Are drive through washes bad for your vehicle?
There are two basic kinds of drive through or tunnel washes. The infamous touch wash is the first we will discuss.
We live in a time period where convenience and speed of service are rather important to a large number of consumers. You may expect that I’m going to completely demonize these style washes in this article. I assure you, they have their place and I will not. My goal is to educate you on the decisions being made.
There is often a sacrifice being made when we take the easy, quick way out. Look at fast food for instance. Would it be smart to eat it 3 times a day for months on end? The documentary Super Size Me taught us that is not a smart idea. The same rings true for most quick and convenient pleasures. They should be consumed or used in moderation. There are two basic kinds of drive through or tunnel washes. I will be discussing both.
The infamous touch wash is the first we will discuss. There is no touch wash out there that does not, at minimum, micro-marr your paint work, but why? Well, these washes see everything from work trucks to show cars. Every car is dirty and the touch pieces of the wash are designed to wipe off that dirt. These pieces, even if they are microfiber, collect the dirt as they are designed. This dirt is embedded and used on the next car. Micro marring happens when you use a dirty wash mitt, sponge or towel on your car’s surface. It is particularly evident when too much pressure is applied. These touch washes do both. They clean with contaminated cloth and high speed. This is a recipe for damage. Now, does that mean they don’t have a purpose? Nonsense, everything has a purpose. Just remember that convenience comes at a cost. So, don’t take your show car through them if you’re looking for a perfect finish.
Now the solution to this was to create a touch-less style wash. While these are “safer” when it comes to the micro marring, they have their own set of issues. The biggest struggle with these washes is the chemicals. Being they are touch-less, they have to use more aggressive chemicals to get the dirt and grime to melt away. These chemicals carry high PH levels and leave the surfaces contaminated. The contamination will, over time, cause damage. They eventually dull the paint, contaminate the windows and fade the plastics on your vehicle. Again, they have a purpose, but convenience comes at a price. If you absolutely must use a wash, I recommend touch-less. It should never be your routine. It is like having Mcdonald's 3 times a day. However, if you supplement your regular washes with these the damage is very minimal.
The moral of the story is this. Convenience comes at a price. That will never change. Use these style washes to supplement your regular detail maintenance. They are not a prescription for perfection and should never be used as the only means to maintain your finish.