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Old 10-27-2006
peteypob peteypob is offline
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: San Antonio, TX
Posts: 53
Default Are Drive-thru car washes a bad idea?

Im talking those laser-wash ones were you sit there until its done. Not the ones where you actually drive-thru into those leather wash strips and that big cookie monster looking spinning thing.
Old 10-27-2006
Legendman Legendman is offline
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 70
Default Re: Are Drive-thru car washes a bad idea?

Originally Posted by peteypob
Im talking those laser-wash ones were you sit there until its done. Not the ones where you actually drive-thru into those leather wash strips and that big cookie monster looking spinning thing.

The topic of where and how to wash one's car is a frequent one here on the Forum. Most people would agree that in a perfect world we all would wash our own cars with the finest products -- Mother's -- and the best techniques. But of course, in the real world regular folks don't always have the time or opportunity to do their own hand wash, which leads to the car wash question. Here's my two cents on the subject - edited and reprised here from an older discussion with an addendum. I address the Touch Free wash issue as well:

The use of the expression "drive-in car wash" includes a lot of washes. Yes, that can include one with spinning "brushes", but it also can include soft cloth car washes, hand washes, and touch free washes. Some of these are seen in tunnel applications, and others in those that you drive into then park.

With a little research, one can find a good car wash, especially in the southern and western states where hand car wash tunnels are commonplace. By hand car wash I mean a traditional appearing tunnel wash that is staffed by several employees, some of whom will hand wash your car with traditional wash mitts. Out here in Southern California, arguably 'car nut' capitol of the country, hand washes are practically on every corner. Like everything else, some are better than others. I prefer those that put a lot of water on the car and remove the soap promptly.

Alternatively, there are touch-free washes which I have found can do a pretty good job at safely cleaning your car. Again, some are better than others. I think that the touchless washes manufactured by PDQ - Laser Wash, and the Mark VII, are among the best. Both are fine companies (For what it may be worth, I personally toured the PDQ - LaserWash factory in Greenbay, Wisconsin and visited with several of their car wash operators. Mark VII, another American made brand, has merged with a first-rate German firm that makes drive-in bay car washes for BMW and Mercedes plants in Germany). You can Google these two brand names and go to their respective company sites, at which you can see photos of their equipment which will help you identify their unique washes when you go in search of a touch free wash in your area.

A lot depends on the kind of soaps the operator uses; that's where asking some questions comes in handy. Some are more gentle than others. (The same is true for tunnel washes). An addendum: touch free washes typically involve a longer soap "dwell time", that is, the amount of time that the soap sits on the car. Depending on the facility and the soaps they use -- which can vary widely -- this may result in your wax job wearing off a bit prematurely. Of course, this should be easy to gauge by feeling the surface of your car with your hand (you know how slippery and slick it is after a wax job), as well as how water beads on it. Of course, using a product like Mother's FX Spray Wax could easily replace some of that wax in mere minutes!

Sure, washing AND waxing one's car may be ideal, but not always practical, especially in cold, snowy climates. Finding a trustworthy car wash and then using Mother's fine products can -- and does for me at least -- produce a beautiful, well cared for car that anyone would be proud of.
Old 10-28-2006
TonyfromOz's Avatar
TonyfromOz TonyfromOz is offline
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Beenleigh, Queensland, Australia
Posts: 1,136
Default Re: Are Drive-thru car washes a bad idea?


Hot button topic here in Australia too, let me tell you.
I feel somewhat reassured by your comments regarding the Laser Wash, drive in, park and the water and soap is the moving part.
That's the one closest to where I live, and the one that I use.

Now that I'm more aware of REALLY caring for my car, I'm struggling with the thought of eventually ending up doing the job myself, either with Mothers Cal Gold and a few buckets or that instant one and do the job inside my own garage.

The thing that makes me feel a little trepidation now at the Laser Wash is the high pressure of the water, and the possible damage it may, (or even may not) cause. Ours has an added extra. The manager has employed a young guy to work in conjunction with the washing unit with a bucket and a mitt, but seeing the age of the mitt, and the fact that it must have already done up to twenty or so cars prior to mine, I pass on that little extra, but I still feel slightly uncomfortable with the pressure.

Afterwards I move into a vacant parking slot and use a couple of bath towels to dry the car, and after watching me do this a couple of times, the manager approached me and asked what products I used as he noticed that I was becoming a regular there, something that is rapidly coming to a close.

After drying, I drive the 2 KM home do a final dry off and then give it some spray wax, Reflections in my case.

The cost of the wash is also a little disconcerting, at $18.00 and when you take into account the exchange rate, that's about $13.00 US, so that once a week is starting to tug at the wallet a little.

The bullet will have to be bitten sooner or later.
Just like you say, it's personal preference, and the spinning brushes in the tunnels of doom that we once thought was great are now but a distant nightmare.


"Old man look at my life, I'm a lot like you were."------Neil Young.
Old 10-28-2006
Wizard Of Iz's Avatar
Wizard Of Iz Wizard Of Iz is offline
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Jacksonville, FL
Posts: 424
Red face Re: Are Drive-thru car washes a bad idea?

When weather or other circumstances dictate that it's not practical to grab a couple of buckets and do the job yourself, I think a touchless car wash is better than no wash at all.

One of my concerns with car washes - even touchless car washes - is how well and how often the filters are maintained. The idea of fine particles of dirt or road chemicals being blasted onto my car at high pressure makes me cringe just a little. My other concern is how harsh of soap and/or chemicals is the car wash using to break the dirt away from the paint without touching it.

But I understand that sometimes it's the only option.
Rollin Isbell

'15 Dodge Challenger SRT - B5 Blue
'17 Dodge Durango R/T - Granite Crystal
Old 10-28-2006
imacarnut imacarnut is offline
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Planet Earth
Posts: 55
Default Re: Are Drive-thru car washes a bad idea?

just make sure to stay away from the drive-thru car washes that use brushes (scratch city)! i was at the gas station the other day and there was a lexus getting ready to go through, all i could do is shake my head....
Old 10-30-2006
peteypob peteypob is offline
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: San Antonio, TX
Posts: 53
Default Re: Are Drive-thru car washes a bad idea?

I just oprdered a couple of Mothers drying and washing products online , including a grit gaurd. Si until they get here I think Ill take the car through the touch-less car wash, it hasnt had a bath in a week and a half
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