7 Reasons Not To Use Automatic Car Washes

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If you’re wondering if automatic car washes are bad for your car, I invite you to read these seven reasons why you should avoid going there with your car.

Key Takeaways:

  • Automatic car washes that use brushes will scratch your car paint and wheels.
  • Many car washes use low-quality products that can contain harsh chemicals, making your car’s paint oxidize quickly.
  • Automatic car wash can never thoroughly clean your car. It’s not even close to when you wash it manually.
  • Owners of automatic car washes are not responsible for any scratch that appears on your vehicle.
  • If you care about your car, you won’t go to automatic car washes.

7 Reasons Not To Use An Automatic Car Wash Service

Here are the top reasons why you should never use automatic car wash services.

1. Usage Of Recycled Water

white car inside car wash, illustration

I’m sure you’ve heard of it, but let me repeat it. Automatic car washes use recycled water. While you may think it’s because of ecology, it’s not. It’s because of profit and ROI.

While recycled water is great for the environment, it’s not so good for your car. Even though that water goes through multiple filters, it’s never completely dirt-free.

Dirt and particles trapped inside recycled water may damage the paint on your car and make it oxidize quickly. Aside from dirt and dust particles, recycled water often leaves water spots on your vehicle, and removing water spots can be a tough task.

2. Questionable Quality of Products

As I said above, automatic car wash services are trying to be as profitable as possible. That’s okay, but some high-quality products can be pretty expensive and affect their earnings.

We never know what kind of chemicals are they using. The chemicals used can be too strong or too weak for cleaning the car. 

And, of course, you won’t get the best results with the low-quality products. Some of them are maybe using high-end chemicals, but that’s not the case with the majority of them.

My friend owns a car wash, and he told me that they often use very harsh chemicals to get better cleaning results and that those chemicals are often dangerous for the car paint.

3. Wheels Damage

Wheel damage is very common when using automatic car washes. And the worst thing is that you can’t avoid it altogether.

Reasons why wheels get damaged in automatic car washes:

  • Too strong chemicals. They’ll often use very concentrated soaps and chemicals in order to get “better” results.
  • Too hard brushes. Hard brushes will certainly scratch car wheels, especially if you have some nice polished alloy wheels.
  • Rail-guards. Rail guards are the most common reason why wheels get scratched while going through a car wash.

It’s almost impossible to go through the automatic car wash and leave it without any damage on your wheels.

4. Car Paint Damage

Recycled water, harsh chemicals, and brushes are a big enemy to your car paint, especially the clear coat.

  • As I mentioned before, recycled water will always have some dirt particles inside and may damage your car right away.
  • Harsh chemicals may be acidic and also cause severe damage to the car paint. They can damage your clear coat, and fading will occur very soon.
  • Last but not least, the brushes. Brushes are too strong for the car paint. It’s like using sandpaper for the car wash. Together with strongness, they also have dirt on them from the previous cars, which is again scrubbing the clear coat.

At first, you probably won’t see any paint damage, but if you take a closer look, you’ll see swirls and scratches all over the car.

5. Not Cleaning All Parts of The Car

I think everybody understands this reason. It’s just impossible for a machine to clean all the parts of the car. The machine just can’t reach some parts that you can with your hand and a pressure washer. 

Also, the machine is programmed to wash every car the same way. It doesn’t have eyes to see if there is more dirt on the car to clean. 

When I wash the car, I can see every piece of dirt, and clean it immediately. Automatic car washes are not capable of that, so proper car washing is probably not the case with them.

6. They’re Not Responsible For Any Car Damage

Even if you notice some damage and try reporting it, they will say that they’re not responsible for any car damage.

There is probably a statement about that somewhere near the user manual, but honestly, who reads the user manual?

For instance, when some car detailer does any damage to your car, he will pay for it (or his car detailing business insurance).

7. In The End, It Can Be More Expensive

Even though automatic car wash services have an affordable price, in the end, it can be much more expensive than taking a car to the car detailing service or washing it on your own.

In this article, you can see plenty of dangers and risks of using an automatic car service. 

But why do I say that it can be more expensive? 

For example, if some swirls and scratches occur on your car paint, what’s the cost of fixing it? You’ll probably need to do the paint correction on your car.

It can cost you anywhere from $250 to $2,500, depending on the car’s condition. Here’s the full video about the average car paint correction price.

Now you get the point, right?


Are automatic car washes bad for your car?

Automatic car washes are undoubtedly bad for your car because 99% of them use brushes with hard bristles that cause swirl marks and scratches on the clear coat.

Do automatic car washes damage paint?

Most automatic car washes will damage the paint on your car. A combination of brushes and harsh chemicals will scratch and degrade the paint on your vehicle, especially if you’re regularly using automatic car washes. Some automatic car washes only use pressure washers, and they’re less dangerous to the car.

Why do so many people still use them?

Automatic car washes are the quickest and the easiest way to wash cars, and that’s the reason why so many people still use them, even though they’re proven to scratch the paint. Another reason is the price, and it’s often pretty cheap to wash your car over there.

My Advice: Do This Instead…

My advice to all of you is to always choose a car detailer to wash your car or to wash the car at home. It’s not rocket science to do.

With a little experience, everybody can do it very easily without doing any damage to their car and yet get great results.

It doesn’t matter if you are a weekend warrior or you are doing it professionally. It’s not hard to do a safe car wash.

Of course, you’ll get the best results by taking your car to some car detailing service, but if you want to do it on your own, I suggest you get some detailing kits, especially if you are a beginner. 

Check out my recommendation for Car Detailing Gift Ideas. Over there you’ll find many kits that have everything you need to do a safe car wash with amazing results.

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