Skip to main content

As the weather warms up, it’s time to get out there and clean up those rides. But these car washing mistakes won’t just make your car look bad. They could also end up costing you thousands in repairs.

Using the wrong towels

The easiest car washing mistake is using the wrong towels
A quality microfiber towel is safe for your car | Getty Images

It may seem like a matter of semantics, but using the wrong towels can make a new car look like it’s been abused for years. That’s because the fibers used in making some towels can and will easily scratch your car’s paint. It’s a simple car washing mistake, but one that can be expensive to remedy.

Taking a basic bathroom or kitchen towel will introduce swirls, scratches, and spider webs to your car. The darker the paint, the faster they show up, but no matter the color, you’ll eventually start to notice these marks in your finish.

That’s because cotton fibers are, on a microscopic level, actually quite abrasive. Meanwhile, microfiber towels made specifically for car cleaning have a polyester and polyamide blend. This blend is specifically engineered to be safe on your clear coat. Better yet, they use looped fibers, further enhancing the safety of the towel. Furthermore, these loops help trap dirt and keep it away from your paint.

To get that finish back to showroom new will mean calling a professional detailing service. For extremely swirled surfaces, that will mean a two to three-step polishing process that will easily cost upwards of $1,200.

Using the wrong wheel cleaner

Washing car wheels
At home car wash | Getty Images

This is another car washing mistake that seems too simple to be true. However, there are different types of wheel cleaners that are safe for different wheels. Using wheel acid works on dipped chrome wheels, but Detailing Enthusiast says it will leave permanent marks on aluminum or painted finishes. When this happens, you’re looking at a few hundred to a thousand dollars to make the wheels look like new again. In many cases, they’ll have to be refinished entirely in order to look like new.

For some aluminum wheels, the acid causes such severe corrosion that the wheels can’t be repaired. At this point, you’ll be spending $1,500 or more on a whole new set.

Too much water under the hood is an easy car washing mistake

Under hood car washing
Engine bay cleaning | Getty Images

Youtube detailers love to pressure wash under the hood. In truth, you can handle this without issue in many cases. However, it’s important you know what’s going on in your engine bay before you turn the hose onto it.

If you have any cracked air hoses or exposed wiring harnesses, it’s best to gently handwash under the hood. Water in your air intake can allow water to enter the engine, causing it to hydro lock. Essentially, water gets into your engine and causes it to seize, which means a full engine replacement.

Even if this isn’t the case, getting water into your electrical system can cause all sorts of weird problems. Most shops charge more for electrical diagnostics, and the process itself can take hours. That cost comes before a repair can even start. As you might imagine, those costs can add up in a hurry. You’ll be looking at a four-figure repair bill before you know it.

Know the right way to wash your car and have fun

Washing your own car can certainly be enjoyable, but it’s important to know how to go about things the right way. Avoid these car washing mistakes and have fun making your car look its best.

Related 3 Things You Should Never Do When Washing Your Car

3 Things You Should Never Do When Washing Your Car