Some people really dig washing their cars, they find it meditative and gain great satisfaction in removing dust from every crack and crevice. For the rest of us, it’s just another dreaded chore. And so, because we’re responsible car owners who know that regular cleaning protects the paintwork, helps the resale value and just feels much nicer, we make the biggest mistake of all and head to the car wash.
Hairline scratches and swirl marks have been on the increase in the last few years and it’s largely due to people doing exactly that – washing their cars at local car washes. While car wash staff are usually aware of good washing practices, they often look for the cheapest way possible to remain competitive and it’s not uncommon for them to reuse sponges and rags over…. and over… and over again. This overuse creates a buildup of dirt and debris, which eventually causes scratches and swirl marks on your car.
You therefore have two potential solutions; find a really great car wash or avoid them entirely.
IF YOU STILL WANT THE CAR WASH…
If you’re sticking with the car wash that’s OK, you just need to be aware of what to look out for and how to find a great one. Here’s some tips..
- Get A Referral
A referral from someone who has had a good experience and a good result is a great start.
- Inspect The Rags & Sponges
At the car wash look out for dirty rags and sponges. Ask them how often they’re replaced. If they won’t give you a reasonable answer, you can see dirty sponges and rags or the environment itself is dirty, get out of there.
- Take Your Own Sponges
There’s nothing wrong with taking your new clean sponge to the car wash and requesting they use yours. If they’re not happy with this, just leave.
- Avoid Charity Wash Days
Sorry, but those kids could be using anything to wash your car.
- Go Early or Late
Heading to the car wash early or late in the day ensures you avoid harsh direct sunlight. Cold or tepid water placed on hot metal is not good for your car’s paint work.
- Be Cautious of Drive Throughs
Some of the older-style car washes still use the spinning brushes, which are notorious for leaving scratches. The softer cloth variety is better, but still not good. If you must use a drive through, look out for a brushless water-only wash. This won’t give you a great result, but it is good for a quick, easy clean without the damage. Limit these to only once in awhile, rather than relying on them for every wash.
- Opt for a Car Detailer
Using a smaller, professional car detailer over a large, production-line car wash may be a little more expensive, but they are much more likely to do a better job and use good washing practices, such as clean sponges and the two-bucket wash method.
- Forget The Wax & Polish
Don’t pay extra for waxes and polishes (unless using a professional detailer). Most often these products are low quality and overpriced.
If, now that you’ve been warned of the dangers lurking in many car wash services, I’ve convinced you to start doing it yourself, there’s still a few things to be aware of…
- Wash your car on an overcast day or just after dawn/before sunset when the sun is less harsh.
- Wash bird poo off as soon as it happens. Bird poo contains acids that strip paint work. Use a hose and soft cloth as soon as you can.
- If you’re a weekend driver and have to park on a tree-lined street, then invest in a car cover.
- If you drop your sponge then rinse well — really, really well. If you’ve dropped it somewhere particularly dirty, then you’re probably up for a new sponge.
- Don’t pressure wash your engine. Pressure washing your engine forces streams of water into rubber seals and around sensitive electronic components. If you’re concerned about the cleanliness of your engine, ask your mechanic to degrease it during your next service.
- Never use household cleaning products. These products are designed for a different purpose and can be too harsh on your car’s paint.
Although the car wash may seem like the easiest option, unless you find yourself a great quality one they could be doing more harm than good. Take the time and pay the money to get the best quality or follow my tips and DIY.
Head over to our page in Cars 101 for more tips on how to maintain your car.