If you care about how your car looks and take pride in its appearance, car wash damage is the last thing you want. However, it is important to clean and maintain it regularly. Washing and polishing your vehicle not only enhances its appearance but can also extend its life. Additionally, a fresh interior and complete car sanitization ensures a safe and comfortable ride for you and your passengers. If you want to avoid car wash scratches and other damage, choose your car wash or auto detailer wisely. If you don’t, here is some of the damage your car could sustain:
Car Wash Damage – What Can Go Wrong
1. Car Wash Scratches and Chips
The paintwork of your car can be at risk at an automatic car wash. While the newer automatic car washes have high-grade brushes to minimize the risk of causing car wash damage, you only need to get unlucky once. High numbers of vehicles can pass through an automatic car wash in one day. As a result, contaminants from each car can get in the brushes or soft cloths. If this grit and dirt transfers to your car, then it could leave visible car wash scratches. Note, there is a difference between paint transfer vs paint scratch. The latter leaves cuts or indentations on your paintwork.
In particular, car wash scratches and chips can be a problem during the winter season when salt and grit accumulates on de-iced roads. If you are using a car wash to get the road grit off your car, how many other people are doing the same? If the brushes are not properly cleaned and maintained, car wash damage can occur. A hand car wash using steam cleaning technology is a better alternative if you want to protect car paintwork.
2. Noticeable Swirl Marks
Swirl marks are another common type of car paint damage that can easily occur at a car wash. Rotating stiff bristle brushes can do a great job at removing dirt and grime from your car but can also leave behind noticeable swirl marks on your car’s clear coat. You’ll notice the swirls more on black, deep blue and other dark-colored cars compared to white or lighter shades, especially if the light hits your paintwork in a certain way. Swirl marks can also occur if your detailing provider uses a rough or dirty towel to dry your car after washing. The best way to avoid swirl marks and car wash scratches is to take extra care when using any materials, tools or machine parts that make physical contact with your car.
3. Obvious Signs of Water Spots
Not all types of car washes or all detailing providers can guarantee consistently immaculate results. Water spots on the paintwork can really detract from the polished appearance of your freshly washed car. It is a problem that generally occurs during the summer months and can be caused when washing your car in direct sunlight. Droplets of water that quickly dry in hot weather will leave behind unsightly spots and marks on the surface of your car. If this happens, elbow grease can save the day. Hand drying a car with a clean, soft microfiber towel might involve extra effort but it will help to keep your paintwork in pristine condition.
An experienced detailer will be aware of the pitfalls of washing a car in direct sunlight and will know the steps to take to avoid car wash damage, such as water-spotting. For example, applying a high-quality wax coating will act as a protective barrier to help prevent both water spots and sun damage to car paint.
4. Bent or Broken Windshield Wipers
Watch out for your windshield wipers if you visit a drive through car wash. The powerful force of the water jets and the rapidly moving brushes have been known to dislodge or snap off windshield wipers. Be extra careful if you have rain-sensing wipers. Make sure they are in the OFF position before you enter the car wash, otherwise they can be triggered by the water and easily become bent out of shape.
5. Ripped Upholstery or Carpets
Professional car interior detailing includes vacuuming carpets and upholstery to remove dust, crumbs and any dirt transferred from outside on shoes and boots. However, your detailing provider must use tools and equipment that are in good condition, otherwise they can cause more harm than good. For example, broken attachments, such as a crevice tool or an upholstery nozzle with sharp metal or plastic edges can snag or rip upholstery or carpets, especially if someone is vigorously vacuuming an area to remove stubborn dirt.
Using the wrong cleaning products can also easily damage upholstery, especially if you have leather seats that require specialist cleaning. Removing stains and stubborn dirt marks from upholstery often needs extra attention but harsh cleaning chemicals are not the answer. Upholstery cleaning with steam is a great alternative and works effectively on all types of fabric. This technology uses the minimum amount of water, which also makes it an eco-friendly way to clean the inside of your car.
6. Car Wash Damage Includes Broken Mirrors
It is worth weighing up the pros and cons of an automated car wash vs hand car wash if you want to prevent car wash damage. If you do decide to use automatic car wash, it is important to check that all external parts such as wipers (see above), antennae and mirrors are secure. A loose mirror can completely fall off when it is hit with high-pressurized jets of water or rotating cloths or brushes.
A sensible precaution is to always fold in your mirrors before the car washing begins. If protecting your car from damage is the top priority, a hand car wash takes a more slow and steady approach. This will help to avoid problems, such as damaged mirrors. However, the right cleaning techniques, tools, towels, sponges and detergents must also be used to ensure a safe, gentle and effective clean.
7. Damaged or Scratched Wheels
Unfortunately, some people do find they have damaged wheels after a visit to a drive-through car wash. This includes scratches, nicks or even dents on rims that have rubbed against the track. Not only does it look unsightly, wear and tear as a result of regular visits to an automatic car wash may affect the alignment of your wheels over time. Extreme care must be taken when pulling onto the automatic car wash conveyor track. In particular, cars fitted with low profile tires or wider wheels can run into trouble. If you like the quickness of an automatic car wash but want to protect your wheels from car wash scratches as much as possible, go for a touchless wash that moves around your car.
You risk car wash damage if you end up at the wrong car wash or hire the services of an inexperienced auto detailer. Out-of-date equipment, harsh bristle brushes, high-pressurized water, chemical-heavy cleaning foams and soaps, track conveyor systems or careless cleaning techniques can result in car wash scratches or worse. The seasons can also indirectly contribute to problems during car washing. For example, salt and grit transferred from car wash brushes onto your paintwork or washing your car in direct sunlight can spoil the appearance of your vehicle.