Tips, Tricks & Trends

Are Touchless Car Washes Better for Your Car?

When was the last time you stopped at your local car wash? Did you pause for a moment, wondering whether or not you should visit a touchless car wash instead? If so, then you’re not the only one. Plenty of car owners want to know if touchless car washes are better. 

A car waiting at a touchless car wash
Lines of cars wait at a touchless car wash | Melina Mara/The Washington Post

How do touchless car washes work?

According to HowStuffWorks, a touchless car wash relies on high-powe­red jets of water and strong detergents to clean cars. And because it doesn’t touch your car, the only things that do come in physical contact with your vehicle are the water and the cleaning solutions being used.

Other than that, touchless car washes more often than not function similarly to your typical car wash. First, your car will be placed on the conveyor track. At that point, you may be asked to put your car into neutral, park, or turn it off altogether. A series of rollers will then move your vehicle through the car wash tunnel while the car wash begins the process of washing your car.

The case for touchless car washes

There are a few good reasons to hit up your area’s touchless car wash. Visiting one can not only save you time but it’s also a good option for maintenance washes between more thorough scrub-downs.

Because touchless car washes are, well, touchless, they can also be better for your car’s paint and exterior finishings. Dennis Taljan, director for automotive coatings at the paint company PPG, shared with Consumer Reports that these days, while automotive finishes are durable enough for any kind of car wash, poorly maintained bristles or soft-cloth washes could lead to some unsightly problems.

“As designs, they’re all capable, and I don’t have any hesitation with any of them,” he says. “But as they’re maintained, that’s where you can get a difference,” Taljan added.

RELATED: The Dos and Don’ts of Cleaning Your Car

The case against them

There are some downsides to touchless car washes. Family Handyman reports that touchless car washes won’t clean your car quite as well as a thorough hand wash or an automated friction wash. 

The blowers used aren’t always the best at drying vehicles either, which means you’ll need to keep an eye out for excess moisture. Incomplete drying can also result in spotting on your car’s finish, and who wants a spotty looking car after rolling through the car wash? Not I.

Tips for touchless car washes

If you do decide to visit your local touchless car wash, keep these tips from the Family Handyman and Consumer Reports in mind:

  • Remember to double-check that your car’s doors and windows are tightly closed. 
  • If you’re at a car wash connected to a gas station, consider buying a tank of gas too. Many car washes discount their services when you also buy gas.
  • Drive slowly past the blowers to maximize drying.
  • Keep a clean cloth on hand so you can wipe away any excess moisture after the wash.

RELATED: What Is a Waterless Car Wash?

Keeping your car in pristine condition

Car maintenance is one of those things that people love to hate. It’s not only inconvenient but can also be a bit tedious too. The same can be said about getting your car washed. Fortunately, touchless car washes can save you both time and effort while also keeping your vehicle’s exterior looking shiny and new.