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Retractable door handles = health risk with touchless carwash?

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by neddy, Dec 26, 2012.

  1. neddy

    neddy New Member

    Dec 11, 2012
    The Tesla Model S manual recommends a touchless car wash if you aren't prepared to hand wash the car. However, it seems in certain circumstances the door handle design could create a possible health risk. You could have unrinsed acid solution sitting on the door handle. The type of acid used in some touchless washes is particularly hazardous.



    Touchless washes typically have at least three passes over the car:

    1. An acid foam bath (to dislodge and dissolve certain types of dirt)
    2. An alkali foam bath (to neutralize the acid and cleanse other forms of dirt)
    3. A high pressure water rinse
    4. Wax, dry, etc...

    Ok, so you drive into the automated car wash, stop, and hit the "P" button to park the car. This causes the door handles to extend. The acid bath then soaks the handles. But then the car notices you have not exited the car and so the door handles automatically retract before the next pass. My local touchless car wash has just the right timing for this to happen, and I expect many others do as well. That means the handles no longer get the neutralizing alkali bath, or much of the water rinse. Instead they sit partially covered in acid until the next time someone opens the door by grasping the handle.

    Since the wash is touchless and since the acid bath is only supposed to last for a few seconds, the acid solution is stronger and more corrosive than regular washes. Furthermore, some touchless car washes use controversial hydrofluoric acid and/or ammonium bifluoride. There have been several reports of car wash employee injuries resulting from HF and ABF. It is regarded as more hazardous than alternatives. It is easily absorbed through the skin and it has a numbing effect on your nerves so that you may not initially realize you are being internally burned. Burns can happen even at concentrations less than 1%. Any concentration above 0.1% is regarded as hazardous by the DOT, EU and Australian OSH. From what I can tell, the acid foam bath can be around 0.15% concentration or even higher.

    Do a search for [hydrofluoric acid carwash] for more information.

    Setting aside the possible health risk, having acid solution on the retracted door handles for extended periods can't do the car much good...

    Has anyone actually been caught out by this issue?
  2. Zas

    Zas Sig. Performance #2113

    Dec 24, 2012
    These handles will surely present some unique situations... for this situation, all you need to do is double press your key fob and the handles will extend out again - and then you can "rinse and repeat" this procedure as many times to keep the handles extended out.
  3. EcoHeliGuy

    EcoHeliGuy Member

    Dec 2, 2012
    The handles aren't sealed, they will be rinsed off. Or just hold the brake pedal and not place the car in park. Handles won't extent and you won't have issues.

    but since acid is diluted in water before it gets sprayed on you car there are no worries. The chemical burns are from the consantrated liquid in the bottles. Your whites don't burn your skin after the wash but straight bleach sure will.

    if this was a real problem trucks, fuel doors, wipers, trim, hinges, rims. Roof rack will all be falling off around the country.
  4. dsm363

    dsm363 Roadster + Sig Model S

    May 17, 2009
    Wasn't this acid bath theory already posted?
  5. dhrivnak

    dhrivnak Active Member

    Jan 8, 2011
    NE Tennessee
    I would bet the "acid" in a car wash is less acidic than Coke which many drink. I have frequently gotten the solution on my hands with no ill effects and I have seen many was cars with flip flops on.

    There are MANY strengths of acid and I cannot imagine the PH being so low that it would burn your hands and yet not hurt paint, chrome and plastic.

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