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The Case For And Against The Touchless Car Wash

Are Touchless Car Washes Really The Best Option?

Touchless car wash

Like all things in life, there are pros and cons to the touchless car wash. When it comes to keeping their vehicle clean, car buffs are always looking for the next great thing. The real question is — are touchless car washes the newest, greatest thing?

Automatic car washes can cause scratches and swirls in your paint. Along with that, opting to wash your car at home can lead to damage if done incorrectly. For all the tips and tricks on how to do it correctly, check out our guide on how to wash a car. With that, it might seem that the touchless car wash is the best way to go to keep your car clean and pristine — but is it really?

What is a Touchless Car Wash?

touchless car wash

First off, let’s get down to the basics of what a touchless car wash actually does. Unlike automatic car washes, in a touchless car wash, nothing except water, soap, and air (and maybe wax if you opt for the deluxe package) touches your car. The moment you drive into a touchless car wash, the car wash system automatically soaks your car with water and strong detergent using high-powered jets. This removes the loose grime on your car.

With most touchless car wash systems, you can choose to upgrade your car wash and have the system apply liquid wax to your car after the initial wash — all without touching your car, similarly using jets and sprayers. After your wash, wax, and rinse are finished, the same system dries off your car with air from hot blowers. Touchless car washes rely on specialized, high-potency chemicals since the hard work of cleaning your car comes from the jet-application.

Other than the way the car is washed, the touchless car wash experience is overall very similar to an automatic car wash experience, just faster. You will be instructed to drive your car on a conveyer belt and will likely put your car in neutral as the car wash will automatically move your vehicle into and out of the car wash bay.

The Case For The Touchless Car Wash

minivan in automatic car wash

Nobody likes it when they notice that their car’s beautiful paint job has scratches and swirls. While scratches are inevitable if you drive your car, it’s nice to avoid them as much as possible. With this in mind, touchless car washes are generally better for your car’s paint job.

Automatic car washes use massive brushes with bristles that are used many times each day. If the bristles are not well-maintained, they’ll likely cause scratches to even the most durable paint. The touchless car wash is designed to remove just as much grime without the use of heavy scrubbing or industrial brushes.

Let’s be honest, we all love the smell of that sudsy soap in an automatic car wash. But, let’s also be honest that on top of wanting to maintain our car’s paint job (why else would you be getting a professional car wash?), we also value our time. Touchless car washes will get the job done in under 10 minutes.

Want to have a DIY at-home touchless car wash? Check out our extensive buying guide on the 10 best pressure washers for cars. You can also attach a foam cannon to your pressure washer for optimal, thick, carwash-like suds.

The Case Against The Touchless Car Wash

touchless car washWe’re not gonna sit here and tell you that automatic car washes are the enemy and touchless car washes are perfect. As always, there are reasons for both sides. And, it often comes down to the quality and trustworthiness of the particular car wash along with your particular needs.

When it comes to common critiques against the touchless car wash, some say that the high-pressure jets don’t always give you a full clean. The big, powerful brushes in automatic car washes are big and powerful for a reason. Dirt and grime latch onto them with each pass. Also, the cleaning products used in touchless car washes are highly potent. Some argue that this could be dangerous to your car’s exterior as well as potentially harmful for the environment.

The other most common critique of the touchless car wash is that it does not dry as well as automatic car washes. And to that we say, are you sure? The same could be said about automatic car washes. All that to say, you should always check to see if your car is completely dry after a car wash to avoid unwanted water spots. Keep a clean microfiber towel in your trunk for a quick wipe-down of any spots the car wash, automatic or touchless, might have missed.

Luckily, there are measures you can take to prevent water spots, no matter which car wash your car goes through! If you’re looking for a wax that will stay on even after a professional car wash and prevent water spots, check out our guide on the longest-lasting car waxes on the market today.

Should You Wax Your Car in a Touchless Car Wash?

Most often, this add-on can be quite expensive. When there are so many excellent, inexpensive at-home options for car wax, it may be a good option to save some money and do it yourself. Also, waxing your car is a process that requires attentiveness and optimal cleanliness. When you do it yourself, you can easily notice if there is any dirt or debris you need to remove before waxing. When it comes to getting the professional wax at a touchless car wash, you cannot check before the wax gets applied to see if the car wash missed any spots.

How to Have The Best Touchless Car Wash Experience

touchless car washes

Now that you know all of the upsides and some of the criticisms surrounding touchless car washes, let’s talk about how you can get the most out of your touchless car wash experience.

  • Make sure that your car wax job is well-maintained before the car wash to prevent water spots
  • Drive slowly through the blow dryers to ensure your car is fully dry
  • Bring a clean microfiber cloth to remove any leftover water if needed
  • Get your car washed every two weeks to maintain a beautiful, top-quality shine

Are You For or Against The Touchless Car Wash?

The bottom line in the case FOR the touchless car wash: a touchless car wash is an inexpensive option that helps protect your paint job from scratches, reduces overall damage, and is speedy while still being effective.

Overall, the two main things to be on the lookout for in the case AGAINST touchless car washes is that they sometimes do not fully dry your car and they use harsher chemicals to effectively get the job done.

Which do you prefer — a professional car wash or a DIY car wash with all the goods in your own driveway? Here at AutoWise, we like to give you plenty of options to choose from, opting to find the best products and experiences for car fanatics everywhere. Whether you prefer an automatic, touchless, or at-home car wash, it’s up to you on what’s best for you and your vehicle.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a touchless car wash?

A touchless car wash uses high-pressure jets to rinse, wash, and dry your car without touching it with any large brushes.

Why are automatic car washes sometimes bad?

The bristles and soft-cloth brushes used in automatic car washes can sometimes lead to scratches and swirls in your paint. This generally occurs when the brushes are not well-maintained.

How often should I get my car professionally washed?

The general rule-of-thumb is to get your car professionally washed every two weeks or so. Of course, if you frequently go on a backroads adventure or drive through mud, snow, or rain, you may want to get your car washed more often.

What is the process of a touchless car wash?

Here is the very simplified process of a touchless car wash:

  • Rinse with highly-pressurized jet water
  • Wash with high-potency snow foam
  • Rinse again with highly-pressurized jet water
  • Wash with high-potency car shampoo
  • Rinse again with highly-pressurized jet water
  • *OPTIONAL* Spray with car wax
  • Blow dry

What is the best way to have an at-home touchless car wash?

If you’re looking for a touchless car wash experience in your own driveway, you’ll need a high-quality pressure washer and a foam cannon.


How can I find a touchless car wash near me?

Your best bet is to do a little online research. If you aren’t sure if a car wash in your area is touchless, give the business a call before visiting.

Joybeth Sullivan
About Joybeth Sullivan

Joybeth Sullivan is an accomplished content creator. She does it all as a writer, photographer, and videographer. Her work has been published in local and international outlets. She graduated from the University of Georgia in May of 2020 with a dual-degree in English & Film. Today, she is based out of Denver, CO. When she isn't writing, you can find her on long drives in the mountains with her husky, Newman, riding shotgun.