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Talk to me about automatic car washes

There is actually a hand wash place not far from my house. It is housed in what used to be an automatic car wash, but the machinery was removed. Humans hand wash the cars. They still use the blower, then other humans wipe down the car. I‘ve had mixed experience with other vehicles. Sometimes the result is as good as I would do. Sometimes not. One of our local gas stations has a truly touchless wash. You drive into the middle of the bay and a laser guided set of sprayers clean the car. There is a blower at the exit. I remember that the blower made the hood on my Tacoma visibly ripple like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge just before it collapsed. It left no mark on my Tacoma. Still, I’m not sure I’m willing to put the delicate aluminum hood of my M3 through that. The M3 is a lot easier to hand wash than my prior vehicles. I can reach the entire roof without a step ladder or standing on the door sill. And there are almost no obstructions to a wash mitt. But I live in Florida and don’t have to deal with road salt and the like. Having grown up in the North, I can appreciate the desire to use an automatic wash.
 
The owners manual says to avoid them but I do not see any reason why Tesla would be any different than other vehicles. Someone mentioned camera alignment which seems reasonable but appeared to be more speculation there is an issue. It's nice to see some have taken their Tesla's through a non touchless wash and everything has been fine.
I think the fact that Tesla added a Car Wash Mode in software version 2021.24.4 tells you all you need to know on Tesla's current position on automatic car washes for the M3/MY.
 
There is actually a hand wash place not far from my house. It is housed in what used to be an automatic car wash, but the machinery was removed. Humans hand wash the cars. They still use the blower, then other humans wipe down the car. I‘ve had mixed experience with other vehicles. Sometimes the result is as good as I would do. Sometimes not. One of our local gas stations has a truly touchless wash. You drive into the middle of the bay and a laser guided set of sprayers clean the car. There is a blower at the exit. I remember that the blower made the hood on my Tacoma visibly ripple like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge just before it collapsed. It left no mark on my Tacoma. Still, I’m not sure I’m willing to put the delicate aluminum hood of my M3 through that. The M3 is a lot easier to hand wash than my prior vehicles. I can reach the entire roof without a step ladder or standing on the door sill. And there are almost no obstructions to a wash mitt. But I live in Florida and don’t have to deal with road salt and the like. Having grown up in the North, I can appreciate the desire to use an automatic wash.
The problem with those places is they're using crappy towels that have been dropped, and used on 50 other cars that week, and people that aren't paid enough to care.

My general advice is to not let anyone touch your paint, unless they're a professional that knows what they're doing.
 
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I assure you I can show you damage after one wash.

Just because someone doesn't know what they're looking at, doesn't mean the damage isn't there.

Tuesday I spent 8 hours on a model y with 400 miles on it. Owner washed it twice, over $1,000 in work.
I've washed my X5-M and Volt with this very car wash and, after more than a year didn't see any noticeable damage. This is not to say that there wasn't something wrong but both vehicles looked the same after more than a year of using this car wash.

That said the reason I posted asking about car washes is that I wanted opinions on what others are doing.
 
I've washed my X5-M and Volt with this very car wash and, after more than a year didn't see any noticeable damage. This is not to say that there wasn't something wrong but both vehicles looked the same after more than a year of using this car wash.

That said the reason I posted asking about car washes is that I wanted opinions on what others are doing.
Easiest wash method for your average person is Optimum No Rinse green. A bucket with a grit guard. A high quality sponge or wash mitt, a couple high quality edgeless microfiber drying towels.
If you want to go 1 more level up, optimum hyperseal as a drying aid.

Takes me less than 30 mins to wash and wax a model 3, and you can use warm water in a garage during the winter.
 

jjrandorin

Moderator, Model 3, Tesla Energy Forums
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Nov 28, 2018
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Riverside Co. CA
Where I am, I also use brushless car washes but the type that is around me is the kind where you drive in, and park and the machine moves around the stationary car. No pulling through the track.

Im not anal about car care, and realize that this type of wash isnt great, but its "good enough" for what I am after. I used to use the brush types on our BMWs (still do on my wifes X3) occasionally, but I dont feel teslas paint is conducive to those abrasive brushes. I feel these cars will show the inevitable scratching from those brushes more than other cars, and it would be harder to detail those out at a later date.

If I was going to put the car through a machine that had tracks it pulled through, I would also be concerned like you are, OP, because it feels to me like these rims protrude out more than other cars, so more likely to get curb rash, etc.
 
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Do the brush automatic car washes have any effect on camera alignment? I can't imagine how, but I read somewhere that was one of the reasons why Tesla recommended against them in the manual.

I've hand-washed mine since I took delivery; but now after 19 month, I'm open to an automatic wash.

Tesla isn't about the camera alignment and brushes it's about the paint used on the car. It is different than most other manufacturers out there and after a bunch of washes, the brushes will start affecting the paint. The amount of washes depends on what brushes are being used and how they are set up by the individual wash.

I'm a sales rep for a large car wash manufacturer and our equipment is okay if set up by the wash owner correctly. Sadly most are not. I suggest you use a touchless In-Bay Automatic to wash your Tesla or do it by hand. That is a wash that has no brushes and uses just high-pressure water and soap. An In-Bay Automatic is one that you pull into and park the car and the machine runs around the vehicle to wash it. That way there
 
Tesla is about the type of paint they use. You should not go through a car wash with brushes because it could damage the paint on your Tesla. Go through a wash that is "touchless" meaning it has no brushes to keep the paint pristine.

If you really want to use a standard car wash tunnel with all the lights, brushes, ease of use, and monthly programs you could have a Ceramic coat put on to protect the paint. Depending on which one, it will last 6 months to 2 years. Kits are $50-$120 to do it yourself and around $500 to have a professional detailer do it for you.

The different paint and washing your Tesla is one of the few downsides to owning a Tesla.
 
If you really want to use a standard car wash tunnel with all the lights, brushes, ease of use, and monthly programs you could have a Ceramic coat put on to protect the paint. Depending on which one, it will last 6 months to 2 years. Kits are $50-$120 to do it yourself and around $500 to have a professional detailer do it for you.

This is the strategy I’ve used, and have been to the car wash 2 or 3 times a month in the 3 since I’ve had the car. I also have PPF strategically applied. Zero problems, and the car still looks “showroom shiny” and new.
 
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For most people, automatic car washes are acceptable. Yes, they do cause swirl marks, scratch up the paint, and do not get rid of all the debris, but they do their job. It depends on the amount of pride you place in your vehicle. If you are looking just to make sure you have a clean car, go through car washes. If you want your car to look stellar, and you take pride in its upkeep, wash, and dry it by hand.
 
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I’m doubting touchless car washes myself. I went to one where the machine sprays water and there’s no brushes involved like a local gas station yet there was all these white dots on the car after. I usually go to the self car wash but now I see some scratches on the vehicle and I can’t really wash it at home since I’m in a apartment. I think maybe the automatic car wash isn’t that bad I got advised by the service team for Tesla when they were working on my car and they all used automatic car washes and had no issues but it also depends on which automatic car wash you go to.
 
I’m doubting touchless car washes myself. I went to one where the machine sprays water and there’s no brushes involved like a local gas station yet there was all these white dots on the car after. I usually go to the self car wash but now I see some scratches on the vehicle and I can’t really wash it at home since I’m in a apartment. I think maybe the automatic car wash isn’t that bad I got advised by the service team for Tesla when they were working on my car and they all used automatic car washes and had no issues but it also depends on which automatic car wash you go to.

Optimum no rinse and a 5 gallon bucket, and you can wash the car anywhere.
 

dmurphy

Active Member
Supporting Member
Easiest wash method for your average person is Optimum No Rinse green. A bucket with a grit guard. A high quality sponge or wash mitt, a couple high quality edgeless microfiber drying towels.
If you want to go 1 more level up, optimum hyperseal as a drying aid.

Takes me less than 30 mins to wash and wax a model 3, and you can use warm water in a garage during the winter.

I'm not doing that in the winter. It's way too cold out there.

Garage isn't an option.

So, the "hand wash but with track" wash it is. And they do a fine job - no issues with the track. Car looks perfectly fine to me.

I'm married, with kids and a dog, and use it as a daily driver. It's not a garage queen, not a show car. I even have the nerve to park it at an airport when I travel. So yeah, no time & no patience for doing hand washes. Especially in the cold - gettin' too old for this <stuff>...

Paint looks fine to me. I don't have a good enough eye to care about anything closer than this, anyway.
 

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