Are Touchless Car Washes Bad For Paint?

In this day and age we’re constantly looking for ways to be more efficient and use technology to make our lives easier. Whether it’s an app on your cellphone, an automated vacuum cleaner, or a automatic, touchless car wash. Touchless car washes allow you to simply sit in your car as it is pulled on a conveyor belt and the car wash goes through numerous cycles of spraying, and washing. So can a touchless car wash do a better job than you can by hand with a bucket of soap and a washing mitt? We answer some of the pros and cons below!

  1. 100 Hands Scrubbing at Once- One nice thing about a touchless car wash is that the old style car washes use big brushes and pads to clean the car and they can tend to pick up a lot of dirt from other cars and actually put a bunch of micro scratches in your paint. In theory it is great to have 100’s of touch points at once cleaning your car but not if they’re all dirty! With a touchless car wash the car is rinsed with high pressure water, then soap is sprayed on and allowed to sit for a few seconds (or minutes), and then it is rinsed off with high pressure water again, and sometimes you drive through a high flow fan to dry the car. In theory this takes away the chances of scratching the car with the cleaning pads touching the paint.
  2. Cleaning Agents- Touchless car washes don’t use flaps or pads to scrub the dirt off so they need to compensate by using soaps and cleaning agents with sometimes harsh chemicals in them to remove the dirt. These rinsing soaps can have a high PH level and can cause long term paint damage or compromise older paint jobs.
  3. High Pressure Water- The “Touchless” claim isn’t entirely true. These car washes use extremely high pressure water jets to remove and break up dirt and debris stuck to your car. While water is a safer method than rubbing the paint by hand; high pressure water can actually harm the surface. For instance there are even water jet machines that can cut through metal! The high pressure water won’t cut the metal, but it can expedite paint lose or further exasperate existing paint issues. We suggest regular washing of your car as a extremely dirty car can put the dirt in the air and the high pressure streams will bounce it back at your car creating a media blasting technique!
  4. Recycled Water- Most touchless car washes recycle their water to be eco-friendly and we appreciate that effort! Basically what they do is take the run off water from your wash and run it through numerous filters to create safe filtered wash water to use for future clients. This works well but overtime the recycled water can contain high levels of salt in the water which is not good for the metal or paint if left intact. We suggest drying your car immediately after washing and waxing or sealing the paint periodically.

In the end the safest method is to do your car with care by hand yourself. The key is to get good quality car care products and nice cleaning and drying rags that won’t harm your paint. We can’t say touchless car washes don’t work, we just wouldn’t put our freshly restored antique car in one! To see all of our car car products visit our site HERE.

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