Avoid Drive Thru Car Washes!
Drive thru car washes have the appeal of quick, convenient and inexpensive service. Some local car washes clean hundreds of cars a day and charge an average of 15-20 dollars which is what really gets people in the door. They can have your car cleaned and out the door in under ten minutes for there basic services and are located in high traffic areas making them very convenient. That being said this is not the best practice to maintain your vehicle. There are many factors to consider before taking your car to a tunnel wash.
When your car is sent through the wash tunnel it is soaked in highly concentrated chemicals that speed up the cleaning process. These mixtures allow them to do a high volume of cars. This can cause damage to the finish of the many of the surfaces of the car. The paint can be damaged if the chemicals are not fully rinsed off the surface and they dry. It can stain chrome, plastic and rubber trim since the rinse process is not as thorough as a professional detail shop. The chemicals can also strip any waxes or sealants on the car.
They do offer waxing services but they are generally cheap and don’t last. Water spotting is another big issue, not properly drying the car will result in water spots etching into the clear coat. The only way to remove these is through some sort of polishing which will cost you much more in the long run. They also use cheap interior dressings that leave your interior shiny and slick. This looks cheap, attracts dirt and dust, damages surfaces and transfers to your clothing as you sit in the car.
These washes tend to hire people for the lowest hourly wage possible. They have to do this to be profitable and stay in business. Unfortunately this translates to people touching your cars finish that either aren’t trained properly or who really don’t care about being careful with your vehicle. This can cause damage during the drying process or just an incomplete clean up due to the lack of experience of these workers.
Although the brushes inside of these facilities have improved over the years from the old school nylon style brushes they still can cause damage. Some washes use an extreme amount of force on the surface on the vehicle which in turn harms the clear coat causing swirls and scratches. The brushes see hundreds if not thousands of cars a week and they are bound to get dirty. The dirt trapped in the brushes combined with extreme force can really wreck a car’s finish. This will eventually dull down the paint or potentially cause irreversible damage. As noted in the first section about chemicals you will then have to have the car polished to restore its finish.
Damage to Exterior
Go to any car wash and you can see cars coming out missing mirrors, wiper blades, emblems or even wheel covers. This can be caused by either high water pressure or the fibers from the brushes getting caught on the exterior components of the car. These repairs can be very costly and your quick wash is now going to cost you a lot more time than anticipated. They will also try to replace your cars parts with cheaper aftermarket alternatives. You could have gone to a reputable detailer and paid less in the end for a much better result.
Watch the workers at the end wash process as they dry the car. They use one towel to wipe down all surfaces of the car. The wheels, tires, door jambs, paint and glass all get a quick wipe down from the same towel. This is not the safest practice since the wheels are generally still a bit dirty along with the door jambs. This dirt is transferred to the towel and then wiped on the paint causing scratching and swirls. After all that is done they generally use the towel in the same method on the next few cars. This means you may have 5-10 cars ahead of you that were touched up and that dirt is now causing damage to your car. I have seen on many occasions towels get dropped on the ground and picked right back up and put on the paint. This means anything from the dirty parking lot is also now rubbing against the paint.
These are just a few examples of what the negative effects of a drive thru wash can have on your car. It is easy to get sucked into these places since its quick and inexpensive but it’s doing more harm than good in most cases. This is definitely a case of you get what you pay for. If you can’t get your car into a local detail shop its better to leave it dirty until you can schedule an appointment or do it yourself. For a few hundred dollars or less you can have all the essentials to do your own safe washes. There are many articles on proper methods and supplies all over the internet. If you have any questions or would like me to take a look at your vehicle, please don’t hesitate to reach out! I love working with new clients.