Automatic car washes are quick and easy solutions to get your dirty car clean in minutes. They tend to be cheap alternatives and time savers compared to setting time aside to hand wash your vehicle on hot summer days. Although they are convenient, they will cause damage that outweighs the benefits of convenience. The biggest culprit of damaging your paint in automatic car washes are the spinning brushes and rubber brussels used to clean your car. They are spinning at a high rate against your paint which is a very unnecessary amount of friction that is known to cause scratching, swirl marks, and even breaking parts off of a vehicle in severe cases.
The general rule of removing dirt off your vehicle is to keep the amount of friction against your paint to a minimum, even when you’re hand washing your car with a mitt. A few low pressure passes is usually sufficient enough to remove loose dirt per panel in order to minimize the amount of possible swirl marks on your paint. Fast spinning contaminated brushes result in the micro-scratching of your paint or ceramic coating. Over time, drive-thru car washes will create spiral-like scratches on your paint surface. This will degrade the performance of your ceramic coating and/or damage your clear coat.
Even at a touchless or DYI car wash, many chemicals that these washes use are caustic and overly aggressive for automotive finishes, causing further damage and even staining. We still don’t recommend visiting even a touchless wash because of this.
These chemicals are considered to be more aggressive than what is needed to wash your vehicle safely. It is always recommended to hand wash your vehicle using a proper three bucket method, because it will result in less micro-scratching over time and safe removal of dirt and grime.
The biggest misconception with ceramic coated vehicles is that it's okay to use an automatic car wash after your vehicle is ceramic coated because of its durability in paint protection. Unfortunately, no matter the durability of any ceramic coating, they will leave considerable micro-scratches on the coating itself and damage the coating's integrity. The end result will leave scratches just as bad as a non-coated vehicle because of how aggressive the brushes are in automatic car washes. The continuous amount of scratches over time after multiple automatic car washes will reduce the durability of the ceramic coating and will prematurely cause the coating to fail and need to be replaced.
So how should you wash your ceramic coated vehicle? While there are great sources online on how to maintain your ceramic coated vehicle by hand washing, we highly recommend having a professional certified detailer to handle your ceramic coated vehicles because they’re highly knowledgeable on how to apply coatings and to maintain them. With proper care with a certified detailer, they can maintain your coating to last longer than anticipated and to help avoid the coating from premature failure. For example, a coating that can last 5 years with proper maintenance can push beyond 5+ years of protection. Here at Spades Motorsports, we do offer an Unlimited Wash Program dedicated to vehicles that have been ceramic coated to ensure the longevity of your ceramic coating’s finish and performance. For all the details for our Wash Program click here to learn more. Or, attend one of our Training Events to learn all about proper Ceramic Coating After Care.