How Does Car Washing Affect The Electrical System


Water and electricity don’t mix well. But how do the electronics in a car stay safe when it’s washed? This is something that may worry beginners. I can’t count how many newbies asked me: Why would washing your car affect the electrical system?

Well, that’s what we are here to find out. As a car owner, you should know what can and can’t be washed in your car. Here’s a guide on how to avoid damaging the electrical system while washing the car.

Washing the exterior of a car won’t cause any electrical damage. Improper washing of the interior can cause potential damage. The electronics are most exposed to danger when washing the engine bay.

Can Washing Damage The Car Electrical System

Can Washing Damage The Car Electrical System

Car washing is a wide term. There is exterior, interior, engine, and undercarriage washing. The cleaning process is different for each of these.

For example, water is a must on exterior washing. For the interior, you just need cleaners and a cloth. Different tools are used, depending on what part of the car you are washing.

So, not every type of car washing can affect the electronics and cause a dead battery. Let’s explain this thoroughly.

Car Exterior Washing

I think most of you know that exterior washing is safe. There’s no way you can harm the battery or the electronics when you are washing the car’s body.

Cars are designed in a way where the electronics and crucial components are protected from incoming water. So, no matter where the water is flowing, it won’t reach anything important.

Both the engine compartment and the battery are safe when you are washing the exterior.

Don’t be worried about incoming water in the hood. That amount of water won’t do anything. Also, it goes straight to the ground. Any components that it may touch are protected.

In conclusion, when washing the exterior, you don’t need to worry about any damage to the electrical system.

Car Interior Washing

Washing the interior is a bit different, however. Don’t get me wrong, if you are cleaning the interior properly, there’s no way you will damage something.

In the interior, the electronics are relatively protected. It depends on the car model you have. There may be wires exposed but not in reachable places.

The thing is, you can’t really wash the interior with water. You use upholstery cleaners, seat cleaners, and a vacuum cleaner. The mats are cleaned with water but that’s done outside, so nothing to worry about.

Water has to penetrate through the radio, the board, or through the AC for damage to occur. If you are only using cleaners with a microfiber cloth, there’s no way that can happen.

You just spray the cleaners and you wipe. There’s no time for the solution to reach any exposed electrical power. Also, the amount of liquid is minimal, so everything is safe.

To sum up, car interior washing is also safe for the electrical system. As long as you are doing the cleaning right.

Engine Bay Washing

Engine Bay Washing

Now, here is the dangerous part. I believe most of you came here specifically for washing the engine block.

For those of you who don’t know, the engine is washed with a degreaser. After you degrease the engine, you need to rinse with a garden hose or a power washer. And that’s what the tricky part is.

The engine bay has some electrical components that can be damaged by water. These are protected but still, you can’t be sure. More so, the battery is really close to the engine. Too many gallons of water can cause major damage, leaving you with a dead battery.

So, when it comes to the engine compartment, washing can affect the electrical system a lot. Washing the engine bay is an intricate process, so you need to pay attention.

There is a way to avoid this though. You just remove the battery from the car. Or, you just disconnect the negative terminal to stop the electrical current.

You can also cover the electrical components with a plastic bag as an extra security measure. Allow for sufficient time to pass before adding the battery again.

We have a guide on how to clean the engine bay, check it out. 7 Easy Steps to Wash Your Car Engine Bay Like a Pro.

Undercarriage Washing

Washing the undercarriage is also complicated. Fortunately, you can’t damage any electrical components there. But you can cause damage to some essential vehicle components though.

I don’t recommend DIY undercarriage washing. It’s best to pay a professional to do that. Undercarriage washing requires a lot of tools and expertise. You also need to know whether you can spray water under your car.

That’s it. I just wanted to let you know that undercarriage washing can’t cause electrical damage. In case you were concerned about that.

If you notice anything wrong with the battery life or after an undercarriage wash, take your car for regular maintenance. Professional mechanics do an electrical system check, they will tell you what’s wrong.

To find out how to wash the undercarriage, check out our guide. The Dummies Guide To Undercarriage Wash Your Car.

How To Protect The Battery When Washing Car

How To Protect The Battery When Washing Car

As I said, the electrical system is quite safe when you are washing the car. The only time you need to be worried is when you are washing something close to electrical components.

Whenever you are washing the car, and you are worried about damaging the electronics, just take some precautions.

  • When you are washing the interior.
    Make sure that you don’t spray too much of the cleaner. Wipe it quickly, and don’t let it spill inside. Maybe don’t spray the cleaner on the edges of the radio. Avoid spraying cleaners on stuff with holes.
  • When you are washing the engine bay. 
    This is where you need to take every precaution available. Either remove the whole battery or just the negative terminal. This will cut off the current. Electrical components can be covered with a plastic bag. Make sure everything is tight though. Also, be precise when rinsing, don’t spray water everywhere.
  • During cold weather.
    In hot climates, the water dries up pretty quickly. When it’s cold though, the water dries slowly. More so, it can freeze before it evaporates. When that happens, any droplets on the E components can cause damage. Just don’t wash your car while it’s freezing outside. While it’s hot, those droplets are harmless, not the same when it’s freezing though.

Related Questions And Other FAQs

Should I Clean My Car’s Engine

The engine bay is often overlooked when it comes to car washing. Every car engine should be cleaned from time to time. You can either pay for a wash or wash it yourself using a degreaser. Be careful not to damage any electrical components while washing the engine bay.

Do Automatic Car Washes Damage Your Car

An automatic car wash won’t damage any engine components or electrical components. They are bad for the paint finish though.

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