Why Should You Go to a Touchless Car Wash?

A touchless car wash may sound like the ideal way to clean your car. But as with everything, there are advantages and drawbacks.

When it comes to keeping your car clean, you’ve got options. Your choice should align with your overall car care plan.

A touchless car wash offers one primary advantage over other types of washes: You avoid any contact with surfaces that can become contaminated with grit and grime, potentially scratching your car’s precious finish.

How Does a Touchless Car Wash Work?

When you drive into a touchless car wash, a sensor guides you to drive forward into the correct position. The system then engages an automated robot that wets your car, rinses off loose grime, applies cleaning agents, rinses them away and then applies any specialty/upgraded treatments, such as liquid wax or tire foam. Once it concludes, lights direct you to pull forward through a stream of hot, dry air, delivered by blowers. Some operations may offer a hand-dry option instead (don’t forget to leave a tip for these workers).

The machine moves back and forth and engages various jets and sprayers, creating quite a show. But in the end the chemicals do all the hard work, according to a representative from Spanish car-wash manufacturer Istobal in a trade article for Professional Carwashing & Detailing. No high pressure jet is enough to remove caked-on crud like bug splatter, bird droppings or fine dirt. And these are only a few of the contaminants that require old-fashioned scrubbing to remove. To make up for the lack of direct contact, touchless car washes amp up the potency of the chemicals used during the wash.

Pros and Cons

Why to use a touchless car wash:

  • Protects paint from scratches;
  • Inexpensive;
  • Saves time vs. DIY hand wash or a commercial hand-wash;
  • Good option for maintenance washes between thorough scrub-downs;
  • Reduces potential damage to loose body parts, antennas and other protruding parts.

Why to use caution when considering a touchless car wash:

  • Does not clean as well as hand washes or automated friction washes;
  • Blowers perform limited drying (watch out for excess moisture around doors during cold months);
  • Hand dry options re-introduce the potential for scratching;
  • The aggressive cleaning chemicals wear down your car’s finish and can harm the environment;
  • Incomplete drying can create spotting on your finish.

Touchless Car Wash Tips

  • It’s still a good idea to lower your exterior-mounted antenna.
  • Be sure to close doors and windows tightly — high-pressure water can get into small openings.
  • As you often find these car washes at gas stations, buying a tank of gas usually leads to a discounted wash.
  • Have a clean cloth ready to wipe down door edges after the wash.
  • Drive as slowly as you can past the blowers to maximize drying, but not so slowly that only part of the car gets dried.