Although automatic car washes can be very quick and convenient, especially in the winter, it’s important to understand what they can potentially do to your vehicle and how to properly use them if you absolutely have to.
AVOID any ‘soft touch’ car wash at all cost! (unless you love having scratches and swirls in
your paint) These types of car washes may make your car look clean the moment you leave the wash, but as soon as sunlight hits it you’ll see tons of swirls and marring in the paint made by the brushes. Imagine washing an extremely dirty dish plate with caked on food by hand with a scrub brush for example, and then walking outside and rubbing that scrub brush all over your paint...that’s basically what’s happening here. A bunch of dirt from the previous vehicle is collected in those brushes and then its rubbed all into your paint.
Here is the result of constantly going through a 'soft touch' carwash. Yikes!
TOUCH-LESS washes are OK if you absolutely need to, and if you know what’s going on. There aren’t any dirty brushes touching the paint, but these types of washes use very harsh, even acidic, chemicals to try and clean as much of the dirt off as possible in the quick few minutes your car is in the bay. These chemicals can strip previous waxes, sealants, and other layers of protection off of your paint, cause the plastics to fade, and dull the exterior paintwork. If you choose to go this route, you will want to lay down some protection on the vehicle afterwards, or give it a proper hand wash the next time around.
Hand washing is by far the safest option and will yield you the best results, but let's face it, you may not have time to hand wash your vehicle(s) all of the time! If you enjoy washing your own vehicles but want to cut the time it takes to do it in half you might want to invest in a ceramic coating. Ceramic coated vehicles are MUCH easier (and honestly more fun) to maintain than non-coated vehicles.
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