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Why That Bargain Car Wash Might Not Be Such a Bargain After All!

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Left side is what happens after too many "bargain" car washes. Right side is corrected paint after labor intensive polishing by Auto Pros.

You see the signs on the road all the time in Tampa–car wash $5 or $10 detail. Wow- that looks like a really great deal, right? Be careful though, because the old saying “you get what you pay for” is very true when it comes to detailing vehicles.

Automatic Car Washes- What could be easier? Pay $5-10, ride your car through the machine and presto, you have a clean car in minutes! If you use a car wash that has brushes or any other type of material that actually “scrubs” your car then you are doing damage to your cars clear coat and paint. Even though the brushes may feel soft, they are putting microscopic scratches in your paint every time you go through. They also put swirls in your paint which take away from the gloss and over time dulls it. Due to the limitations of the car wash itself, it is also grinding in the dirt that is still left on the car and again, damaging the surface of your paint job.

You might think a touchless car wash is the answer. While the touchless washes will get the surface dirt off without harming your car (in the car wash itself) it is not going to truly clean your car. They simply cannot use enough pressure to remove more than the very visible surface dirt. If they use too much pressure, they could actually physically damage the paint. If there are attendants waiting at the end of the car wash to dry it off, that is where real damage can happen to your finish. Most car washes around use cheap towels to dry off the cars coming out of the car washes and will use the same towels over and over again on car after car. These towels will leave fine scratches on your paint job and since the touchless car wash did not remove all of the dirt, when they “dry” your car, they will grind that dirt into the finish.

What about those $10 hand-wash road side stands? Considering that many, if not most, of the road side stands are unlicensed and uninsured, you are taking a large risk with what is probably one of the bigger investments you own. Most of these road side stands are looking for quantity and care very little about quality. They use low quality chemicals, rags and towels to both wash and dry your car, leaving permanent damage to your paint. If they are only using one bucket to wash your car, that means that all of the dirt they just scrubbed off is now getting put back on since they dunk the rags or brushes (which scratch your finish) over and over again into dirty water. While most of these people running roadside stands are honest and just trying to make a living, some are not, so be prepared to keep an extra close eye on them if you have them detail your interior, especially if you have anything of value inside your vehicle. If the road side stand is unlicensed and uninsured, you will be the one paying if something happens to your car.

While cheap, quick and easy may sound good at the time, you will pay for it in the end. To do a quality detail takes time.  A one man professional detailer doing a simple two bucket hand wash and wax using a commercial grade orbital polisher can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. If you are looking for a full detail, including shampooing the carpets, a good quality detail can take up to four hours for very large vehicles. It’s a pretty good bet that the car wash places that have a multitude of attendants, are not going give your car the personal attention to the small details that really add the “Wow” factor that you can get from a dedicated professional mobile detailer like Auto Pros.

Unfortunately in this “get what you pay for” world you may end up paying for a whole lot more than you bargained for. You might have to get your car polished, which can be very expensive since it is so labor intensive. If it is too far damaged from all of the low quality car wash experiences, you may end up needing a whole new paint job. Avoid all of that by either always properly hand washing and waxing your own vehicle with quality supplies or calling a licensed, insured quality mobile detailer to come do it for you.


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