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Going To a Car Wash Near Me Was A BIG Mistake! (Here's Why)

Thinking about taking your car to the nearest automated car wash? You may want to weigh your options. Let me explain.

My interest in car detailing came at a high cost for my friend. I watched him purchase a brand new, shiny red Mustang GT in the early 00s. He loved the thing and for very good reason. It was gorgeous.

Turbo Ceramic Waterless Detailer
From Dirty Car To Shiny In 15 Minutes

Turbo is our anti static waterless car wash and quick detailer with ceramic. It helps enhance the longevity of Mirror Shine or Ceramic Shine and applies easily anywhere, anytime. You'll get high gloss shine and hydrophobic shine. Great for touch ups in between traditional car washing or as a waterless wash. The anti-static feature is well loved by supercar owners because dust  and dirt stays off. 

★★★★★ "Never bringing out the hose again. I use this every few days to remove dirt and debris from my car. Definitely prevents dirt from clinging to the coat. Awesome product." - Lewis R. 

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Now, back then, neither of us knew the first thing about caring for a car’s paintwork. We didn’t know the layers of a car’s paint job, let alone how to care for it!

He used to take it to the car wash ALL THE TIME. He cared about keeping it in top shape and thought the automatic car wash was the best way to do so. I believe his record for car washes was three times in one week. I can’t believe it today!

It wasn’t until I started noticing the paint looking different that I grew concerned. Little spider web-looking etches made the car look a lot older and more used than it really was.

Those are called swirl marks. Here’s an illustration below to give you an idea of what I’m talking about.

This got me researching like a mad man. I was driving a beater at the time, but I knew when I eventually got around to upgrading my ride, I did not want to fall for the same mistakes.

I learned that automatic car washes are the last place you want to bring a vehicle you care about. You’ll learn why as well in this article. I even managed to improve the swirl mark situation massively, albeit it was a hatchet job I’d do much better today. We all have to start somewhere, though.

Let’s learn more about bringing your car to a local car wash.

Car Washes Near Me - What Kind Of Options Are Out There?

Here are some of the car wash options that are out there:

1) In-Bay Automatic Car Wash

In-bay automatic car washes are the most popular and most common on-site car washes. We often find them at gas stations. In these car washes, you pay for the car wash at a terminal and then drive the car into the car wash bay, where automated machines then dispense soap and move back and forth scrubbing the car’s surface using cloth strips and brushes. High-pressure water jets then rinse off the car’s soap and dirt; blow dryers, then dry it off. These car washes are popular because they are cheap and quick. Most of them offer additional services such as tire and wheel cleaning, undercarriage cleaning, and waxing.

2) Tunnel Car Washes

Tunnel car washes are a lot like in-bay automatic car washes. The fundamental difference is that tunnel car washes have conveyor belts that move the car through the ‘tunnel’ as it gets washed, rinsed, and dried off by various machines. Therefore, by design, tunnel car washes are longer and larger. The different cleaning gizmos are spread out across the tunnel. Tunnel car washes tend to give more thorough washes than in-bay automated car washes.

3) Soft-touch Automated Car Washes

Soft-touch automated car washes are a lot like regular in-bay automatic car washes, only that they use cloth strips to scrub the surface of a car. Therefore, they are a less abrasive alternative.

4) Touchless car washes

Touchless car washes do not touch a car’s surface. They only feature soap dispensing machines, high-pressure water jets, and blow dryers so that they won’t leave scratches or swirls on your car’s surface. However, these car washes can potentially damage your car’s paint because they often use highly potent, chemical-heavy cleaning products.

5) Hand Car Washes

When you don’t want machines to wash your car but don’t have time to wash it yourself, you can take your car to a hand car wash. At such car washes, professional car cleaners will wash your car and dry it off by hand. You may also be allowed to choose the cleaning products that will be used. Hand car washes usually offer additional detailing services upon request, e.g., clay bar decontamination, car paint protection, and headlight restoration. Hand car washes are a better alternative to automated car washes because the cleaners do a better job of reaching patches of dirt in the nooks and crannies of your car’s exterior.  

6) Mobile Car Washes

Mobile car washes are a lot like hand car washes, only that you get to have the professional cleaners come with their water and all their cleaning equipment to wherever you want the car washing to be done. By law, mobile car washes are required to have a way of reclaiming the water they use when washing cars. Therefore, you won’t have to worry about dealing with all the water used in the process. Given the premium nature of these mobile car washes, they tend to be expensive.

Turbo Ceramic Waterless Detailer
From Dirty Car To Shiny In 15 Minutes

Turbo is our anti static waterless car wash and quick detailer with ceramic. It helps enhance the longevity of Mirror Shine or Ceramic Shine and applies easily anywhere, anytime. You'll get high gloss shine and hydrophobic shine. Great for touch ups in between traditional car washing or as a waterless wash. The anti-static feature is well loved by supercar owners because dust  and dirt stays off. 

★★★★★ "Never bringing out the hose again. I use this every few days to remove dirt and debris from my car. Definitely prevents dirt from clinging to the coat. Awesome product." - Lewis R. 

CLAIM DISCOUNT

7) Self Service Car Washes

Also, if you love cleaning your car but do not have space or supplies that you would want to work with when cleaning the car, you can also look for a self-service or self serve car wash. This type of car wash just provides a water hose, cleaning products, sponges, and whatever else you may want to use and then lets you do the cleaning. As expected, these car washes are pretty affordable.

What To Consider When Choosing A Car Wash

Here are some of the things you ought to consider before deciding on which car wash option to use:

Pricing and Plans

It may cost you between $5 and $10 to get your car washed at an in-bay automated car wash and a bit more at a tunnel car wash. Self-service car washes also tend to charge less than $10 for a basic wash. Therefore, if you are looking for the most affordable options, you should consider these.

Soft-touch automated car washes and touchless car washes are ideal for when you want to steer clear of scratches and swirls but still want to get your car washed quickly and affordably. However, at times, touchless car washes and soft-touch car washes may fail to remove all the dirt on your car, so you should only use them when the car isn’t that dirty.  

Hand car washes and mobile car washes are the priciest, but they offer the best quality car washing services; with them, you are more assured of having a scratch-free paint surface when the washing is done.

Most car washes offer service plans that include a basic wash (with rinsing and drying), wheel cleaning, and waxing. Hand car washes and mobile car washes may also offer paint decontamination, paint correction, and/or rust protection services.

Professional Credibility

It is wise to just stick to the basic wash and wheel cleaning services when visiting car washes. To maximize their profits, car wash owners may often opt to use cheap, low-quality detailing products. Also, because the aim is to detail as many cars in a day as possible, many car washes end up rushing the waxing/paint correction process. Therefore, you would rather leave the waxing, paint decontamination, paint correction, rust protection, and all other detailing services to professional detailers.

However, that said, certain car washes go an extra mile to ensure that their customers get high-quality service, so it is also essential to read and compare customer reviews when choosing the best car wash for your car. You may just get a gem in the rough when you do that.

Type Of Supplies Used

Be sure to ask about the materials that a car wash uses. Some car washes use chemical-heavy cleaning products that may harm your car’s paint or waxes/sealants that do not hold up when exposed to the elements. You’ll do well to choose a car wash that uses more organic products.

Automatic Car Washes vs. DIY: Why Doing It Yourself Is a Safer Option

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There is no denying the convenience that automatic car washes offer, but as it is often said, if you want a job done right, you have to do it yourself. Here are some advantages of DIY car washing:

Less Chance of Leaving Scratches and Swirls

Because of the attachment you have with your car, the care you’ll give it when cleaning it will be much greater than that which your car will get at your local car wash. For example, you’ll be more careful when using wash mitts, regularly removing dirt from saturated wash mitts before rubbing the other sections of the car, which will help prevent scratches and swirls. You’ll also probably be more careful not to apply too much pressure when rubbing the surface of your car with wash mitts or microfiber towels.

Getting Rid of All the Dirt

Sometimes, the brushes and cloths in car washes fail to get to those hard-to-reach areas, e.g., within the wheel wells. When you clean your car on your own, you can remove all the dirt in those nooks and crannies.

Your Own Choice of Products

When you wash your car yourself, you can control the cleaning products that your car gets exposed to. Many car washes use harsh and inferior cleaning products that may erode clear coats and slowly damage car paint. You can avoid that by opting for DIY car washing.

Flexibility

When you opt for an automated car wash, you are limited to the cleaning options that the establishment provides. However, when you do DIY car washing, you are able to choose any of several cleaning methods, e.g., you can do a mild wash or full-on thorough wash-down.

Satisfaction

There is a satisfaction that you’ll get from washing your car that you won’t get when having machines or other people; the satisfaction that the car is well-cleaned.

Self Service Car Wash Near Me (Self-Serve): A Step in the Right Direction

If you have to take your car to a car wash, the safest option would be a self-service car wash. In a self-service car wash, you get to do the washing on your own, so you’ll have just as much control of the entire cleaning process as you would have when washing the car at home. This means that you’ll enjoy all the advantages of DIY car washing listed above when using a self-service car wash.

Another key benefit of self-service car washes is that they offer a wider range of cleaning products than the ones you have at home; they’ll also probably have high-tech car washing equipment. For just a few dollars, you’ll get to use their equipment, their water, and the finest cleaning and detailing products they have.

Easy Methods To Wash Your Car At Home (DIY)

When doing DIY car washing in your garage or driveway, you could opt to give your car a mild wash, e.g., a waterless wash or a total wash. A waterless wash is ideal when the car only has light dirt (not when it is covered with thick, dried mud). When your car wash has collected a lot of dirt and grime, however, you’ll be better off opting for a full wash.

Full Wash

The basic way to do a full wash is by using the two-bucket method. You’ll need the following items:

Materials List:

Step 1: Pre-wash the Car

The first step is to hose down the car with plenty of water using either a garden hose or a pressure washer to wash off loose dirt and soften caked-up, stuck-on dirt. A pressure washer would be ideal because of the dirt-dislodging impact of pressurized water.

Step 2: Clean The Wheels and Tires

The next step is to spray or pour some Torque Detail Ceramic Car shampoo onto your car’s wheels and to let it sit for a minute. After that, scrub the wheels and tires using the wheel cleaning brush and then wash off the dirt with plenty of water. You’ll then spray Torque Detail’s High-Gloss Tire Shine Spray onto the tires of your car to give them a deep matte sheen and a UV-ray resistant, water-resistant protective layer.    

Step 3: Wash the Car

Put grit guards at the bottom of both buckets of water to ensure that you don’t pick up bits of dirt when rinsing your wash mitts. You then pour the recommended amount of the Torque Detail Ceramic Car shampoo into one bucket. The bucket with the soap will be your ‘soap’ bucket, and the other will be your ‘rinse’ bucket.

You’ll then dip your fresh wash mitt into the soap bucket and gently start scrubbing a section of your car’s exterior. Start from the top of the car and work your way downwards. Use circular motions to dislodge dirt without applying a lot of pressure on the car’s surface. When you are done with one section, wash off the dirt on the wash mitt in the rinse bucket, and then dip it again in the soap bucket as you move to another section of your car’s exterior. Continue the process, keeping on rinsing the wash mitt when it gets saturated with dirt.

Step 4: Rinse and Dry the Car

Using your water hose or pressure washer, spray free-flowing water onto the car to wash down all the soap and dirt. Work your way downwards from the top, and don’t leave any dirt or soap traces behind.

After that, use microfiber towels to dry off the car. Here, again, you must work your way from the top to the bottom. Fold a fresh microfiber towel once or twice, and then gently wipe a section of your car’s exterior. This time, use up-down motions, not circular, as you move across the surface. When that side of the microfiber towel gets saturated, flip to another side and continue wiping. Use different microfiber towels for each section of your car; that will help avoid any scratches or swirl marks.

Step 5: Apply a Wax or Sealant

It is always good to finish your car washing process with a wax/sealant application. Torque Detail’s Ceramic Shine is a high-quality spray-on ceramic coating that is easy to apply and delivers excellent results.

Before you apply the Ceramic Shine, however, you must prepare the surface of your car to remove embedded contaminants and residual layers of polish or wax from the last time you waxed your car. A normal wash-down is often not enough to remove bonded contaminants, e.g., brake dust, from the surface of your car. To confirm this, you can run your hand over your car paint; you’ll probably feel a few tiny contaminants still clinging to the paint. You can remove such embedded contaminants by ‘claying’ your car. With Torque Detail’s Clay Lube and reusable clay pad, you can clay your car easily and effectively. After claying, you must dry off the clay lube and dislodged contaminants as before.

At this point, your car’s surface will be ready for the Ceramic Shine detailing product.

Waterless Wash

A waterless car wash is much simpler. Here are the materials you need for a waterless wash:

Materials List:

Here, as well, you must wash the car section by section, and you must also start from the top and work your way downward.

Because the microfiber towels have to do all the dirt-removing from the car’s surface, you need more of them. Mentally split the car into more sections than you would when doing the full wash, e.g., roof, windshield, side windows, the upper half of side doors on one side, etc., and use a fresh microfiber towel for each of those sections.

Step 1: Spray the Waterless Car Wash Detailing Product onto the Car

Spray Torque Detail’s Turbo Ceramic Waterless Detailer liberally onto one section of your car’s exterior and let it sit for a minute to allow the active ingredients in the product to emulsify the dirt and grime.  

Step 2: Wipe Off the Dirt

Take a fresh microfiber towel, fold it twice, and gently wipe the dirt and detailing product off your paint. Don’t use circular motions when wiping; wipe in straight lines, from top to bottom, as you move across a surface, and don’t apply too much pressure. When you have wiped off the dirt on that section of paint, flip to a fresh side of the towel and buff away any excessed detailing fluid.

When one side a towel gets saturated, flip to another side and continue. Also, don’t limit yourself to just one towel per section; when all its sides get saturated with dirt, get a fresh one. This will help to avoid scratches and swirls.  

When you are done with one section, move on to the next section and repeat the process until you have washed all the sections of your car’s exterior.

Turbo Ceramic Waterless Detailer
From Dirty Car To Shiny In 15 Minutes

Turbo is our anti static waterless car wash and quick detailer with ceramic. It helps enhance the longevity of Mirror Shine or Ceramic Shine and applies easily anywhere, anytime. You'll get high gloss shine and hydrophobic shine. Great for touch ups in between traditional car washing or as a waterless wash. The anti-static feature is well loved by supercar owners because dust  and dirt stays off. 

★★★★★ "Never bringing out the hose again. I use this every few days to remove dirt and debris from my car. Definitely prevents dirt from clinging to the coat. Awesome product." - Lewis R. 

CLAIM DISCOUNT

Summary - Choosing The Best Option For Washing Your Car

All things considered, your safest bet is washing your car on your own. Automated car washes may seem cheap, but the cost of repairing damaged car paint is sure to negate such benefits. When you wash your car yourself, you’ll choose high-quality products for your car, e.g., Torque Detail’s Turbo Ceramic Waterless Detailer and Ceramic Shine, and you’ll probably do a better job of cleaning your car because you have an attachment to it. Therefore, your car’s paint is sure to look better and last longer when you wash it yourself.

  • Published on Jun 23, 2021
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