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Drive through car wash

My understanding is that drive through car washes, because of the harsh chemicals, will distroy a paint job. Is this so?

My wife and I just got an 2009 Camry white in color. My wife promised me she would not do the drive through wash if I do the cleaning once a week. I don’t mind doing the wash but should I reconsider the drive through.

BTW Our old car, a 1995 Corolla has 316 th. miles with NO major work and still runs great but looks bad.

Thank for your input. Dewey-do

Car washes (brush or ‘touchless’) use harsh additives with the water and as a result can be hard on the paint.

That said, because I live where the rain can turn into freezing rain in seconds, (winters in Ontario, Canada) warrants the need for road salt.

That stuff REALLY eats the vehicle (not only the paint).

Don’t forget UV rays create havoc on the paint too.
The paint, along with the clear coats used today, last a lot longer than in past times.

The three non-salted seasons allows me to wash the vehicles in the driveway, where I DON’T use a brush.

I wash and wax four times a year and after five years the paint still shines almost like new. (the vehicle is nine years old now. I’m the second owner)

Don’t cheap out when you buy the wax, get the very best you can afford.

I use car washes but mostly that is during the winter. The “chemicals” are not what I’m concerned about, it is the brushes. In the early days of mechanical car washes the brushes were made with plastic bristles. Over time they abraded the paint. Then came fabric brushes used now, better but still I think they are tough on the paint. The benefits of getting the salt and other snow melt chemicals off the car and undercarriage is worth a few trips through the car wash a year.

Weather permitting I use a good old bucket of sudsy water, a soft sponge, and then dry the cars with old towels. A wax job a few times a year helps maintain the paint perhaps more than anything else.

Take your old Corolla to a good detailer and spend some money on it. Perhaps there is enough good paint on it that a detailer can bring back a lot of the shine it once had.

Touchless ones help significantly on paint job however do use stronger soap to clean your vehicle.

However a major thing to take in consideration is the car wash water is resettled runoff from previous carwashes and contains a level a silt your are respraying on the vehicle.

I only use them when my car is so caked up with salt spray it is nasty to touch the vehicle or hard to see out windows.

I only use commercial car washes during the winter months, but none of my cars has ever suffered any paint damage from an automatic car wash. As was said, the brushes can be abrasive, but I believe that whoever told you that the detergents “distroy (sic) a paint job” is incorrect.

What will destroy a paint job is failure to wash a car frequently enough, failure to wax it at least once per year with a good quality wax, and failure to shield it from excess sun exposure. If you can wash the car yourself, you are far better-off, since you will save money, you can observe chips in the paint in time to fix them before problems begin, and you will also be able to observe the wear patterns on your tires when you wash the wheels. Ergo, you are better-off in many ways if you wash the car yourself.

In my opinion you are over worrying about it.

Hey guys,
Thanks for the replys. What I get here is that it’s ok to use the touchless wash once and awhile without harm. The car was waxed the second day we had it and is kept in the garage. Salted roads are not an issue so I guess it boils down to, I’ll keep washing by hand and willgive in to the drive through omc and awhile.


The best car wash is the “soft touch” type now replacing the ones with the hard rotating brushes. I use it regularly and my 2 year old car still has showroom looks. As pointed out, not washing a car regularly in the winter really does permanent damage, especially if you live in the rust belt (Detroit area is one of the worst).

The next worst thing is to leave it outside. I can go to any parking lot and identify those cars that are always parked outside; the color is dull and the paint is chaulky. Ultraviolet light is very hard on paint.

Maybe so but spendng 27k on a car…

Do you have those “do-it-yourself” car washes where you live with the coin-op spray guns? It’s a lot faster than doing it at home, and way easier in the winter.

Those are a fading breed. 10 years ago we use to have 3 within 5 miles of my house…now the closest one is 10 miles away. Of the 3 we did have…one went out of business and the other 2 switched their bays over to the touchless washes.

Maybe so but spendng 27k on a car…

I guess the more I spend on a car, I would hope I could worry less about it. Maybe that is why I generally buy inexpensive cars, so I don’t need to worry. :slight_smile:

I occasionally use a touchless carwash, mostly because otherwise I won’t have time to wash the car anyways. Now I live in Southern CA and don’t have a lot of salt and snow issues, but I think leaving the car with dust on it is not good for the paint.

Now my 2000 Caravan has started to have fading paint on the hood and front roof area. I wonder if it is the car wash or too much waxing? Also if any body would shed some light on wax vs poliash and liquid vs dry it would be appreciated.

If you are not really money concerned i would suggest to have it washed at the handwash places. Thats what i do. They usually have also specials where you can save and mostly they don’t use hard brushes. At least i have not seen any. But i have to say, i am a lazy person. So thats why i use these carwash places.

Brushes do NOT hurt the cars finish…HOWEVER…Dirty Brushes DO. And MOST of the car washes have DIRTY BRUSHES. They are NOT completely clean.

Touchless car-washes are fine for any car. The chemicals are no more harmful then the wash you use at home. If they were so bad they’d strip the wax off your car every time you used it.

As another person who lives in the northern states…I too use them during the winter months. Far better then leaving the paint and undercarriage with layers of salt on them. And I always opt for the undercarriage wash. I PREFER the hand-held wand wash. Can do a much better job, but they are becoming very scarce. I only know of one and it’s in a different state and 20 miles away.

Don’t cheap out when you buy the wax, get the very best you can afford.

I thought comparative tests proved that cheap waxes like Turtle Wax are just as good as the more expensive waxes. I suppose it depends on whether you are talking about a paste wax or a liquid wax. I use paste waxes, and have found that Turtle Wax does as good a job as the expensive ones.