Car wash damage is very common, in fact its practically unavoidable. There are ways to reduce the risk.
It is nice to be able to drive a clean vehicle. Washing your vehicle often will
help maintain a good appearance, but it also helps fight against the damaging
effects of bugs, bird droppings, salt, etc. What is ironic is that a lot of
damage can occur while washing your vehicle!
This 2006 Chevy SS-R is very dull and hazy looking due to the millions of
tiny scratches caused by improper washing techniques.
When doing it yourself, improper washing techniques can cause scratching. Over time, your vehicles paint will develop that dull hazy look.
The worst car wash damage I have ever seen has been caused by automatic car
washes believe it or not!
Automatic car washes have positive qualities, but they also come with negative
ones as well. The automatic touch-less car washes are fine if you are in a hurry
and they won't scratch the paint. However because they don't apply friction to
remove the grime, touch-less washes aren't always effective. Especially if you
have a really dirty vehicle.
Automatic car washes that have the spinning brushes do provide the friction needed to remove the dirt. However I strongly recommend avoiding the automatic brush style car washes altogether.
A huge negative with the automatic brush style wash is you have no idea what
kind of debris is trapped in those brushes before you enter. For example, if a
muddy old truck went through the wash before you, guess what? Any mud trapped in
those spinning brushes is going to be grinding up your paint! The proof is in
This is a 2010 Camaro SS with 9000km's on the odometer. The owner ran this car through an automatic brush style wash. This is the worst car wash damage I have seen.
Here is another angle of the Camaro SS fender.
Here is the drivers side door of the same Camaro. This is pretty much how the majority of the car looked.
You can imagine how devastating it must have been to have spent 10 dollars on a
car wash which resulted in re-paint estimates of several thousand dollars.
The best way to fight against car wash damage is to wash your vehicle by hand.
When starting out, make sure you rinse off as much dirt/debris as possible. Use a soft wash mitt, a good quality car wash soap, and make sure your wash water is clean.
The best method of hand washing is to use the two bucket method. One bucket has clean soapy water, the other has just clean water in it. After each panel you wash, rinse the mitt off in the clean water bucket before dipping it back into the soapy water bucket. This helps keep the contaminants out of your soap bucket. If your rinse water gets too dirty dump it out and refill.
For added security, you can put grit guards in the bottom of each bucket. This will help keep the dirt at the bottom and the clean water at the top.
The 2 bucket method. Notice there are 2 wash mitts. The new one I use for paint, the old one for wheel wells. If you decide to wash your wheel wells first, do not use the same water or wash mitt on your paint!
If you can't wash your vehicle at home, try to go to a do it yourself style car wash. You can bring your own wash mitt if you choose. If you use a brush that the car wash has supplied, make absolutely sure that the bristles are clean. When using a brush don't apply too much pressure. They have been a popular cause of car wash damage too!
Hopefully this page will give you a better understanding of which car wash
methods are beneficial, and which ones to avoid completely.