4 Things Automatic Car Washes Won’t Tell You

Microfiber Towels

A good car wash will use clean microfiber towels every time.

If you take your car to an automatic car wash on a regular basis, I ask you to please consider another option. I understand the convenience and I certainly get the value advantage of a $3 car wash, but automatic washes are in no way “good” for your car. And if you’ve ever pulled in after work then you know they’re not exactly the most inviting places in the world. If you’re not sold yet, here are four things you’ll never hear an automatic car wash tell their customers and a little bit more about why you should consider the switch to a hand washed car.

“Our towels are filthy.”

You may have suspected it, but unless you get up-close it’s hard to tell… those cotton terry towels that the guy is using to dry any excess water from your paint are probably doing more harm than good. Most car washes washes don’t wash their towels daily, and if they do, they’ve touched a number of cars before yours. The end result is (obviously) a less clean car, but what’s definitely worth knowing is that dirty towels cause clear coat scratches and clear coat scratches make your car look like you just don’t care.

“Your wheels might not fit.”

better car wash

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For “normal” cars this doesn’t really matter, but for trucks and high-end luxury cars with wider wheels, this might make you cringe. Basically the idea here is that if your wheels are wider than the track, you’re going to end up with some damage to your rims. The car will continue to move forward as your wheels drag and scrape along the track’s wall. As you can see by the picture, I’m not just talking about a little scratch… I’m talking about serious repairs. Definitely not worth it.

“The hot wax is a sham.”

If you get the hot wax to shine your car for the next few hours, great. If you’re expecting it to actually protect your car, not so great. I’m not going to say you should never get it (you might be feeling lucky one day), but it’s not really doing anything for your paint except for filling minor imperfections with glossing agents. Real wax, like carnauba, needs time to cure to the surface and will last at least a couple months. I’d be surprised if this stuff stayed on longer than a few days.

“We caused that scratch.”

The worst part about an automatic car wash is that it’s your fault for going there. Don’t expect them to fix a scratch or a ding. And swirl marks? Don’t get me started. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s just not worth it. If I’m spending anything over $20,000 on a car I would at least like to know it’s in good hands. The only way to be sure? Make them your own.

At the end of the day all that really matters is that you’re giving your car the attention and care it needs to last a long time. At an automatic car wash you simply don’t get that – it’s basically just in, out, and don’t forget your Big Gulp. Next time you’re in need of a car wash, all I ask is that you consider doing it by hand. If you’re still not jiving that idea, find a local hand wash and call it a day. Once you do I guarantee you’ll never spend $3 on a car wash again.