Which is best: jet wash or old-style mechanical car wash?

car wash

Our reader wants to know the best and easiest way to clean their car. We would always recommend washing a car by hand. Whether that’s a hand car wash while you do your supermarket shop or in the drive at home, ideally with a pressure washer, we think a human washing a car by hand using car shampoo is best.

Why is how you wash your car important?

One of the most common ways drivers can inflict damage on their own car is by washing it incorrectly. Paintwork can be damaged with scratches or swirls. And one thing that can do this is a mechanical car wash.

Why are car washes bad for your car?

The days of rollers ripping aerials and mirrors off cars are hopefully behind us. Equally, old-style car washes used to have nylon brushes that ground away against your paintwork. Things have changed with modern car washes using softer brushes that are much kinder to paintwork.

However the rollers can still have the dirt from the previous cars they’ve washed trapped in them. And when you start the car wash, those rollers will then rub bits of grit over your car.

If you have to use a car wash, try one that is touchless. These spray jets of water against your car to clean it. That said, these aren’t perfect. Critics say they simply blast dirt into inaccessible areas or don’t remove it properly in the first place.

car wash
Car washes have become much softer and kinder to paintwork (Picture©IMO Car Wash Group)

Jet washes aren’t much better

Jet washes usually have a couple of implements: the lance that blasts water at your car and the brush that you use to scrub the dirt off. That brush will have been used by countless drivers and probably left on the ground between washes. Its bristles could well be full of grit and dirt. If you use it to clean your car, you’ll be wiping that grit all over your precious paintwork.

What we would do?

This is a controversial area. The car wash business is estimated to be worth £1 billion a year and over time it has invested in improving the technology it uses. However, in our view, nothing can quite beat a bit of DIY when it comes to washing your car. But that isn’t to say commercial car washes don’t have a role…

If you don’t have your own pressure washer, go to a garage with one. Pay to simply use the lance. Then blast your car, starting with the top and moving down. Also make sure you target the wheel arches. These will have accumulated plenty of dirt that’s full of contaminants so getting rid of it will be doing your car a favour. Clean the wheels last, keeping the powerful jet of spray away from the tyres as much as possible.

This will loosen much of the debris that’s attached to your car and mean when you get to work washing it, you won’t be rubbing grit over the paintwork.

Once you’ve finished, take your car home. Use a proper car shampoodefinitely not washing up liquid – and wash your car by hand. Use two buckets: one for the water with car shampoo the other with clean water. You’ll rinse your sponge or, better still, purpose-bought wash mitt in the clean water. This will help ensure you don’t wipe grit over your paintwork causing tiny scratches.

Finally, use a chamois or similar to dry your car. And if you’re feeling particularly enthusiastic, use wax to protect the paint.

car wash
Use a pressure washer first to blast dirt off (Picture©Volkswagen)