The True Costs of Using an Automatic Car Wash (AKA “The Scratch Factory”)

They’re cheap and seem reputable to the average car owner, but even the newest automatic car washes leave millions of micro-abrasions on your paint. A car wash expert at MSN put it another way —”It’s like slapping your car over and over with a dirty mop.”

We agree, but it gets worse because those micro-abrasions reduce the ability of the clear coat (the top protective layer over your paint) to block UV radiation. UV rays quickly penetrate the damaged clear coat, breaking it down even further. All of these micro-scratches in your paint also create valleys for dirt, grime, and other contaminants to lodge themselves in, making it harder to keep your car clean, so you feel the need to wash it more.

The mass car wash industry created this hide and seek game. In a stroke of genius, they developed watery waxes that temporarily fill those scars with wax. But, this watery wax evaporates quickly. Within a few days, the car looks awful again, so the owner takes it back to the scratch factory. It’s a vicious cycle because the car looks clean and somewhat shiny after exiting the tunnel, but it gets dirty faster, which leads to more revenue for the car wash operator. They win and you loose, as the original protection and gloss is literally sanded away.

Swirl marks don’t just look awful up close or in the sun. The damage can be noticed from far away as well. Cars that regularly get punished by an automatic car wash look dull and old from a distance. Within a year, your car’s gloss level can drop 2-3 full points, from a 10 to a 7.

By far, the best and safest way to wash any vehicle is by hand washing. Better said, professional car detailing services that are performed by hand. The process is often just as fast, and not much more expensive, but the results are worth every penny. So, find a professional hand wash and wax service in your area. Most will also perform a complete car detailing service, inside and out. There are hundreds, if not thousands of ways to wash a car. The pros have narrowed that down to the top three or four ways, depending on the condition and age of your car. Ask them which hand wash process they recommend for your car and why. The real car detailing professionals will be impressed by that question and eager to answer it.

So avoid the scratch factories. Keep that new car look and feeling by committing to a “hand wash only” car detailing program with My Car Butler today.