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New Subaru Outback - declined "protection package"

So the protection package of course was the old money maker for Dealers of paint protection, leather / fabric and some sort of rust protection. The AutoSaver thing they offer is a scam now (and probably always was). The Leather protection I learned was basically some massively overpriced detailing spray which I’ve done myself with 303 aerospace protectant (seems good for making the seats slippery and less likely for dirt to stick which is what I wanted, but phew - the smell! I don’t have a garage to air it out and it’s of course winter time. Hopefully it clears up soon, but one day wasn’t enough).

My big issue is I like to get my car washed, I think it actually helps with the rust problems in upstate NY. However, the convenient (i.e. I’ll actually do it once a week or more) and cost effective (they have a flat rate plan you can get for a monthly fee and go through once a day) car wash has brushes that invariably swirl the paint. I’ve mostly lived with it as it seems to basically be just in the clear coat and you have to get right up close to even see it in my previous cars. I also found the RainX Surface protectant they include to work well for me with my windshield and helping keep the paint from fading etc.

However, I wondered if it’s worthwhile to pay a couple hundred dollars to a local detailing shop to put on some polymer based coat that’s a year long wax - would that then be what got swirled by the regular car wash? i.e. can I spend $250 a year or whatever and just get the hard wax replaced to protect the car from the wash? Or is it better to go touchless (but maybe only every 2 months or so vs once or more a week)?

Or just live with swirls? Most people actually thought my cars looked great because I washed them at all so from that perspective the swirls are OK. It’s a dark blue color, so not quite as bad as black, but it’s almost black (Subaru has years and apparently 2012 and 2018 were ones where they just don’t offer a “normal” blue, you get light “sky blue” or this almost black blue, which I like better than “sky blue”)…

Do you have any experience of how clear coat holds if you use Rain-X on the paint ?!?
I would never do that, unless 1,000,000 people reported it works well.
This product is intended to be used on glass, not on paint, so I would be very cautious about long-term effects of such an application.

Good polymer paint wax/sealer is a way to go: it is designed for the job.
Besides, you do not need to pay $250 for that - modern sealers are really easy to apply in DIY mode.
For reference, took me around 40 minutes this fall to apply synthetic sealer over my 2006 Pathfinder: this car probably has 1.5x times the paint surface to compare to Outback.

It’s just a car, I would not worry about swirls… plus the regular sealer application will hide them well.
If you are really concerned, polish car with a “cleaner wax” from McGuires once a year - it is strong enough to get most of swirls out, will not wear clear coat as it is not very abrasive. You get few months of protection after application too.

Aren’t there any brushless car washes in your area?

The car wash that I use is “brushless” and it does a very good job.
My 2011 Outback (which was delivered in October 2010) has gone through that particular car wash countless times, and the paint has no swirl marks.

No. Or more accurately, yeah, it’ll get swirl marks, and so will the clear coat underneath it. When grit from the cars that already went through the wash gets stuck on the wash brushes, it’s like washing your car with sandpaper. It’s gonna get scratched. And over the course of a year, you’ll easily go through the polymer and get down to the clear coat if not the paint.

BTW, try Leatherique for your leather seats. It’s the best system out there, and it smells a lot better than Aerospace.

Depends on the temperature. If it’s cold enough that saltwater freezes, you may actually be increasing the rate of rusting, because salt water does not rust cars when it’s ice. It needs to be in liquid form in order to do its thing, so leaving the salt on your car when it’s too cold to be wet actually helps. Then you wash it off when temperatures rise. Also, some car washes have such high pressure that it can force the salt water into crevices, where it stays and rusts from the inside out.

Now, all that said, there are special cars that you go above and beyond to protect, and then there are daily drivers. If you’re driving it in the winter in a place that puts salt on the roads, just get used to the idea that eventually it’s gonna look like crap. You can try to stay on top of it, but every paint chip is going to have to be filled lest rust start early, and you’re probably not going to get a perfect look with touchup paint - but if you take it to a body shop for every chip you will go broke. Get it washed when it makes sense to do so (when there are a number of non-snow days in the forecast, etc) and if it gets too swirly have it detailed and include a polish in the service. Just don’t do that too often, as you’ll eventually end up going through the clear coat and cause more problems.

As I said, the only brushless one is pretty out of the way for me. It’s about 10 minutes into town and traffic from my office and not on my way home, nor near or on the way to any store I go to regularly. There’s often a 20 minute wait as it can only do 1 car at a time, and there’s often one in there and two in line. So the wash is a 30 minute process. Then 10 minutes back. So realistically, 1 hour out of my day to go to the Brushless, and I have to pay each time. That’s not insurmountable, but a hassle.

The brushed wash has 2 locations, a subscription payment so I just drive up, it’s a line wash so can be washing (at different stages) 4 cars at once and so even with 5 cars in line it takes maybe 10 minutes. It’s near the BJs club I go to for gas once a week. A lot easier.

It’s probably also worth mentioning that so far I’ve only kept a car for 5 years at the longest. I just don’t want it to have issues during that time. The car wash, save for the OCD of the swirls has worked well for my needs - I just wondered if the “hard wax” would help. It sounds like it doesn’t and more the detailing would be what would help.

In terms of DIY I just wanted to get something on before I screwed it up using it thinking prevention would be worth a lot of cleanup after. The effect of the 303 is nice because it works on more surfaces - I don’t need one for leather, one for hard plastic and one for soft plastic, one for the vinyl shade for the hatch. Also, it’s cheap compared to the Leatherique and it’s a new car so it doesn’t need restoration. It was highly recommended in a few places so I figured I’d try it, but yea, the one complaint so far is the smell.

Things which are designed to work for multiple different tasks are often only mediocre at all of the tasks. 303 works well on hard surfaces, but I would not use it on leather. Leather is skin. It wants conditioning, else it will dry out and crack. The 303 will make the leather clean, but it will not condition it.

If you only keep a car for 5 years, then you probably won’t see much damage as a result, but much longer than that and you’d start to see significant issues with the appearance of your seats.

Of course, if you only keep the car for 5 years, I suppose you could get the car washed however you want, have it polished every spring, and it would be the next guy dealing with the overly-thin clear coat.

You run it through daily with the brushes? No way I would do that. You’re just asking for scratches. No protectant will prevent scratches from the brushes. Once you have them they need to be polished out. Glazes will fill the scratches until the glaze is washed out again but you need to stop using that brush car wash.

Edit: fixed

Not daily, but I try for weekly. Sometimes twice a week it ends up. But if washing the car isn’t worth it unless it’s touchless, then I would save money and not wash it often. I just went by the touchless today at lunch, but couldn’t wait 30-40 minutes behind 4 cars at around 10 minutes per car to wash it, then 10 minutes for it to wash my car.

It sounds like just saving my money and not washing the car at the fast car wash is best, or living with the swirls. Does washing it actually help with rust in the underbody?

It’s also not clear that having it detailed with a hard wax is useful if you don’t wash the car.

Of course getting the salt and junk off of the paint and underside is helpful but I only use the touchless. Maybe some of the new leather type rollers are not as bad as those old bristles, but I don’t like either. In the warm months I wash when dirty by hand. In the winter I use the touchless when the car is dirty and weather permits-maybe every couple of weeks. I machine polish, glaze, and wax twice a year in spring and fall. I also use the clay bar first. Wax is important. This year due to time and weather I just did the clay bar and wax for protection for the winter. Up to you.

Nor will Catholics, or Jews, or Muslims, or Hindus, or…


Sheesh. Spell check and not paying attention.

I don’t have a garage, and it’s -8 here this morning. So I think I’d pay the detailer. I’ll give them a call, and maybe just not do the drive through washes with this car. I wish we had more touchless ones but apparently they’re just not popular enough - we have 3 brushed drive through washes in town for instance. I could use the old sprayer but then I’m out in the cold!

No need to pay that much, most detailers charge less for an exterior only detail. However if you’re okay with throwing down a few hundred dollars then look into ceramic coatings. Not cheap (the prep work can be extensive) but it works, and lasts for years (3-10 depending on how many coats you go with with).

Touchless is easier on the the finish than friction washing. However I’ve never found a touchless wash that didn’t leave at least a slight film. If I run my car through a touchless wash and then wipe it down with some spray wax or detailing spray, the microfiber cloths I’m using will inevitably pick up that film/dirt that the touchless wash left. They also tend to use higher concentrations of cleaners that tend to strip wax/sealant. I’m of the opinion that you need friction for an effective wash.

Any recommendations as to what I should ask for? Just “Ceramic coating”? If that stood up to the brushed wash that would perhaps be the best option for me.

Opti-Coat Pro is what our local detail shop uses, but there are dozens of different names the stuff is marketed under. The most important aspect of it is the prep work, the car should be free of any swirl marks, orange peel, or scratches before it’s applied and it has to be applied in specific manner, and left to cure at the proper temp (indoors). It’s entirely possible for a car, even a new one, to require a couple hundred bucks in paint correction before the ceramic coating can be applied. That’s the reason I never got my Mustang ceramic coated. It was going to need significant wet sanding and polishing to correct the factory orange peel. It was going to be something like $900 and 2-3 days for the paint correction + coating. I just get out the DA and use Blackfire Wet Diamond every 4 months or so.

When God wants my car washed, he sends the rain. :smiley: