car going through car wash

Why You Should NEVER Use an Automatic Car Wash

Ron Buckley

Last Updated on June 20, 2023 by Chase Manhattan

It’s pretty common to stop at the nearest automatic car wash once you notice your car is getting dirty.

After all, it is important to keep your car clean to protect the paint, right? Yes, but…

Although automatic car washes are convenient, quick, and easy, they can actually do more harm than good! They are one of the leading causes of the different types of car scratches and are more prone to remove wax from your car during the process.

Here’s why your should NEVER use an automatic car wash!

[Waxing With A Buffer – Guide and Instructional]

Their Brushes are Packed with Dirt

Automatic car wash brushes are filled with dirt and grit. Although most dirt is washed away, the bristles still pick up a lot of debris.

This means you are basically having your car washed with a gritty, dirty towel… Similar to sandpaper at times.

The small chunks of dirt, stone, or whatever else that could be in those bristles rub against your car and create scratches and swirl marks.

I’ve seen several cars that have become filled with scratches because of automatic car washes.

[6 Common Causes of Car Scratches]

They Can Break Parts of Your Car


Automatic car washes can damage more than just your paint.

Antennas and rear windshield wipers are frequently snapped off. The bristles wrap around these parts and pull, bend, snap them apart.

I’ve had many people tell me about how an automatic car wash broke a part on their car. Do you really want to worry about getting these parts fixed?

What About Touchless Automatic Car Washes?

So what about touchless automatic car washes without brushes? Since there are no brushes or contact with the vehicle, it should be safe, right? Not quite.

Although touchless car washes seem to be a perfectly safe option, they can still cause damage.

touchless car wash entrance

Touchless car washes use very high pressure hoses.

If your vehicle has heavy amounts of dirt, the high pressure water stream can push dirt into the paint, causing scratches.

Additionally, they can cause paint to peel off the body, especially on older cars. The water stream can catch underneath the paint, making chips and flakes much larger.

Although touchless automatic car washes are a better option than touch car washes, they are still not perfectly safe.

[Related Aritcle: Car Clear Coat: What Is It?]

So How Can I Wash My Car in a Rush?

Without automatic car washes, you may have trouble finding time to properly hand wash your car, but there is another quick car wash option.

“Self-serve” car washes are safer because you have control over the washing process.

pressure washing car

Although a high pressure hose is still used, you have some control over the pressure and distance from the vehicle.

For areas with heavy dirt, spray further away and with lower pressure (usually controlled with the handle).

Self-serve car washes can often be found integrated with automatic car wash buildings, so they will not be hard to find. These are definitely the safest option when looking for a quick and easy way to wash your vehicle.

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