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Can Car Washes Damage Your Car?


Do you wash your car yourself by hand? Or, do you prefer taking it to the nearest automatic car wash? Can car washes damage your car? This question might have popped up in your mind many times, and today we have decided to answer it.

To uncomplicate the answer, yes, car washes use harsh chemicals or abrasive material to remove grime and dirt, damaging your car finish. All types of car washes, whether a hand wash, a brush on rollers, soft-touch, or touch-less car wash, tend to have an adverse effect on the car’s paint.

However, most of the newer cars have a top coating that prevents scratches, swirls, and chipping. Resultantly, such cars hold their ‘factory-glow’ for at least up to 10 years.

Can Car Washes Damage Your Car?

There are many car wash technologies available today. Let’s look at how they affect your cars:

Traditional Tunnel Car Wash:

A traditional car wash usually has brushes at the end of rollers to remove dirt and grit from your car. They are commonly known to chip car paint due to still brushes and leave dirt spots or water spots behind.

Car Wash Tunnel

However, brushes with much softer bristles have entered the market with time. Furthermore, these brushes have a lesser tendency to hold on to the filth and grit from previous washes than a cloth scrub does. Resultantly, they cause relatively less damage.

Soft Touch Car Wash:

Soft-touch car washes deploy cloth on rollers mounted on the ceilings and relatively milder soap foam. They came in the market claiming to gently work over your car body, leading to dirt removal without damage.

However, cloth scrubbers retain the debris and dirt from all previous car washes. This build-up of abrasives damages puts your car at risk of micro-scratches on a clear coat.

Touch-less Car Washes:

Touch-less car washes use high-pressure water and air to bring back your car’s shine. These car washes are beneficial in the sense that they do not come into contact with your car. Resultantly, no abrasive or sharp material stuck in the scrubbers can scratch your car.

However, they do not provide as good of a wash, and some hand-cleaning is required after it. Moreover, they eject water at a very high pressure (2200 psi approximately), which can cause the dirt and debris to further embed in your car.

Washing by Hand to Prevent Car Damage:

Hand washing your car might be a better option, but it carries its own risks. Washing your car directly in the sun can soften the paint and leave water spots behind.

Similarly, using incorrect soap can destroy the protective wax coating of the car. Sometimes, people do not use the right amount of water to remove dirt safely. Also, if you are using the same sponge to clean the painted surface of your cars and tires, you are unknowingly scratching your car with sharp abrasives stuck in them.


Therefore, if you plan to wash your car by hand, you must take care of the following things to avoid damage:

  • Segregate the scrubbers
  • Use specialized soap
  • Avoid washing in the sun

Can Car Washing damage the electrical system of Your Car?

In general, a car wash should not damage any electrical components inside the car. However, washing the engine bay must be done carefully as it can damage the engine as well as the battery. Any water that enters the alternators, sensors, or intake valves can lead to irreversible damage.

Furthermore, you should avoid spraying water on hot engine parts. Let your engine cool down before putting it in contact with any water. Otherwise, you might find your components melting.

If you plan an undercarriage car washing, you should take your car to a professional.

Can Car Wash Damage Lower the Resale Value?

The worst thing about car wash damage is that it is blatantly visible to the naked eye. Car wash damage means the exterior of your car lacks the gleam and glow of newness and carries an unappealing appearance.

Such cars are usually hard to please the buyers with, even if you have an excellent dealer to help you out. Compared to cars with a finer exterior, cars with scratches, marks, or chipped paint experience a lower resale value by almost 10-20%.

Keep Your Car Clean for Longer Times:

If you park your car under the sky, you might end up with a dirty car more often than you like. Taking it to an automatic car wash, a professional hand clean, or cleaning it yourself is not only costly but also time-consuming.

On the other hand, leaving your car dirty is also not an option since it can damage important car parts. So, what should you do?

Fortunately, there are many products that offer a ceramic coating over your car’s exterior. These products have hydrophobic properties that prevent dirt and grime from sticking onto the car body. They also rinse off any dirt and debris from the paintwork when it rains.

Cleaning Tools You Need for a Car Wash at Home:

If you end up deciding to clean your car at home instead of taking it to an automatic car wash, you need to have the right tools for it. Here’s what you should have:

  • Water supply
  • A variable nozzle hose – to change the water pressure as required
  • Microfibre clothes – to avoid any scratches while cleaning or drying
  • A soft sponge and car washing liquid – the basic ingredients for removing the dirt
  • Buckets of water – you will need different buckets for different purposes, like for clean water, dirty water where you clean the used clothes, and once for the cleaning solution
  • Vacuum cleaner – in case you want to remove dust and particles from the interior

With all the right tools already available at your disposal, you can start with the cleaning right away!

Take Away:

So, the next time you decide to wash your car, you now know that some part of the damage is inevitable. But you can definitely lessen the effect by using quality products for washing the car by hand or using the right type of automatic car wash.

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