The Limitations Of Washing A Car

Black Fiskar Karma Being Washed

Today I overheard a story about a customer at a local hand wash who was unhappy with her car wash. After the wash she pointed out a small area behind the rear wheel well – a spec or two of tar. Exclaiming that she could remove the tar with her fingernail, the Foreman replied, “We don’t wash cars with our fingernails.” While that may not be the most polite way to put it, he’s right. A good hand wash uses fluffy mitts and soft towels to wash your car. These tools won’t remove stuck on tar or sap, and they’re not supposed to. Most people don’t know the limitations of your typical car wash, whether done at home or professionally. Read on to find out what they are.

The point he was trying to get across is that tar requires chemicals to remove safely. If you scrub or scratch tar from the surface – say with your fingernail – you risk damaging the clear coat. Whether it’s tar, sap, or overspray, it basically wants to eat away at your paint and slowly embeds (and etches) itself in the clear coat overtime. This means you can’t just scratch at it to remove it unless you want to take some clear coat with you.

Think about it this way: you don’t take a shower to combat bad acne. You go grab some OTC cream or go see the doctor to get a prescription. Because every surface is unique (paint, leather, metal, plastic, fabric), cars – just like humans – require specific “prescriptions” for whatever ails them. Substances like tar and sap aren’t going to come out just by rubbing with suds during a wash, but rather require concentrated degreasers and cleansers to loosen their bond with your paintwork. After doing so you can safely scrub and rinse to remove them.

So what does this mean? Not much really, just that that you have to attack the tar, sap, or crusted on bug guts with specific products rather than expecting a simple hand wash to take care of it. Sure a car wash removes dust, dirt, mud, pollen, bird poop, and more to make your car shine, but there are certain things a wash can’t handle – basically anything embedded in or latched onto your paint. Unrealistic expectations create problems, so if you have an issue that you want taken care of by your local car wash, be sure to let them know before they start washing. And if you’re at home, make sure you’ve got the right prescriptions to tackle whatever comes in contact with your car.

Here are two situations you might run into and what you’ll need to get fixed right up…

Bug Carcases

Tar, Sap, Overspray

Of course you never know just exactly what is going to contaminate your car. That’s why we’re here. Let us know if you’ve had challenges that traditional processes haven’t been able to solve – we’d love to help! Comment here or ask us your questions on facebook!