How to Wash Your Car

Treating your car to a regular hand-wash is a great way to monitor the car’s condition, looking for rock chips or other damage, while ensuring the soapy task is handled with care. However, not all drivers have convenient access to a hose or the time to wash the car themselves. 

Automated washes make it easy to freshen a car’s appearance and spray off winter salt from the undercarriage, but they have their downsides. They be expensive, and motorized brushes can damage the car by grinding in grime from other cars or by catching on to loose parts such as rear wipers or trim pieces. 

If you want to use an automated wash, touchless ones are best for protecting your car. The trade-off is that they may not get the finish as clean as you would like. 

Pay-and-spray places, where you feed quarters into a machine to power a high-pressure water gun, can be a good compromise. When using one, take care not to blast off fragile trim or bump into the paint with the metal nozzle. 

Hand-wash services are common, and they can do a great job of getting into the door seams and other hard-to-access locations that a machine would miss. Just be sure they are using clean cloths on your car. Pass on the shiny dash and tire treatments; they are not needed. 

For the true spa treatment, consider paying for a full detail in the spring to remove sand and other winter filth. Expect to pay over $200 for deep cleaning the interior and exterior. These local businesses typically offer additional services, like polishing, waxing, and headlight restoration. It is common that the services are mobile, making them a convenient, premium experience. 

“Professional detailing is underrated,” says Mike Crossen, lead automotive technician at Consumer Reports. “Detailers can remove some scuffs and scratches the average owner cannot because they have the tools and experience—and that ability is what you’re paying for.” He compares car care to dental hygiene, explaining that even though you brush and floss daily, it is important to visit the dentist for a cleaning every six months.