touchless car wash

Is A Touchless Car Wash Safe for Your Vehicle? 

Many people use automatic car washes because of the convenience they offer. It used to be that all automatic car washes used brushes that touched the vehicle and used force and friction to clean it. However, many modern automatic car washes have been revamped to give a touchless car wash. 

What Is a Touchless Car Wash?

A touchless car wash is an automatic car wash where the car is led through on rails and uses a cleaning method that doesn’t have brushes that touch the vehicle. The major positives of getting a touch-free car wash are that it’s convenient, fast, and easy to get. You don’t have to put any elbow grease into the job, and you don’t have to take up a lot of time. 

These touchless washes allow only the water to touch the car and none of the moving parts of the car wash. This can prevent the scratches and other damage that can come from a wash that uses brushes on the car. 

A touchless car wash is safer for things like your side mirrors and any antennae. It’s also safer for your paint than getting a wash that uses brushes. However, it has to make up for the lack of brushes with jets that are highly powerful. A touch-free car wash uses high-powered chemicals to get the dirt to lift up from the paint.  

Problems With Touchless Car Washes

The three most important elements in a traditional car wash are: 

  • The detergent used.
  • The pressure of the water and soap.
  • The mitt or brush that is used to scrub everything away.

With a touchless car wash, the force of the jets isn’t enough to make up for the lack of a mitt or brush. 

To compensate for this lack of friction, touchless car washes often use specific types of detergents that are extremely strong. These washes generally utilize a high-pH cleaner and a low-pH cleaner combined to break down the dirt on the vehicle’s surface. 

While this kind of car wash is a better type for your paint job, they also present some risks. Part of this comes from the high water pressure used to compensate for the lack of friction from brushes. This is an excessive amount of force that is then applied to your paintwork by the jets. The water pressure is much higher than with a car wash that uses brushes. 

The high pressure used by these car washes is effective at striking dirt off a paint job, but it can also cause those dirt particles to hit others parts of the vehicle and scratch the paint in that area. With a lot of pieces of dirt sent flying, this can lead to many minor scratches that can make a big difference in how the paint looks. Excessive force can wreak havoc on the clear coat on the surface. When a car goes through a touch free car wash often, the wear builds up on the surface, making it look dull and worn. The hash chemicals that are used are also unsafe for use on the clear coat. 

Breaking Down Coatings

It’s common to want to protect your car’s surface with a wax or ceramic coat. These can be highly protective and give your vehicle a desirable shine. One of the problems with a touchless car wash is that the strong cleansers and high water pressure also damage the wax or ceramic coat on the vehicle. These coatings degrade by using touchless car washes, and after going through one a few times, it can be stripped entirely from the car. This makes all your effort to protect your paint go to waste. 

The water used in a touch free car wash is also treated before it is used on vehicles. The larger minerals in the water are removed from it by adding salts. When these salts are added to the water, it makes the water come out of the jets more easily and allows it to flow faster through the works. 

However, this treatment means that the water has salts in it that can build up on the vehicle’s paint. This can mean the car wash isn’t as effective as it could be. It can lead to the car having a salt film on the surface instead of leaving it as clean and clear as possible. One type of wash is more effective when you want to get a spotless vehicle without the harsh surfaces of brushes and the high-powered water and chemicals used in touch-free car washes. 

Car Washes by Hand

Getting an automatic car wash of any kind is less effective than getting a hand wash for your vehicle. Hand washing your vehicle, or getting a professional hand wash, is the best way to clean your car without the many types of damage caused to vehicles by automatic car washes. A hand wash with a mitt applies the right amount of pressure to the car without the damaging texture of brush bristles. This allows the friction needed to remove dirt and grime from the surface without scratching it. 

This also allows for gentler detergents that won’t have to be overly strong, as in a touchless car wash. The car can be washed without taking off the wax or ceramic coating so that your vehicle keeps its shine. A gentler car wash results in a wash that won’t add scratches or remove protective coatings that could work well for your vehicle’s finish. It’s the best way to get the desired look of smooth paint in good condition. 

If you need help figuring out where to start to ensure your vehicle’s exterior is cared for properly, give us a call at Elite Auto. We offer several car detailing packages, including interior and exterior options. If you have previous damage from using automatic car washes, we also offer paint correction services to help remove defects. 


The best way to protect your investment!