As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Can You Go Through a Car Wash With Roof Rails?


Sometimes there is just too much luggage to carry in your car, and the trunk simply cannot fit elongated items such as wipers. A roof rail is an ideal solution. However, roof rails are not commonplace, and hence a question arises, can you go through a car wash with roof rails?

The short answer is yes, you can. Roof rails do not obstruct visibility, and hence you can drive through a car wash with ease.

Certain things are to be noted on safe washing practices for roof rails. Keep reading to find out how to protect your car and rail at the car wash.

Do we really need roof rails anyway?

People often confuse roof rails with roof racks. A roof rail is attached along the length of a car’s roof on both sides. It is not a full rack. Instead, it is used to transport less weight than a roof rack.

The need for a roof rail arises when people tend to carry a lot of cargo. It becomes particularly useful on long road trips and when moving houses.

Roof rails are built aerodynamically. They also do not obstruct the driver’s vision as they take up very less space on the roof.

Some people would rather opt for roof racks, but roof rails provide a sleek design. For example, check out the Basics Universal Cross Rail Roof Rack on Amazon.

What are the possible risks of going through a car wash with roof rails?

There is a very small chance of irreparable damage at a car wash. However, one can experience minor damage to the roof rail at times. Here are some of the risks that you can face at the car wash.

Car Wash With Roof Rails 2

Scratching of Paint

A car wash is designed to wipe the roof with brushes. Scratching brushes are used mainly, and these may have particles of sand or dirt that brush against the rails. This can lead to the car’s surface being eroded.

Excess Friction

Friction may lead to paint on the rails rubbing off, ruining the aesthetics. However, there is no space between a car’s roof and the roof rail, unlike roof racks at the car wash. This means that the part of the roof below the rail will be protected.

Dislodging of Bristles

Often, brush bristles drop and stay on the car roof, making the paint look stretched. Unfortunately, this also reduces the shine of the roof rail, which is known for its sleek look.

However, one must be diligent during the whole process to ensure that no cleaning brush gets caught on the rail.


Brushes may get stuck on the roof rail. In addition, it can rip off the rail if done with high force, such as in automatic and tunnel washes.


If the roof rail is not painted and coated, continuous exposure to water and soap can lead to rusting and corrosion. This can give the car roof an unruly look.

What is the safest way to clean your roof rails at a car wash?

The most foolproof practice to protect both your roof rail and your car is to detach it and wash it separately (Surprise, surprise!). Removing the roof rail also prevents hesitation on the part of the car washer.

If you must keep your roof rail on, or if you are too lazy to remove it, these are the best ways to protect your car:

Opt for Handwashing

This method ensures 100% safety for your roof rails. People who hand wash a car tend to take more care to avoid damage. Yes, handwashing can be tiring. Consider it as exercise if you want to protect your car’s roof without worry.

Moreover, automated brushes combined with high-pressure jet sprays can easily rip off paint. That is something you want to avoid.

Understand which Car Wash is Better

If you cannot opt for handwashing, you need to pay attention to other types of car washes.

Automated or tunnel wash is done with high force. If a brush gets caught underneath a rail by chance, it is likely to rip it off the car. This will destroy the car in both aesthetic and functional terms.

In brushless washing, the procedure is almost the same. However, microfiber cloths are used instead of brushes. The risk of bristles being dropped is removed.

In touchless washing, neither cloth nor brush is used. The sprays dispel water and chemicals, which then flow through the car’s exterior. This is safer than the above two methods. However, one must ensure that there are no water puddles or corrosion due to chemicals.


If your car is not new or freshly painted, take a trip in the rain before your scheduled car wash. You can also wash it slightly by yourself.

This will help remove a lot of dirt. In addition, this places less pressure on the actual car wash, which can be done gently.

After Wash Care

In any type of washing that you adopt, it is in your car’s best interests to wipe it clean once it is done. There might be water dripping all over the car. Even after the car is dry, it is prudent to check in nooks and corners for puddles of water.

Microfiber cloths are best suited for such purposes. They have the least amount of friction and apply very less force.


Besides the above factors, your car’s making can also play a role. Some come with factory rails pre-installed. Some car models have roof rails with crossbars.

The answer to the question “can you go through a car wash with roof rails?” is an absolute yes. However, it is better if one always keeps safety precautions in mind.

In case of any damage to the car, contact both the car wash company and the manufacturer. It is better to keep an eye on the car warranty and car wash policies.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top