At the Car Wash: Five Tips for Safety

It’s a fact: cars get dirty. Whether it’s bugs from the road, mud from the spring showers, or leftover salt residue from the winters, a car wash is vital to your car’s finish and frame. Bywashing our cars we’re not just fighting dirt, we’re keeping corrosion and rust at bay. Here are five tips to help you get the best and most effective car wash this summer, preserving your finish, preventing scratches and other car wash accidents, and protecting the environment from harsh chemicals.

Go For the Automatic! Maybe you’re surprised to hear this – I know I was. Many people today are wary of “automatic” car washes because of problems that arose with them back when rotating brushes were used, but a modern “brushless” automatic car wash is actually the safest car wash available today. It’s gentler to the car’s finish than any hand wash, and uses pre-measured amounts of soap, consistent washing methods, and predetermined timing to eliminate damage caused by “human error.” Sponges, rags, and the hot sun can damage your car’s finish if you’re not careful.

Spring for the Undercarriage Wash: As long as you’re going for the automatic wash, spring for the undercarriage, particularly now that we’re heading into summer. During the winter, road treatments like salt and brine can build up on your undercarriage and can be destructive if they’re not attended to. They encourage corrosion and rust, and the undercarriage wash offered at most automatic car washes will help wash away the baddies.

If You’re Pressure Washing, Be Aware of the Risks: Let’s face it – sometimes you procrastinate a little, and the automatic wash just isn’t going to get the layer of grime you’ve got. While the correct answer is not to allow that funk to build up, once it’s there, sometimes a do-it-yourselfwash is what’s needed to get the job done. If you’re using the pressure system, be aware of the risk of damage to your vehicle. Don’t get the spray too close to your car, as it can damage the finish. Similarly, don’t get too close to your tires, because it will actually weaken them, too. You should allow around 20 inches between the nozzle and your car surface at all times. Also: resist the urge to spray other people with the pressure wand. The pressure can and will remove skin!

Use The Right Tools for the Job at Home: While an automatic wash is a great modern convenience, sometimes pulling the family car into the yard for a good scrubbing is a great family afternoon activity. But if you go this route, be aware of the risks and do it right. Don’t use household cleaners, which can weaken your finish – use only cleaners meant for cars. Park in the shade to preserve that clear coat. If you use sponges, wipe in straight lines, not in circles – this can cause small scratches to appear. And finally, take care of the environment: make sure that the runoff from your car wash doesn’t go into a storm drain or sewer, because those chemicals, oil, grease, and gasoline can pollute our water systems if allowed to drain unchecked.

Seize the Day for Safety: While we’re at the task of washing our car, take a couple of minutes to do some spot-safety-checks. Use a quarter or penny to check your tire tread wear. Bring along a tire gauge to check pressure. Check the oil and other fluids while you’re at it, and when was the last time you checked your headlights? If they seem to be foggy or yellowing, look into a headlight restoration kit to brighten them again. Also, turn them on – are they working and bright? Headlights dim over time. If one or both appear dim, it’s time to replace them. Remember that headlights should always be replaced in pairs to ensure even brightness.

Guest blogger Jody DeVere is the CEO of Inc, a website, blog and marketing agency providing automotive education to female consumers.