How to Clean Your Car at the Automatic Car Wash - dummies

How to Clean Your Car at the Automatic Car Wash

By Gill Chilton

When your car needs cleaning, you face a straight choice between cost (using the car wash) and effort (getting out the bucket yourself). But there’s more to it than that, as each time you start to clean your car, you can decide whether to go for just the basics, or a full spruce-up.

Great! A machine is going clean your car for you. But before that happens, you need to do a few preliminaries.

  • Give the car a quick cloth wipe to remove grit.

  • Retract or unscrew your aerial.

  • Check that the windows are sealed tightly. Open each a little, then press the button or wind up as far as you can for total closure.

  • Choose a programme. For a regular wash, pick a mid-price option that includes wheels and hubs and dries the car. On a wet day, skip the drying.

Badly maintained car wash bristles can result in pinprick scratches on your car. This is most noticeable in cars with metallic finishes. To avoid scratching, go only to car washes where you feel confident that brushes are replaced regularly (the best way to find out how often brushes are changed is to ask the manager). You can also ask someone you know who cares about their car where they go.

Park up on the side of the forecourt immediately after the car wash and check the machine’s work. If there are smears left on the window or bodywork, get them off now, with a soft cloth kept in the car for that purpose.

Car wash queues go crazy on Sunday mornings. You may wait 30 minutes for 3 minutes under the machine. If you can’t go mid-week, consider the do-it-yourself power-jet wash. Probably because you have to do the watering yourself, there’s rarely a queue. Yet, for a fraction of the price, you can make your car look good for a lot less effort than you’d need at home.

Power jet is also a better choice for cars you’re either very precious about or whose age and poor condition mean there is bodywork that might not withstand the force of a car wash brushing.