Say Goodbye to Automatic Car Wash Damage with These Tips!

Last updated on March 5th, 2024

I am glad you stopped by to learn more about detailing your rides from my website. In an earlier post, I asked how automatic car washes cause damage to your vehicle. Say goodbye to automatic car wash damage with these tips! I don’t use automatic car washes anymore, which is my preference. It would be best to stop using them for the reasons discussed below.

Say Goodbye to Automatic Car Wash Damage with These Tips!

Please read the rest of this article to understand my opinions on the fundamental problems of taking your vehicles through them. This includes touchless car wash systems, as well.

Conveniences of using automatic car washes

In the past, I used a variety of automatic and touchless car washes because of the conveniences associated with those types of systems.

Trust me, I understand; you pull into the lot, have your monthly membership sticker on the windshield, or swipe your credit card, and the attendant guides you on the conveyor. Then, thirty seconds later, you come out (presumably) on the other side with a cleaner-looking vehicle (sometimes).

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Why do people use automatic car washes?

A couple of the main reasons people use them are that they might live in apartments where they don’t have access to water or proper tools to wash their vehicles. Understandably, older adults often cannot get out and do the work of detailing or cleaning their cars. Say goodbye to automatic car wash damage with these tips!

If you must use automatic car washes that could cause damage, go to one where the attendants will finish drying, cleaning the inside, vacuuming, cleaning the windows, and dressing the tires. Granted, these extra services will cost you more money, but that will give you time and opportunity to inspect for possible damage from automatic car washes.

Hidden damages from automatic car washes.

I have learned from my experiences and had my share of expensive damage to my car from these car washes.
I have had damaged wheels, antennas (aerials), mirrors, trim pieces, leaking sunroofs, broken wiper blades or damaged wiper arms, and surface paint damage with scratches.

One of the worst problems after washing your vehicle (whether automatic or hand wash) is allowing the vehicle to air dry. A way to prevent damage from washing your car is to carry a high-quality microfiber towel to dry the vehicle after completion. Water spotting can be the worst damage to your car’s clear coat, glass, and painted surfaces.

Water spots, once dry, will leave white marks caused by the minerals in the hard water, the sun’s UV rays, and heat. The water spots will also happen after rain, sunshine, and warming. Often, they can occur by parking near sprinkler systems on warm, sunny days. Those spots will slowly and, over time, etch (eat) at the clear coat. The etching will remove the shiny finish on your vehicle’s surfaces.

The Sucker and The Sucker Lite: High-Quality Microfiber Towels.

Recently, I purchased a couple of microfiber drying towels from Luxury Microfiber. I heard about them from watching a video on YouTube from Pan, the Organizer. These towels have proven to be the best towels I have used for drying my vehicles.

Luxury Microfiber Drying Towel – Demonstration by Pan, the Organizer.

As I mentioned in other posts, I have owned trucks for a long time, and the giant drying towel from Luxury Microfiber (called the Sucker) will dry my whole truck. After drying my truck with the Sucker, the towel is still not fully saturated with water, and I can dry another vehicle. The Sucker Luxury Microfiber towel is 34″ x 28.” It has a 1400 GSM measurement and is dual-sided with twisted loops. Also, the towel is edgeless, so you do not risk scratching your car’s surface.

When discussing microfiber towels and GSMs, we refer to grams per square meter in measuring the towel’s density. The higher the GSM, as in the above case, 1400 GSM, speaks to the thickness, absorbency, and thick pile length.

The Liquid8r: Another High-Quality Microfiber Drying Towel. 

Before I started using the Sucker microfiber drying towel, I used a 70/30 blended microfiber towel from The Rag Company called the Liquid8r. It was an 1100 GSM, 25″ x 36″, and edgeless for comparison. I could dry my whole truck, but the towel was extremely soaked with water. You will not go wrong with either of the above-compared microfiber drying towels.

I look forward to trying a new towel from the Chemical Guys called the Speed Mammoth Ultimate Super Plush Car Drying Towel, size 25″ * 30″.

Benefits of not using automatic car washes.

The benefits of washing your vehicle or paying a professional exceed the expenses you could face long-term by using automatic car washes. One of the key benefits of washing your car by hand is that you will get your vehicle far cleaner than an automatic car wash. Another benefit is that if you have wax or sealants on your car, the products will adhere to the surface much better and for a longer time. That means you will have more extended intervals between waxing or sealing your vehicle’s finish. Lastly, performing automobile detailing work provides exercise and activity.

My Old Truck

To show some of my work and for the sake of argument, I bought a new truck in March 2013. See the image below of my old truck. It was one of the last 2012 Ford F-150 XLTs left on a new car lot close to southwestern Ohio.

The color of the truck was Race Red. It had a 5.0 liter, V-8 Coyote engine under the hood. Unfortunately, I sold it in October 2021. The truck had roughly 105,000 miles on the odometer and sold for a fantastic advertised cash price. It sold quickly, as well. I received my cash asking price because I kept the truck in immaculate shape. I washed and waxed the truck regularly and exclusively by hand when necessary.

Say Goodbye to Automatic Car Wash Damage with These Tips!

Closing thoughts…

The damages and added hidden expenses should be enough to make you reconsider using automatic car wash systems. Say goodbye to automatic car wash damage with these tips!

While pressure car wash systems can clean your vehicles for a very reasonable price, the systems frequently use harsher chemicals. Also, I have found that the pressure is very high and can cause paint damage. However, I have used these systems as a last resort and with some success. Remember to carry a microfiber drying towel after using the pressure wash systems so you can dry the car completely. You do not want water spotting to damage the paint.

You could pay someone to clean your car if you can afford to. In today’s society, there are several mobile detail businesses available. Mobile detailers come to your vehicle’s location and perform similar services as going through automatic car washes. One key difference is it can be done better and without damage.

Please contact me in the comments section below with questions or suggestions. I can give you some ideas of what it might cost me to perform various detailing and cleaning services on your vehicles.

Please visit my photo gallery to see some of my detailing projects. Please feel free to leave your comments, tips, or questions below.

6 thoughts on “Say Goodbye to Automatic Car Wash Damage with These Tips!”

  1. Recently, Matt detailed my 2015 Honda Civic XL and the car looked better than when I bought it those seven years ago! It was spotless and clean inside and out; what a delight it was to drive it out into the sunshine looking so grand. It has been several weeks since then, with rain and a little snow, and my Civic continues to look better than new. I am grateful to Matt for showing me how great a vehicle can look and how much the correct care is important for the life of the car. He is knowledgeable, skilled, and meticulous to the point that he gives magic and positivity to the term “detailed!”

    • Thank you for the compliments, Sue. I am glad you are happy with my work on your Honda. Please keep coming back to the site and checking for my latest articles.
      Regards, Matt

  2. Matt, can you provide any suggestions for keeping the exterior clean when the weather is not conducive to thorough hand washing? I worry about the damage from salt and road chemicals during winter.

    • That is an excellent question, Kelly! First, thank you for visiting my site and taking the time to look around.
      You could take your vehicle to a high-wash pressure wash, where you can spray off the salt and road grime with water. Just be cautious not to scratch your car from the wash wand and pressure combined. I say this because I had done this before and had to repair the scratch. Also, if you use the complete services provided by the pressure wash system, ensure you dry the car after washing it, so you do not get water spotting. Another suggestion is to purchase a pump sprayer, a product from Mothers by the name of Mothers Professional instant detailer, and some quality microfiber towels.

      I will discuss these methods more thoroughly in future articles and let you know as I post them on my site.

      Best regards, Matt

  3. Hi Matt, I had no idea that the type of drying towel used after a car wash, automatic or by hand, could be so important. However, I took your suggestion and obtained some high-quality microfiber towels. They are amazing! As you said, they eliminate water spots from washing, rain, and any other reason, quickly, and I only need one to wipe down my car, pretty thoroughly. My question: I have heard that these towels lose some of their quality and can even damage the finish on a car when used after being placed in a washing machine with fabric softener or in the dryer with paper laundry softeners. Why does happen? Thank you!

    • Hello, Sue. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on microfiber towels.

      Your question about microfiber towel washing and drying is a great question.

      If you have washed and dried them with other clothing, which I have, you will see that since the fibers in the cloth are fine and split, they collect lint from your other laundry.

      Another thing I have noticed when drying my microfiber towels and using dryer sheets with them, all of the fabric softener sheets will cling to my microfiber.

      The microfiber will trap in the laundry fabric softeners, detergents, lint, and fibers from the dryer sheets. This clogs the microfiber towels, stiffens them, and could cause the microfiber to scratch the surfaces you are trying to dry or clean.

      When microfiber towels are new, you might notice they hold a static charge, allowing them to hold in and trap dirt, lint, and other debris.

      Please stay tuned, and I will post an article on how to care for your microfiber car wash towels.
      Thank you again for visiting my website, and I will update you when I post the article.

      Regards, Matt


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