Car Washes - Automatic, Analog, and Modern Paint jobs

We can all stipulate that automatic car washes that use the harsh bristle/brush method are evil and do damage to paint jobs. However, there are now newer systems that use sponge/foam-type washing methods and others that have cloth/rag/man-made-fiber type washing methods (I’m not discussing the high powered water methods because I’ve never tried them. Are these new types truly bad or are we just being overly fretful? Have modern paint methods improved enough to mitigate any damage - especially in luxury brands? One argument in favor of automated car-washes, aside form the environmental one, is that every luxury car dealer I’ve been in (Lexus & Infiniti - and I’m sure you CT listeners can attest to the other brands), has an automatic car wash system to prepare their new cars to look good on the lot and to wash cars for their complementary car wash services - and a free car wash comes with every service visit as well. If all automatic car washes were truly detrimental to the paint, then it stands to reason that the high end brands would not universally have these on the lot. And when examining this objectively (and from personal experience with a black car I owned in college, I must admit that a sponge, a cloth or any soft scrubber one uses by hand can take the sediment on a car and cause micro-scratches too. Are there any truly unbiased experts on modern paint jobs and modern automatic car washes out there who can shed some light on this?

All considerations are minor except for high pressure water blast which can blow part of the rear view mirror off as well as the leakage into the interior. If you have a leak, it will get in. Abrasion of the paint? Try leaning on a dirty car and shifting around. Getting the dirt of is great and it doesn’t really matter how you do it. Any worries about cleaning methods are a waste of time. The exception is the warning to avoid dishwashing stuff unless you want to remove the wax.

The harsh bristle/brush washes, especially the ones with the “drying cloths” that swing back and forth like a hula skirt, can definitely do damage.

High pressure “touchless” washes present less risk, but still aren’t as kind as a properly done hand wash.

Understand that lots of water is the key. The detergents only free the dirt, the water removes it. I’ve been washing my cars for over 40 years and never had a “microscratches” problem, but I keep a good wax job on them, I use lots and lots of water, and I don’t let dirt build up on them. I currently use a wash brush on a pole and keep it saturated with water. I also wash the brush well after every use and keep it where it won’t get dirty.

Ivory liquid does not remove car wax. I use it and I’ve tested it for resisting being washed off. It’s excellent. I don;t know about other dishwashing detergents, but the statement that all dishwashing detergents will remove the wax is incorrect.

I heard that too about Ivory…I know for a fact that Joy WILL remove the wax in just ONE washing.

Great tips, but anything else about automatic car washes?

Yup. Don’t make any assumptions based upon what the dealerships have. Not only can they better maintain and control the aspects of the machinery, since they own it, they’re more likely than a regular car wash to control the wash and select the chemicals with a keen eye toward doing no damage.

Modern paint jobs are no more or less resistant to damage than paints of past decades. Paint formulations and process have changed due to environmantal regulation more than for any other reason. As a matter of fact when aqueous-based low-VOC paints were manaddated some years back, some car manufacturers had a terrible time figuring out how to use them. Cars with paint peeling in huge sheets off of the primer were commonplace. I think it too the manufacturers all of the '80s to learn to make the topcoat stick.

The best way to wash a car is with a hand towel or a wash brush kept soaked with soapy water and as clean as possible. And any finish will be more subject to deterioration from washing if it isn’t kept waxed.

I am fine running my new car through a nearby carwash that has no spinning brushes, just long strips of material that move slowly side to side and up/down.

I’m much too insecure to use those.