Ch Automotive – Car maintenance tips and checklists

Reasons Not to Use Automatic Car Washes

Car washes are everywhere, and there’s no escaping that fact. If they’re everywhere, it means people are using them and there’s demand. Why, then, would we be writing about reasons not to use automatic car washes? The key is in the term “automatic” as opposed to the idea of a car wash. If your local car wash does hand car washing and detailing, then it’s a better option than an automatic one. Heading to shop online for professional car detailing products and getting the job done yourself is another good path.

Here are the reasons you should avoid automatic car washes if you can. It’s not to say one visit in a blue moon will do anything terrible, but think again for regular washing and detailing.

Reason 1: Dirty Bristles and Wipers

Whether you visit a car wash with rolling brushes or shifting cloth wipers, these cleaning elements are invariably dirty and covered in the debris and dirt of all the customers that come before you. Even those places that claim to clean these elements thoroughly each day, that’s only good news for the first customer of the day who will get a totally clean instrument to wash his car. Every customer after that is suffering.

Dirt and dust caught in these brushes and wipers is essentially then being rubbed or brushed onto your own vehicle’s surface, which can cause swirl marks and micro scratches that ultimately dull the paint’s colour and leave a very unattractive finish.

Reason 2: Harsh Chemicals

You might respond to the first criticism by pointing them to contactless car washes that don’t use either of these brushes or wipers, instead favouring “contactless” methods of high-pressure water jets and cleaning chemicals. These improve on some of the issues brought by traditional automatic car washes, but don’t eliminate problems altogether. First, the high-pressure water jets have to be set very strong to be effective, which can also do damage to your car over time.

More importantly, however, is the harsh nature of the chemicals that have to be used. Because there’s no physical contact, the operators have to be sure that their chemicals and water will be enough to get the job done. To ensure that, the chemicals need to be very strong. These can therefore be bad for your car’s paint, as well as to any paint protective coatings you have on there.

Reason 3: Inferior Drying

To date, no automatic car wash has been able to match the effectiveness of a well-prepared detailer or car washer armed with a fresh, clean microfiber cloth. Some of these car washes use air dryers, which if you’ve ever used hand dryers before you’ll know tend to fail in comprehensively drying the water off properly, which subsequently leads to unsightly water marks on the car’s paint.

Other car washes do offer hand drying, but the problem is that you have little or no control over the quality of the cloth being used to dry your car. You can’t be 100 percent sure they’re totally clean, and often the work happens so fast that it can be too late before swirl marks and other damage is being done.

Reason 4: Potential Damage to Wheel Alignment

One further risk of using automatic car washes is when they make use of rail systems that pull your car along. These can cause damage to your wheels, and may even result in your wheel alignment being forced slightly off. Even slightly irregular wheel alignment can have a serious effect on your car’s roadworthiness, and you’ll have to spend more money to get that corrected.


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