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Can You Take a Small RV Through a Car Wash?

If you have a small RV you want to keep clean, taking it through a car wash might be tempting. These locations typically offer everything you need to bathe your camper. However, you could be in a predicament if you’re not careful.

We want you and your RV to be as safe as possible wherever you’re driving. So can an average car wash handle a small RV?

Today, we’ll learn the dirty truth about car washes, RVs, and if they play nicely with one another.

Let’s soap up!

What is a Small RV?

There’s no standard definition of what classifies an RV as small. However, most people consider a rig less than 25 feet long to be on the smaller side. Unfortunately, it’s not just the length you should be thinking about.

RVs can range from seven to 13.5 feet high, depending on the rig type. Small motorhomes are typically around seven to nine feet tall. The specifications listed on the manufacturer’s website may not always factor in the towing height or added accessories on the roof. 

If you plan to hit the road in any size RV, it’s essential to know your height. This can save you from going under a low-clearance bridge your rig won’t fit through. Trust us, we’ve seen pictures of what can happen, and it’s not pretty. 

RV being washed

Can You Take a Small RV Through a Car Wash?

While there may be some car washes that can accommodate small RVs, it’s generally not a good idea. Even the smallest RV is often larger than a typical vehicle. Some car washes require drivers to make sharp turns when exiting, which isn’t always possible when towing or driving an RV.

While they vary in size, most standard car washes have a little over a seven-foot clearance. This can accommodate almost all vehicles less than 84 inches tall.  Unfortunately, RVs are anything but standard, and most are over this height restriction.

When in doubt, it’s best to check with the management of the car wash. They don’t want you to damage their equipment any more than you want your RV harmed. So save potential headaches and give them a call before pulling in to wash your vehicle.

How Often Should I Wash My RV?

How often you should wash your RV significantly depends on how often you use it, where you park it, and the weather conditions for the area. In general, it’s a good idea to wash your rig every three to six months. This helps keep it clean and prevents dirt, grime, and other contaminants from building up.

For those RVers who use their camper more frequently or go on longer trips, they may need to do it more often. Avoid parking under trees or in areas with high humidity to reduce how often you need to wash your rig. Your RV may be an easy target for birds, tree sap, and other dirty annoyances.

Pro Tip: Keep your RV squeaky clean at one of these 5 Places to Easily Wash Your RV.

Travel trailer being washed
Keep your rig shining by washing it regularly.

5 Ways to Wash Your RV

Since you’ll likely be unable to use a standard car wash, you’ll want to find an alternative solution. Luckily, plenty of other options exist to get the job done.

#1 Use a Truck Wash 

A truck wash is one of the easiest and least expensive options to wash your RV. These washes can easily handle massive 18-wheelers, so any size RV won’t be a problem. You’ll typically find these large washes near truck stops along the interstate.

The benefit of using a truck wash is that you can be in and out quickly, as long as there isn’t a large line in front of you. Since they’re used to doing much larger vehicles, cleaning your RV thoroughly typically takes just a few minutes. Unfortunately, pricing can be very confusing.

Truck washes usually charge per foot when it comes to washing. It’s best to call ahead and discuss pricing so you have a general idea of what to expect when you arrive. However, you can expect to pay $50 to $75, depending on the location and what services you have them do.

Additionally, since they’re using the same equipment to scrub your RV as they do semi trucks, ask them if they can use different brushes for your rig. If they can accommodate your request, it could avoid leaving scratches across the surface of your beautiful RV.

#2 RV Self-Service Wash 

Some self-service washes can accommodate RVs. These locations have a much taller clearance than a standard car wash. The hardest part is finding one when your rig needs a bath.

A benefit of using a high-bay wash is that it allows you to be in control of washing your camper. Since you’re doing all the work, you can focus on the areas needing the most attention. You’re the only one to blame if the job isn’t done right.

One of the disadvantages of using a self-service wash is that it can get expensive. You may hurry through to avoid spending an arm and a leg washing your RV. If you haven’t learned yet, being in a hurry for most acts typically doesn’t produce the best final results. 

Soapy camper
Try out a mobile RV detailing service for the perfect finish on your camper.

#3 Mobile RV Detailing Service 

A mobile RV detailing service will typically give you the best results. This can be a fantastic option as they come directly to you and do the work wherever you’re parked. Some will offer extensive cleanings, including awnings, skylights, and other hard-to-clean surfaces.

While these services provide the best results, they’re also costly. You can expect to pay $500 or more for a mobile RV detailing. Though a standard mobile wash often runs a bit lower.

Also, keep in mind not every campground or RV park will allow you to wash your camper. This may mean you need to move your rig elsewhere or find a place where you can wash it.

Pro Tip: We crunched the numbers to uncover How Much Does a Mobile RV Wash Cost?

#4 DIY RV Wash 

Another option to consider is to wash it yourself at home. This can allow you to save a tremendous amount of money, especially if you’ll need to clean it several times each year. You can wash it as needed and ensure all the hard-to-reach places get the attention they deserve.

However, don’t underestimate how much work this is going to take. You’ll likely need to spend much of the day scrubbing down your camper to do a thorough job. If you don’t have them already, you’ll need a ladder, telescoping soft-bristle brush, an RV wash and wax, bucket, and hose long enough to reach all the spots on your rig.

Not everyone is physically able to put in the work and effort required to do such a task. Make sure that you have the proper equipment and that you take your time. You don’t want to rush the process or put yourself in a dangerous situation because you’re in a hurry.

#5 Hire Privately 

Hiring privately may be the best option if you can’t stomach the idea of paying a professional and can’t do it yourself. Many individuals don’t mind doing a little bit of hard work to earn a few extra bucks. You’ll likely need to provide them with the necessary supplies and equipment to do the job.

However, you could be throwing money out the window if you’re not careful. Trusting some random person to do a good job can be risky. They may do more harm than good, especially if they don’t know what they’re doing.

Make sure you take the time to confirm that they’re not entirely oblivious to what it’ll take to get the results you desire. If you do go this route, make sure you pay them appropriately.

Is Paying Someone to Wash Your RV Worth It?

Sometimes you have no choice other than to pay someone else to wash your RV for you. If you want your rig to look nice and shiny for as long as possible, it’s worth paying someone else.

The results that a professional can provide are often worth it, especially if you plan to sell your RV in the future. However, if you have the time, space, and physical ability to do it yourself, you may find it’s not worth the cost.

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