How to Use an Automatic Car Wash

An automatic car wash is a great way to ensure your vehicle is clean and shining, without putting in the elbow grease yourself. But if you’ve never used one before, it can be a little intimidating. I’ll help you learn how to use an automatic car wash, what not to do while you’re there, and some aftercare tips.

The Pros and Cons of Using an Automatic Car Wash

Taking your car to the car wash is imperative to do once in a while. Sure, you can wash it at home with some soap and water, but an automated car wash can get into all the nooks and crannies you may not be able to reach. This is an apparent advantage of this service.

While you clean your car manually, you can also fix your windshield wipers, order top-notch TRICO Diamond 26-inch & 16-inch, change or add some brake fluid, I always use ATE Set of 2 Brake Fluid, and ensure your vehicle is safe to drive at night. These, paired with the costs (which often aren’t small,) are the cons of an automatic car wash.

The table below shows some more advantages and disadvantages of washing your car with the automatic service.

Saves timeCan damage the car if not done correctly
Cars come out cleanCan be expensive if done often
Can prevent contaminants from building up on your vehicle’s surfaces Can be inconvenient to find a car wash near you
Automated car washes are generally safer than manual methodsEnvironmental impact due to the use of water and detergents in the process
Can help preserve the paint and other components of your vehicle You may have to wait in line if the car wash is busy

Required Steps for Using an Automatic Car Wash

Using an automated car wash requires taking some necessary steps. You need to first find the appropriate service, something not too cheap or too expensive; then, you need to pull up to the bay and select your wash type.

Read more about these and other instructions below.

Pull Into the Bay

When you pull into the bay, ensure that your mirror and antennae are retracted or folded down so they don’t get damaged during the car wash. Also, be sure that all windows are closed and locked.

Put your car in a neutral position, if automatic, or let the engine stay idle. You don’t need to press the gas pedals or do anything else.

Select Your Wash

Some automatic car washes have different cleaning option levels – from basic washing and rinsing to waxing and polishing – so make sure to select the option that best meets your needs. Most bays will have this selection on a touchscreen panel located inside the bay.

Wait for Instructions

Once you’ve made your selection, follow any additional instructions on the touch screen panel, such as shifting into neutral or disabling any safety features like parking assist or lane departure warning systems if applicable. These instructions may also be displayed verbally on a speaker system inside the bay, so make sure to listen for them.

Lay Back

Once you’ve followed all instructions given by the machine, sit back and enjoy watching your vehicle get washed. This is also a good time to check around your car for any spots needing extra cleaning attention after the wash (i.e., mud on tires).

Exit Carefully

After your vehicle has been washed and dried, carefully exit out of the bay, making sure not to damage any other cars around you or hit any poles or walls in your path.

Pay & Tip

Last but not least, pay for your wash and tip accordingly. Some bays allow payment directly through their machines, while others require cash-only payments at their front counter – just be sure to check before starting your wash.

What Components Does an Automatic Car Wash Include? 

An automatic car wash typically consists of a conveyor system that moves your vehicle through the various car wash stations. At each station, different components work together to clean your vehicle efficiently. 

This includes a pre-soak, high-pressure cleaning systems for your vehicle’s top and bottom, powerful blower dryers, specialized brushes and cloaks, foam polishers, wax applicators, high-pressure spot removers, sealer or polish applicators, and air fresheners. Most automatic car washes offer numerous additional services, such as tire cleaning and wheel brightening. Depending on the car wash you choose, these components may vary from location to location.

Every automatic car wash has a high-pressure cleaning system

Which Steps Should I Take When Using an Automatic Car Wash?

The steps for using an automated car wash can vary slightly depending on the facility. However, there are some universal rules that everyone who uses the car wash should follow. They’re there to increase safety and avoid accidents. To use the service properly, try to follow these steps:

  • Make sure your vehicle is empty of loose items like bags or trash that could be blown away by the high-pressure water sprayers or swept away by the machine’s brushes.  
  • Drive your vehicle onto the conveyor belt and follow instructions. These could include properly positioning your car, so it goes through all stations correctly. That means without any damage to your or other customers’ vehicles,
  • Select a payment option and wait for instructions, such as when to begin driving forward again once it is time to move to each of the stations along the conveyor belt system,   
  • Follow additional instructions from attendants if needed while going through each station (such as the time for you to stop),
  • Be sure to exit carefully and slowly off the platform after passing through the stations. That way, no damage can be caused by you or other customers who may be entering or leaving at that same time as well.

How To Use An Automatic Car Wash For Automatic Cars

When using an automatic car wash for an automatic vehicle, the process is pretty straightforward: drive up to the entrance of the tunnel and follow instructions from there. Depending on the type of wash you choose, you may need to select a package from a payment kiosk or use cash or coins at a pay booth.

Once payment has been made, you will be instructed to drive into the entrance lane of the tunnel and wait until all instructions are given by staff from outside. Most machines have sensors in place so that they can detect when you enter the tunnel and start with their predetermined cycle automatically. 

You should stay in your vehicle until the entire cycle is complete – this could take anywhere from three minutes up to 15 minutes, depending on what services are being offered at each station within the tunnel itself.     

How To Use An Automatic Car Wash For Manual Cars 

The process of washing manual cars is generally similar to that of washing an automatic one; however, there are some minor differences when using manual transmission vehicles at an automated car wash facility. 

When entering the entrance lane of a tunnel with a manual vehicle, make sure that you select “manual mode” on the payment kiosk if available – this will help ensure that your vehicle is properly cleaned without causing any damage due to incorrect settings being used for its transmission system (which could result in stalling). 

Additionally, keep in mind that some facilities may not have sensors compatible with manual transmissions – if this is the case, double-check with the attendants before entering, so they can adjust their settings accordingly before starting any cycles within their tunnels. 

There are slight differences between automatic and manual car washing

What Not To Do While At An Automatic Car Wash 

There are some things you should do before entering the automated car wash. These steps aren’t complicated, so you don’t need to worry about major prep. Still, ensure you follow the instructions, so your car washing process goes smoothly:

  • Don’t forget to lower/retract mirrors & antennae prior – This is important because these parts of your vehicle can easily get caught in moving parts of the washing machine, which could cause serious damage,
  • Don’t leave windows open – It’s important to do this so you don’t end up cleaning your seat belts, soaping up the steering wheel and getting a bath,
  • Don’t rush out of the bay – Be careful when exiting out of the bay as there may still be wet surfaces which can cause slipping hazards or damage other vehicles around yours, 
  • Don’t forget to pay – Make sure to pay either at the machine or front desk before leaving; otherwise, they won’t be able to provide services again until payment is made in full,
  • Don’t neglect quality control checks – After you’re done with the wash, do a quick quality control check around areas such as tires & door jambs just in case anything was missed during its cleaning cycle (i.e., mud on tires).

Follow These Aftercare Tips for Your Car

Once your car has been through its cycle, it will come out sparkling clean. However, if some stubborn spots that need extra attention remain, don’t be afraid to take matters into your own hands. 

Using a microfiber towel or soft cloth along with some water and cleaning products can help remove those pesky smudges and streaks that might remain after going through an automatic car wash. Don’t use too much pressure when wiping surfaces, as this could cause damage or scratches on the vehicle’s exterior. Avoid harsh chemicals on any plastic parts since these can cause discoloration over time if used too frequently.

Additionally, wax your car periodically with Chemical Guys WAC_201 Butter Wet Wax. Waxing will protect and preserve the paint job from environmental elements like sun, rain, and snow. It’s important to note that waxing should generally be done once every three months to maintain protection.

You should also ensure to wash the vehicle’s undercarriage regularly. It’s usually exposed to road grime, salt, and other debris that can damage its surface if not properly maintained. Cleaning the undercarriage (I use M MINGLE Pressure Washer) of your car also helps minimize rust and corrosion due to these elements.

Check the pressure of your tires regularly. This is especially important if you’re driving in wet weather where the roads are more slippery than usual. Underinflated tires can harm handling and stability, so it’s important to ensure that they are properly inflated at all times. Do it effortlessly with Digital Tire Pressure Gauge.

Apply a sealant to your vehicle’s windshield. It can help prevent the glass from becoming damaged due to debris, dirt, and other elements that can be thrown up from the road. Permatex 81730 is the best for this job.

Pay attention to any signs of wear on the car’s frame or suspension components. Car washes typically use high-pressure water jets to clean the surface of your car, which can cause damage to these components if they are not regularly inspected. If you notice any wear or damage, it’s important to get them repaired as soon as possible.

 Take care of your car after the wash, too, so it stays polished and functional

The Automatic Car Wash Is a Fun and Easy Way to Clean Your Four Wheeler

Now that you know how to use an automatic car wash properly, it’s time to try it out yourself. Just remember the necessary steps listed here, along with what not to do while at an automatic car wash (i.e., forgetting to retract mirrors & antennae). If you follow all instructions carefully, you’ll ensure everything goes smoothly when visiting another car wash soon. 

With proper care taken each time you use an automatic car wash, you’ll ensure that both you and your vehicle are safe throughout the process – so have fun and enjoy getting that vehicle clean and shiny again.