hope you can give some advice. Your website and articles are excellent and while the salesperson tells me it will be fine, I’m not sure what to believe at this point. I wish I had never gotten the Simoniz because then I could have followed the directions on your site and perhaps taken care of the problem.

    It just looks like the car has been washed and wax by an ordinary person. It’s a brand new car. It should look like this.

    Thanks for you help!

  12. Darren Sargo says:


    They will be able to polish this product off, but please be careful when letting them do this. In my opinion, Car lots are not trained to properly polish a vehicle the same way most professional detail shops are able to. If you trust them enough go ahead and let them polish and re-apply the glass coat. If you continue to notice swirls and circular marks then I would request your money back and seek out a professional detailer who is skilled and trained to properly polish your vehicle and apply glass coatings.

  13. Dixie Burge says:

    I am a disabled 65-year-old woman who bought a beautiful used 2014 Hyundai Sonata in pristine condition about a month ago. I want to keep it looking good, but according to your article, even touchless car washes are an iffy bet. It would be nearly impossible for me to do the washing, polishing, waxing, etc. myself, and there is no one else at home to do it for me. I can get around by myself, but just barely. Even if I hire a friend or a friend of a friend to do it, I don’t know if they would be as careful with my car as I would if I could do it myself. What should Someone in my situation do to keep my car looking its best?

    • Sven says:

      My philosophy is if you drive a car that depreciates in value (Hyundai), then just run it through whatever car wash and get it waxed once a year. If you have a car the APPRECIATES in value (Ferrari, Rolls Royce, other collectibles) then yes, go crazy and wash and wax it by hand. You need to maintain your investment.

  14. Newby says:

    Went through car wash once with brand new black Mercedes (stupid I know) – a small amount of light scratches — anything I can do to make it look better now? Polish etc?

  15. Luke Yancey says:

    I never knew that car washes can actually damage your car’s paint job! I always assumed it was better to go to a car wash than to clean your car yourself! After thinking about it now, it makes a lot of sense- the materials that clean your car probably pick up a lot of debris from other vehicles! I think if a place hand washes your car you are probably ok though, but then again, it is all a matter of personal preference!

  16. Chris says:

    I made the mistake once of bringing my new to me BMW to a car wash. Big mistake, too many scratches to count ranging in depth from light to beneath the clear. Luckily my brother had an auto body shop at the time and was able to restore the car to its previous condition, which was near perfect. Now I have a new car and generally wash it using the 2 bucket method every 2 weeks or so, always using 2 new mits each wash. Unfortunately I don’t trust myself to machine polish or wax, so I have the car professionally detailed every couple months. The key is to find a detailer you trust with many years of experience. The detailer I use lets me know what is required at the time of my visit, which often times is less then expected, saving me money as a result of his honesty. Also my car being a new WRX has a thin clear coat, but my detailer knows this so he details the car accordingly. So best advice I can give is to avoid auto car washes and find a detailer you really trust if you truly want to maintain your cars paint, which happens to be one of the most expensive elements of many cars.

    TLDR: Avoid auto car washes like the plauge. Use the 2 bucket method and new wash mits every wash if possible. And find a professional detailer with years of experience that you can trust.

  17. Ryan says:

    Great advice.
    I always handwash my car and the paint is still pretty appealing 3 years later.

  18. kat says:

    Recently purchased a brand new 2017 Toyota Corolla and now just 2 weeks in service, it could use a wash. Could you recommend DIY products to wash and wax and how often should I wax? Are places like autozone etc good places to acquire? Any recommended upholstery cleaning products to use or avoid? Thank you.

  19. cogos says:

    This assumes that everyone has the time and especially the PLACE to wash their cars themselves. I would dare to say at least 75% of people in society do not, hence by car washes are so popular. So what do you wanna to do, wash our cars in front of walmart and get arrested? We simple DO NOT have a place to wash it. Also, if you have a regular car, as most people do, then you shouldn’t be so concerned about this. It would make sense if you have a luxury or super car as some guy above said.

    Besides, you are actually doing more damage to the clear coat by NOT washing the car or washing it less often.

    • Reece @ DI says:

      That is certainly a great point and not everyone has the time or the place to wash their car. In these instances, we always recommend going to a touchless car wash. These car washes can help you clean your car, without the risk of the dirty brushes from a regular touch car wash ruining your paint. I personally use touchless car washes or wash bays all of the time up here in New York as my hose pressure is weak and I always get a better, more thorough cleaning when using these two options.

  20. Dee says:

    What is your opinion on using just wax to rinse your car? I just got a 2017 Subaru sport impreza in silver this month. I have not washed the yet. And I wanted to hand wash it then use the water wax at the car wash to rinse i like the wax finish.

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  23. If anyone asks a pro, should he take his car through a car wash, then always the answer will be Yes. Because a car was has no negative impact. So, why would he say No.? In fact, a pro will tell to go through the car wash from time to time, by which a car will look smarter and perform better. Here, one thing I can tell that one can wash his car on his own, but I don’t think it is that much effective as that of a professional washing. Though washing the car by a professional is slightly expensive, still, it is better to go for it, because by a professional car wash we can improve the performance of our car and extend its life span for some years.

  24. Rasem says:

    Took my car Lexus RX 350 for soft brush car wash came out with damage to cover of spray for the light cost me $750 to fix car wash owner refuse to compensate me saying that this cover is not fully hidden in the pumber of the car any one have similar damage .

  25. I can see why having a pro wash my car is a better choice. Those two pictures are all the argument you need. The second picture looks terrible, since there are so many scratches there! I don’t want my car’s paint to look like that.

  26. Sam Donald says:

    What is your opinion on getting ceramic coating? I have had one car-detailer tell me that after an application of Ceramic coating (CQuartz UK Ceramic Coating), taking a car through an automated car wash would strip the coating.
    Another car detailer told me that ceramic coating (Opticoat PRO) can certainly be taken through an automated car wash.
    Are you able to shed some wisdom on the matter?

  27. Jaime Jordan says:

    Thank you. I for the first time have a pretty car and I want to keep it that way!

  28. Micheal says:

    Thank you so much!
    This answer has given me so much knowledge and helped me so much in car washing.
    There are so much sand and dust under the hood of my Ford Ranger after my last off-road. Could I clean it by hands, and what steps should I follow?

  29. Daniel Nelson says:

    There is a lot of generalized information here, some of which is not accurate. The ‘spiderwebbing’ black paint on the mirror shown is the result of wear and tear on the paint of a vehicle that is not consistently hand waxed.It’s certainly not a direct result from an express wash. The flex wraps that make contact with the mirror move in linear direction down the side of the vehicle and do not ‘swirl’ in a rotary fashion. Also, the chemicals used in a touchless wash are incredibly harsh on your vehicle and it’s paint, so those would be less than safe on your paint as well. Detailing is fantastic and from a paint safety and cleanliness perspective and is clearly a superior method of cleaning. That said, if want to keep a more frequently clean car as well as avoid wasting an immense amount of water for a much lower cost, express car washes can be a great solution.

    • Reece @ DI says:

      Daniel – Thank you for the reply! Please however note that touch car washes can always cause swirls and scratches. The imperfections you are seeing are from a touch car wash, not from not waxing. Waxing is great to help protect your paint for 3-4 weeks, but even a freshly waxed car will not protect from these mats, brushes, etc. that these washes use. It all comes from the high speeds, rough brushes, and tons of dirt from all the cars going through the wash that can cause all of the damage. I highly recommend never taking a car through these types of washes, unless you do not car about the appearance.

      For the touchless wash, they are certainly not ideal, but much safer than touch car washes. The chemicals used are harsh, but I have never had issues with my paint. The only issue I have seen is drying out my trim. This is why I only use a touchless wash in the winter (when it is too cold to hand wash). I also always make sure to treat my trim after to help avoid any drying.

  30. Karan Joshi says:

    Thanks for guidance for how I take my car through a car wash. It helps to save money and time. It reflects after shining my car by myself.

  31. Here has incredible post for “”. Author share a superb ideas include all think that should be very helpful for everyone. Keeps all about very straightforward. Thanks for posting.

  32. Car Tailing says:

    Hi Todd! Great to always read your tips and article. However, I’d like to know, ould you recommend an alternative that would work better in removing undercarriage salt from the winter? Thanks a lot!

  33. Jasminee says:

    I would not suggest you to go with a tunnel car wash because those brushes in the tunnel wash can cause scratches on your car’s surface. People prefer to wash their cars at home themselves because it saves both time and energy. All you have to do is to follow all-important instructions so you can wash your car effectively without causing any scratches. Also, it is recommended to prefer car wash mitts and microfiber towels rather than using any rough cloth for drying car wash.

  34. SantaFe says:

    Thank your for great guidance. We use the Santa Fe car wash service in Fredericksburg VA. I use many car wash service provider but they provide best service in VA.

  35. Emily says:

    Great article. I generally agree with you on the car wash. However, it is always good to be vigilant about the materials they use to clean your car.

  36. BenzW205 says:

    Sorry to ask, but in 2020 swirl-o-matics are not better than 20 years ago ? It is not possible to create a new system that will not create swirls ?Thank you for your confirmation.

    • Reece @ DI says:

      Touch car washes are still extremely bad for your paint. Fast-moving, dirty brushes and mats hitting the exterior of your vehicle are not safe in general and will always cause swirls, scratches, or other damages. Touchless car washes are much safer overall and if you can not wash by hand, we highly recommend using a touchless wash over a touch (tunnel) wash.

  37. James Franco says:

    I don’t see any problem bringing my car to an auto detailing shop as long as the shop can be trusted and you knew what cleaning materials they would use in your car.

  38. Laine says:

    I totally agree, a trip to automatic car washes guarantee swirl marks on your vehicle after that wash. I decided to have ceramic coating done professionally. Driving a black car made this a necessity for me. I think it’s definitely worth the price.

  39. Tim says:

    These tips are really helpful. Also, it is always good to be vigilant about the materials they use to clean your car. I’ve had very bad experiences with several car washes in Toronto.

  40. I cringe when I see cars go through those automatic machines. I just wonder when was the last time anyone actually cleaned those things. Just do it by hand or better yet have the pro’s do it for you.

    Thanks for sharing this article.

  41. Layla Davis says:

    Very useful tips. Will try them on my own

  42. Thanks for writing this great article for us. I have gained good stuff from this website. Looking forward to your next article. I am happy to share this post to my friends. Keep it up.

  43. Anwar says:

    Thanks for these car washing tips. Gr8

  44. Sara Paul says:

    Thank you for this article. I was looking for car detailing in phoenix when I came across XL Mobile Detailing. They are the best detailing organization there is. My car still feels new even after a month.

  45. Tahsin says:

    Thanks for these car washing tips. Gr8

  46. abul says:

    Thank you for this article. I was looking for car detailing in phoenix when I came across XL Mobile Detailing. They are the best detailing organization there is. My car still feels new even after a month.

  47. I’ve been taking my car to a soft-cloth car wash, but now I’m concerned about the abrasiveness. What’s the best alternative for maintaining a scratch-free wash?

    • Reece @ DI says:

      Touch washes (tunnel washes) are not great for your paint and can cause damage due to dirty and high speed brushes and/or cloths. I would recommend using a touchless car wash if you have them around or wash yourself using the two bucket method. Here in the northeast I use touchless washes when my car is filthy, or it is a cold winter day. The only concern with touch washes do feature heavy cleaners, so I would recommend treating your trim surfaces a little more often to keep them from drying out over time. If you need some tips on hand washing yourself or simply need some product recommendations, do not hesitate to reach out (https://www.detailedimage.com/Contact/)!

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