Are Touchless Car Washes Better for Your Car?

Wondering if a touchless car wash is the best option for your vehicle? We break down the pros and cons of this type of wash so you can make the decision

Touchless Car Wash

The best way to wash your car is to do it by hand, but who has time for that? It can be tempting to run the vehicle through an automated or touchless car wash just to get the job done quicker, but what’s safer for the car? Are touchless car washes better for your car than automated ones, or are they just as bad?

In this article, we evaluate reasons why the touchless car wash is good and a few that you should consider before visiting. We also look at ways you can protect your vehicle during a touchless wash.

Are Touchless Car Washes Better for Your Car?

The touchless car wash is better for those who don’t want dirty sponges and materials from scratching the car’s paint. However, some touchless car washes use high-pressure and harsh chemicals, which can also damage the paint.

So to decide if the touchless car wash is better for your car, you need to look at the types of touchless car washes and the regular car wash you are looking at. There are big differences between good and bad car washes. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each car wash.

What is a Touchless Car Wash?

The touchless car wash uses high-powered jet streams of water to remove dirt and grime. The car wash also utilizes stronger detergents to ensure a deeper clean. There are no rags or sponges touching the car, so the water must be strong enough to clean the surface.

You place your vehicle on a track, just as you would with a traditional car wash. The vehicle moves through the series of water jets and detergent sprays until it reaches the end. There is also a drying process that can be touchless as well. 

Touchless Car Wash Pros

1. Inexpensive

It doesn’t cost a lot to get a touchless car wash. In some locations, you can spend as little as $5 to get your vehicle washed. 

You might also visit an establishment with a loyalty system. If you can get a punch card or pre-pay for the washes, you might be able to drastically reduce the price. 

2. Convenient

If you need to get some bird droppings off of the car, but you don’t have time, the touchless car wash might be the best solution. You can run through the car wash in a matter of a few minutes.

If you were to hand wash the car, it could easily take an hour or more. Even the automated car wash can take far longer than the touchless option. 

3. Protects Car Parts

With the touchless car wash, fewer vehicle parts can be harmed. The looser body parts and antenna aren’t going to touch sponges or moving components that can lead to damage.

You can run through the touchless car wash without much worry about what could happen to these protruding parts. However, it’s still possible for damage to occur, which we will discuss next. 

Touchless Car Wash Cons

1. Forceful Water Pressure 

In the conventional car wash, friction is used to remove dirt and debris from the paint surface. With the touchless car wash, these materials aren’t used. To make up for that, extra force must be pumped out from the water jets.

Depending on the durability of the paint job, your car could become easily scratched or blemished from the high pressure. It can also cut right through the clear coat of a vehicle. 

2. Harsh Chemicals

Because friction isn’t used, the chemicals must also be more powerful. These harsh substances work with the high pressure to remove dirt. 

However, the harsh detergents can also start to break down the paint on your vehicle. It’s possible that the chemicals are not compatible with the clear coat on your vehicle, leaving the body work more susceptible to wear. 

3. Treated Water

Before the water can be used in a touchless car wash, it must first be treated. The company will run the water through a conditioning system to ensure it is softened.

However, this process involves added salts to remove the minerals that naturally flow through water. With the buildup of salt in the water, a film can be left behind on the car’s paint, leading to more damage down the road. 

Will Touchless Car Wash Clean the Vehicle?

The touchless car wash will never do as well as the hand wash can. However, it can be useful in a pinch. If you are looking for a quick refresh to get the majority of dirt off of the surface, the touchless car wash might work for you.

However, don’t be surprised if you drive out of the other side with some dirt remaining. You might also see some water spots left behind. Depending on what you are trying to accomplish, you may wonder if it’s worth driving your car through the wash at all. It may be better just to leave the dirt in place until you can hand wash it. To decide, you have to weigh the benefits versus the potential disadvantages. 

RELATED: How Much To Tip a Car Wash? (Attendant or Detailer)

Tips for Using Touchless Car Wash

If you determine that using the touchless car wash is your best option, there are a few ways to further protect your vehicle from harm. Here are a few tips to consider.

  • Check all windows and doors before driving through. You want everything to be tightly closed, ensuring that water doesn’t infiltrate the cabin.
  • If you control the speed that the vehicle moves, go especially slow through the dryers. The longer you can stay near the blowers, the fewer water spots will be left behind.
  • Carry a clean microfiber cloth with you. Once you exit the touchless car wash, you can wipe it down yourself to remove any more moisture that’s left behind. 
  • Look for ways to save money on the car wash. It’s possible that the establishment offers a loyalty discount. If the car wash is part of a gas station, you might also be able to save some money if you purchase a full tank of fuel too. 

By using caution, you can ensure the touchless car wash is safer. However, there’s nothing compared to taking the time needed to hand wash your vehicle. Try to set aside time monthly to wash your vehicle the right way if you want to further protect the paint.

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