At the Car Wash: Keeping Your Car Squeaky-Clean — and Damage-Free

Your car is your baby — and you want it to always look its best. So, you probably make sure to have it cleaned on a regular basis. As an added bonus, keeping your vehicle clean helps maintain its paint job, undercarriage and wheels, especially if you live in a rural area or one where salt is used on winter roads.

Many people decide to wash their cars by hand at home. But, if you’re an apartment dweller without a driveway, or if you’re just not into turning your driveway into a DIY car wash, there are several different kinds of car wash services to choose from. Where should you go?


If you want to wash your car yourself but can’t or don’t want to invest in a bunch of car cleaning supplies and hose down the family van in your driveway, a self-service car wash is the way to go. At a self-service car wash, you typically pay a fee and then use a water jet and foam brush to clean your own car. Some places provide towels for drying the vehicle, but you can also choose to bring your own. One perk of the self-service car wash is that they typically have a coin-operated vacuum cleaner, as well.

When might you choose a self-service car wash? Someone who likes to wash his car by hand but either can’t do so at home or likes to take advantage of professional tools and supplies might want to check out a self-service wash.

Hand-Wash Service

A hand wash car service provides specially trained employees who wash your car by hand. Next, the vehicle is thoroughly rinsed before it’s dried completely by hand with non-abrasive towels. In addition, the interior of the car is vacuumed. Such services can be offered at dedicated car wash businesses or, sometimes, in the parking garages of venues such as shopping malls. This is a thorough washing method, but occasionally, a car can be scratched up or damaged by inexperienced or careless employees. So, it might be a good idea to check online reviews of your potential car wash or ask about the employees’ training.

When might you choose a self-service car wash? If you want the attention to detail only a human being can provide — but you don’t want to get your hands soapy — or if you want your car washed while you shop, a hand-wash service may be the right choice for you.

Automated Car Wash 

An automated car wash uses brushes and cloth friction, with water and soap, to clean your vehicle. Sometimes, an automated car wash offers manual vacuuming and/or polishing services that can be purchased along with the car wash. Many people choose this type of car wash, especially in areas with relatively high amounts of abrasives, such as salt or sand on roads. However, some people find that the large brushes may scratch their cars and prefer other options.

One alternative to this type of automated car wash is a “touchless” system. In these car washes, the vehicle is only touched by water, soap and air. High-pressure hoses spray water and soap onto the car from all angles, loosening the dirt. After rinsing the vehicle, it passes through a blow-dry system. This is a popular method among people who don’t want to risk getting their cars scratched up.

When might you choose an automated car wash? If you’re in a hurry, an automated car wash can be a time-saver — but it’s smart to take some precautions. Keep an eye out for any warning signs posted at the car wash entrance — they often suggest removing any exterior items, such as antennae, to help avoid damage. If you have a pickup truck with an exposed bed, make sure the bed is empty.

Things to Keep in Mind

Ask around in your area where the best car wash is. Your mechanic or neighbor with the spotless import might be able to recommend a good place. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau or go online to read reviews. And, if you like doing your bit for the environment, it’s good to know you can also look for places that only use eco-friendly products.

Use the above list to choose the right type of car wash for you and enjoy clean, safe driving!

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