No matter where you live, dirt, grime, and bugs can stick to your car and make even new cars look shabby. Many drivers pay a few bucks and drive their vehicle through a touchless car wash to keep it shining like the day they got it.
There’s a good chance that you’ve done this very thing without questioning it at some point in your life. So are touchless car washes nothing more than a gimmick?
Today, we’re looking beyond the soap and suds of touchless car washes to find the dirty truth. Are they effective at keeping your car clean? Let’s see!
What Is the Difference Between Touchless and Soft-Touch Car Wash?
Touchless and soft-touch car washes have the same goal, but where they differ is how they achieve it.
A soft-touch car wash typically uses a foam soap and friction from felt cloths to remove dirt and debris. On the other hand, nothing ever touches your vehicle except soap and water with a touchless car wash. Which one you choose is often a matter of convenience as there are pros and cons to choosing each.
Many choose touchless car washes out of fear of scratching their vehicles. However, they often do a sub-par job of getting your vehicle clean. They’re not perfect and often struggle to get into nooks and crannies. You can pay a pretty penny at some of these locations, but you may not be happy with the results.
If you’re trusting your expensive car to a soft-touch car wash, you better choose the right one. These car washes use the same felt cloths to remove dirt from vehicles.
Any gunk missed during the initial rinse can stick to the felt cloths and create tiny surface scratches in your beautiful paint job. If a facility is not thoroughly cleaning the felt, you may be doing more harm than good to your vehicle.
Did you know: Premium gas is (often) a gimmick.
Do Touchless Car Washes Cause Swirls?
Many people who have experienced swirls from car washes experience them from soft-touch car washes, not touchless. Because touchless car washes don’t do anything besides spray water at your vehicle, you’re not likely to experience swirling in your vehicle’s paint.
One of the biggest causes of swirl marks in a vehicle is the drying process. Some facilities will hand dry your vehicle to avoid leaving water spots. However, not all facilities take the time to clean their rags thoroughly or will continue using them even after dropping them on the ground.
Scrubbing your vehicle dry with a rag containing dirt, rocks, and other hard minerals is a recipe for swirl marks.
How Often Should You Wash Your Car?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to how often you should wash your car. However, you’ll want to give it a good cleaning every two weeks or so in most cases. This helps avoid damaging layers of protective coating and keeps any plastic pieces looking new.
However, you might need to wash your vehicle more frequently, depending on where you live. Road salt can be extremely destructive to a vehicle. If neglected, it can quickly eat away at your vehicle and cause corrosion. Failure to keep it clean may result in your brand new vehicle looking far less than new in a few short years.
How Does a Touchless Car Wash Work?
When using a touchless car wash, you’ll typically pull up to an ATM-like machine to select your preferred wash cycle. Once you pay, you’ll pull up to the entrance and wait for further instructions from an attendant or lights/screens. Some washes will have you stay stationary, while others will use a conveyor belt to move your vehicle through the wash.
In a touchless car wash, the only thing that should make contact with your vehicle is soap and water. Touchless car washes use high-powered nozzles and jets to rid your vehicle of dirt and debris. Some high-tech washes will utilize lasers and other technology to get the specific shape of your vehicle for a more thorough cleaning.
Many washes will dry the vehicle once the wash is complete. This can be through massive blow dryers or workers using cloths to soak up any bits of water. However, having workers rub your car dry at the end sort of defeats the purpose of a touchless car wash. Some drivers have received micro scratches in their paint from drying cloths.
Are Touchless Car Washes a Gimmick?
No matter how flashy or fun a touchless car wash looks, they’re notorious for doing a sub-par job of cleaning your vehicle. As of late, many of these car washes have gone the extra mile to create an experience for customers. Flashing lights, color-enhanced cleaning agents, and even bells and whistles are common in modern washes. However, it doesn’t change that many customers aren’t thrilled with the results.
While they’re not perfect, they can get the job mostly done. They’re great for those who live in harsh environments and want to keep salt and other corrosive chemicals off their vehicles. Many drivers use these washes to pre-wash before washing them by hand at home. Are they perfect? Absolutely not. Can they get the job mostly done? For sure!
Tips on Touchless Car Wash
Before pulling into a touchless car wash, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. Follow these tips, and you can get the best results to maintain that new-car shine!
If you’re using a new touchless car wash, read the instructions. Failure to follow instructions can cause damage to your vehicle or the car wash itself. If an attendant is available, ask any clarifying questions to help ensure you have a good experience.
Use Protective Coatings
One of the easiest ways to keep your vehicle clean is to use protective coatings. Waxes and ceramic coatings can create layers of protection. These products maintain your paint and make it easy to wash your vehicle.
Protective coatings can make it so simple to spray your car with water and wash away dirt and bugs sticking to your vehicle. These coatings can be very expensive but worth the investment.
Dry Off Your Vehicle
One mistake many make is not completely drying off their vehicles after washing them. Letting water sit can create water spots that can corrode the vehicle’s paint and make it look dirty. Invest in quality microfiber towels to soak up water sitting on the surface.
For the best results, clean your towel regularly and never use a towel that touches the ground until you wash it.
Remove Exterior Radio Antenna
If your vehicle has an exterior radio antenna, you’ll likely want to retract or remove it. These antennas can get damaged during the washing process, and car washes typically aren’t responsible for any damages. Depending on your antenna, you may need a set of pliers or other tools to remove it.
Unless you need a bath, make sure you close all windows. Leaving your windows open while going through a car wash is a great way to ruin your vehicle’s interior.
Luckily, most modern vehicles come with power windows, making them very easy to close. We suggest you check your windows every time. A surprising amount of water can enter a car window that’s only open an inch or two.
Keep Your Car Squeaky Clean
Using a touchless car wash can be a great way to clean your car. They may not be perfect, but they can be convenient if keeping your vehicle looking new for as long as possible is important.
They can be a great option for basic cleaning between more thorough cleanings at home or a professional auto detailer. It might be time to drive through a touchless car wash if you’re tired of driving around in a dirty vehicle.
Do you use car washes or prefer to wash your vehicles by hand?
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