Are drive through tunnel washes damaging your vehicle?

They’re all over the place, you have large commercial chain car washes, gas station car washes, and touch less tunnel washes. A lot of consumers today are looking for speed and convenience in services today, car washes are certainly in the loop. Car washes have their own place and this article isn’t made to bash them but rather to educate you on this topic.

Put simply, there’s always going to be trade off when we take the faster easier way out. A classic example of this idea is with the “Super Size Me” documentary. It’s not smart to eat fast food multiple times a day for months. And months. The documentary has shown us that it’s a very bad idea. This same principle applies to car washes. If you have to use them, use them in moderation. The two basic types of car washes are the touch washes and touch less washes. Each of which I’ll be explaining.

Let’s start with the touch washes, these are the ones that you’ll typically pull your car into the entrance onto a track that pulls your vehicle through the wash. There is absolutely no touch wash that does not induce, at a minimum, micro marring into your paint. Even worse, some horror stories of deep scratches and even dents. But how? Think of it like this, these car washes have everything from valuable sports cars to muddy farm trucks enter the wash. Every single car is dirty and the parts of the car wash that touch the vehicles are designed to get that dirt off. Even if these pieces are microfiber they will collect dirt on them and inevitably spread the dirt right back onto the vehicle. The dirt is trapped in the touch pieces of the wash (chamois, cloth, foam, or even microfiber) and then used on the next car and the next and the next. Marring happens when dirty wash mitts, sponges, or towels are used on a cars paint. It is even worse when too much pressure is applied. Touch washes do both. The dirty wash cloths are spinning at high speeds forcing dirt and debris right back into your vehicle’s paint. This can cause scratching and the infamous swirl marks. Like I mentioned before, everything has a purpose but just remember convenience comes with a price. So if you’re trying to keep your vehicle looking great, shiny, and with minimal defects in the paint then steer clear of touch washes.

The alternative “solution” to touch washes are touch less washes. These can be “safer” but again, convenience still has a cost and these touch less washes come with their own set of issues. Well, since nothing is touching your car how should it get clean? In a touch wash the biggest issue is in the chemical they use. Since they are touch free the chemicals they use have to be very very strong in order to remove dirt and grime from your vehicle. These chemical are very high in pH and actually contaminate your vehicle. This contamination over time and time again will damage your paint. Your paint will start to dull out, windows start to contaminate, plastics start to get stained, and the pores of your paint will be clogged. If you absolutely must use a tunnel wash I recommend the touch less over the touch wash. However, it should by no means be your routine. You should still be hand washing your vehicle using the two bucket method or rinseless method and if absolutely necessary supplement with a touch less wash.

One thing will always be the same: convenience comes at a cost. Every car wash serves it own purpose and for a particular set of consumers. Use touch less washes to supplement your regular detail maintenance. They are by no means aiming for perfection and should not be used as a method to maintaining your vehicle’s finish. Check out this amazing video showing you the damage that car washes can do to your vehicle.

Feel free to reach out at anytime, The Detail Doc is always here to help and to answer any questions you may have. We’re here to help preserve, protect and maintain your vehicle.

Thanks for reading,

Seth Vue

The Detail Doc

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