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An automatic car wash is a convenient way to keep your vehicle clean and shiny, but some common mistakes can lead to costly damage. To avoid these issues, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks and take precautions to prevent them.
This article explores the top mistakes to avoid at an automatic car wash. By following these tips, you can ensure that your vehicle stays in perfect condition and that you get the most out of your automatic car wash experience.

Using the Wrong Type of Car Wash

When it comes to automatic car washes, not all options are created equal. Both touchless and friction-based car washes have their own set of benefits and drawbacks, and choosing the wrong type can potentially lead to damage on your vehicle.

To ensure the best outcome for your car, it is advisable to seek the expertise of car wash technicians. These experienced professionals possess in-depth knowledge of various automatic car wash systems and can guide you in selecting the most suitable option for your vehicle’s specific needs.

By consulting expert car wash technicians, you can make an informed decision and avoid any potential risks associated with using the wrong type of automatic car wash. Their guidance will help you maintain the appearance and condition of your vehicle while ensuring it receives the appropriate care and attention it deserves.

Touchless Car Washes

Touchless car washes use high-pressure water and chemicals to clean the vehicle without physically touching it. While these car washes are gentle on the vehicle’s paint and finish, they may not completely remove heavy dirt and debris.

Friction-Based Car Washes

Friction-based car washes use brushes or cloth to scrub the vehicle physically. This car wash provides more thorough cleaning, but there is a risk of damage to the vehicle’s paint and finish if the brushes or clothes are too abrasive or dirty.

Before choosing an automatic car wash, it’s important to consider the type appropriate for your vehicle. A touchless car wash may be the best choice if your vehicle has a delicate paint job or finish. However, a friction-based car wash may be necessary if your vehicle has heavy dirt or mud build-up.

Not Removing Loose Items

Before an automatic car wash, removing any loose items from the car is important. Loose items include trash, debris, and personal belongings. Any item not securely attached to the vehicle can cause damage to the car wash equipment and potentially damage your vehicle.

Loose items can fly around during the wash process and cause scratches or dents to your car. They can also become lodged in the car wash equipment and cause damage to the machinery. Check your car for any loose items before entering the automatic car wash to avoid mishaps.

Neglecting to Pre-Wash the Vehicle

It’s crucial to pre-wash it to ensure the best possible results and prevent any potential damage. Pre-washing helps to remove heavy dirt, mud, and debris, which can cause damage to your vehicle’s paint and finish during the wash.

Here are some tips for pre-washing your vehicle:

  1. A high-pressure hose removes heavy dirt and mud from the vehicle’s surface.
  2. Apply a pre-wash solution to loosen any remaining dirt or grime.
  3. Use a soft-bristled brush or sponge to gently scrub the vehicle’s surface, paying special attention to the areas with heavy dirt or grime.
  4. Rinse the vehicle thoroughly to remove any remaining dirt and pre-wash solution.

By following these steps, you can ensure that your vehicle is properly pre-washed before entering the automatic car wash, which will help to prevent any potential damage and ensure a more thorough cleaning.

Failing to Follow Instructions

One of the most common mistakes people make at automatic car washes is failing to follow the provided instructions. Many car washes have specific instructions on preparing your vehicle for the wash, including turning off windshield wipers, folding in side mirrors, and ensuring all windows are closed to prevent damage. Not following these instructions can result in damage to your vehicle and potentially the car wash equipment as well.

Why is it important to follow instructions?

Car washes have specific instructions for a reason, and failing to follow them can cause harm to your vehicle. For example, leaving your windshield wipers on during the wash can cause them to become damaged or even break off. Similarly, not folding in your side mirrors can result in them being hit and potentially broken as well.

Additionally, some car washes have sensors that detect whether or not windows are closed. If they are not closed, the system may automatically shut down and stop the wash, causing inconvenience for other customers or adding more time to your wait.

How can I avoid this mistake?

The best way to avoid this mistake is to carefully read and follow the instructions provided at the automatic car wash. Take a few extra moments to ensure that windshield wipers are off, side mirrors are properly positioned, and all windows are closed before entering the wash. Doing so can prevent damage to your vehicle and the car wash equipment.

Leaving Excess Soap or Chemicals

One common mistake people make at automatic car washes is leaving excess soap or chemicals on their vehicle after the wash. While the car wash is designed to remove dirt and grime, excess soap or chemicals can cause harm to your vehicle’s paint and finish.

To avoid this issue, it’s important to choose a car wash that uses high-quality cleaning solutions and to ensure that the rinse cycle is thorough. If you notice any excess soap or chemicals remaining on your vehicle after the wash, rinse it off with a hose or bucket of water.

Additionally, avoid parking your vehicle in direct sunlight after the wash, as this can cause the soap or chemicals to dry on your vehicle and potentially damage the paint.

Neglecting to Dry the Vehicle Properly

After going through an automatic car wash, it’s crucial to dry the vehicle properly. Neglecting to do so can lead to water spots and potential damage to the paint and finish of the car. Here are some tips for effective drying:

  1. Use a clean, soft cloth or microfiber towel to wipe down the vehicle’s surface gently.
  2. Start at the top and work your way down, ensuring that all water has been removed.
  3. Pay special attention to areas that hold water, such as door handles and mirrors.
  4. Use an air blower or a squeegee to remove excess water if possible.

Properly drying your vehicle after an automatic car wash can avoid potential damage and keep your car looking its best.

Skipping Regular Maintenance

Regular maintenance is crucial to keep your vehicle running smoothly. This is especially true after going through an automatic car wash. Neglecting regular maintenance can lead to issues down the line, such as damaged parts and costly repairs.

After going through an automatic car wash, it’s important to check for any potential damage to the vehicle. This includes checking for scratches, dents, and other damage that may have occurred during the wash. If you notice any damage, it’s best to fix it immediately to prevent further issues.

Regular Maintenance Checklist:
Check windshield wipers for damage and proper function
Inspect headlights and taillights for bulbs that need to be replaced
Check tire pressure and tread depth
Inspect brakes for any wear and tear
Check fluid levels, including oil and coolant

Following this checklist ensures that your vehicle is in top condition after going through an automatic car wash. This will help prevent any potential problems down the line and keep your vehicle running smoothly.

When to Schedule Maintenance

You should schedule regular maintenance for your vehicle every 6 months or every 5,000 miles, whichever comes first. This will help keep your vehicle in top condition and prevent any issues from arising. You can enjoy a safe and reliable driving experience by staying on top of regular maintenance.

Overusing Automatic Car Washes

Automatic car washes are convenient for busy individuals who want a quick and easy way to clean their vehicles. However, knowing the potential risks associated with overusing automatic car washes is important.

Frequent visits to automatic car washes can lead to scratches, paint damage, and other issues that can be costly to repair. The brushes and cleaning agents used in automatic car washes can be abrasive and cause damage to the vehicle’s finish, especially if used too often.

While automatic car washes are convenient, it is important to consider alternative washing methods to reduce the need for constant car wash visits. Hand washing your vehicle with a bar of gentle soap and soft cloth can be an effective alternative.

It is also important to note that overusing automatic car washes can contribute to environmental issues. The runoff from car wash facilities can contain harmful chemicals that pollute waterways and harm aquatic life.

Overall, it is best to use automatic car washes in moderation and to be aware of the potential risks associated with overuse. Consider alternative washing methods and be mindful of the potential environmental impact.

Improperly Using Self-Service Options

Self-service car washes are a great option for those who prefer to wash their vehicles. However, using these options correctly is important to prevent damage to your car and to the car wash equipment. Here are some essential tips to keep in mind:

  • Read the instructions carefully before beginning.
  • Use the correct settings for your vehicle, such as the appropriate water pressure and temperature.
  • Avoid using abrasive brushes or sponges that can scratch your car’s paint.
  • Begin by rinsing your car thoroughly to remove any loose dirt or debris.
  • Apply soap or detergent evenly to avoid leaving any spots or streaks.
  • Rinse your car thoroughly once again to remove any cleaning solution residue.
  • Dry your car with a clean, soft towel or chamois.

Self-service car washes can be a cost-effective and efficient way to clean your vehicle. By following these tips, you’ll ensure that your car remains in great condition while also avoiding any potential mishaps in the car wash.


Being aware of the common mistakes to avoid at an automatic car wash is crucial for maintaining the integrity and appearance of your vehicle. By understanding these pitfalls and taking necessary precautions, you can ensure a safe and effective car wash experience.

One of the most important aspects is selecting the right type of automatic car wash that suits your vehicle’s needs. Whether it’s a touchless or friction-based system, knowing the differences and choosing accordingly can prevent potential damage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I remove my antenna before going through an automatic car wash?

Removing your antenna before going through the car wash is a good idea to prevent any potential damage. If your antenna is not removable, fold or secure it before entering the wash.

Is using an automatic car wash safe if my car has aftermarket modifications?

It depends on the type of modifications. It’s best to consult with the manufacturer or installer of the modifications to see if they are compatible with automatic car washes. Additionally, inform the car wash attendant of any modifications before entering.

Can I leave my car in neutral during an automatic car wash?

No, keeping your car in the park during the wash is important to prevent any potential accidents. Make sure to follow any other specific instructions provided at the wash.

Why is drying my car after an automatic car wash important?

Drying your car after an automatic car wash is important to prevent water spots and potential damage to your vehicle’s paint and finish. Use a clean, soft towel and thoroughly dry all parts of your vehicle.