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Auto Car Wash vs. Hand Wash

on September 21, 2022
car wash

Auto Car Wash vs. Hand Wash

on September 21, 2022

When washing your car, have you ever wondered if you’re using the best method? I know that sounds silly. It’s a simple task. But, there are many factors to consider. Automatic car washes may be convenient, but they can damage your car. Hand washing your vehicle is efficient, but tiring and a timely task. 

In this article, we will break down the differences between using an automatic car wash and the two-bucket method. There are pros and cons to each method, which tends to make the car washing experience very confusing. That is why we chose to simplify the process to help you make an informed decision. 

Automatic Car Washes

First, let’s talk about automatic car washes. One popular misconception is that all car wash facilities appear and operate the same, but in actuality, there are two types of automatic car washes: touchless and friction-based.

The touchless car wash is the safest option as it is user-friendly and least likely to damage your car. This system features a stationary drive-in bay and an automated system that passes over your car. It utilizes pressurized water to avoid swirl marks and the possibility of scratches. 

Pros of a Touchless Wash

  1. No More Scratches by only using high-pressure hoses to soap and rinse your car, there is a much smaller risk of scratching your paint. 
  2. Eco-Friendly used water is drained, filtered, stored, and used again for the next customer. 
  3. Lower Cost with the reduction of workers and machinery needed, the cost is reasonably cheaper. 

Cons of a Touchless Wash

  1. Harsh Chemicals harsher chemicals are needed to break down the debris without the use of brushes and rollers (if your washing routine becomes too frequent, you could potentially damage your paint’s finish).
  2. Incomplete Cleaning although they use sensors to move the hoses along the shape of your car, they cannot get into all of the tight spaces of modern vehicles. 

Friction-based car washes are the most convenient and commonly used automated system. A series of industrial-strength machines with spinning cloth-like materials are used to wash the surface of your car. This kind of automated system tends to leave swirl marks on the surface and eats away at your paint, leaving scratches and chips over time.

Pros of a Friction-Based Tunnel  

  1. Time-Saving because of the automated system, these washes typically last 3-5 minutes, meaning they can accommodate a higher volume of automobiles in a day.
  2. Eco-Friendly used water is drained, filtered, stored, and used again for the next customer. 
  3. Lower Cost with the reduction of workers and machinery needed, the cost is reasonably cheaper. 

Cons of a Friction-Based Tunnel

  1. Dents & Scratches Dents and scratches are a common occurrence in friction-based tunnels (brushes and rollers can break loose, workers could lose focus, etc.).
  2. Water Spots if you are unable to get a towel dry, even the facilities that offer super hair driers are prone to leaving water spots on cars. If the water isn’t filtered, as it dries on the surface of your car, it will leave mineral spots (which are difficult to remove). 
  3. Not Safe for Electric Cars aside from paint damage, the sensors and electric motor can be damaged. (However, low-pressure touchless washes in moderate quantity are relatively safe) 
  4. Incomplete Cleaning the brushes and rollers can only clean so much. It is impossible for any automatic car wash to clean every inch and tight space. 

With these two options of automated car wash systems, you may see other articles that mention a tunnel car wash. Those facilities are the ones you will see most often at gas stations or local wash centers. This can be confusing because a tunnel wash can utilize touchless and friction-based systems together, or just a friction-based car wash. To keep it simple, you generally have two options when it comes to automated car washes: the touchless and the tunnel.

As you can see, there are many variables concerning automatic car washes. Before we dive deeper, let’s go over the two-bucket method. 

Two-Bucket Method

When handwashing your car, the two-bucket method is the recommended technique. It is an effective way to hand wash your car while keeping time and efficiency in mind, and it is exactly how it sounds. Although initially, it will cost you some money, because you will need to acquire the supplies listed below:

  • 2-Gallon Pump Sprayer
  • Hybrid Waterless Car Shampoo
  • High-Output Water Deionizing System
  • Two Wash Buckets
  • (2) Grit Guards
  • Multiple Microfiber Towels (for washing)
  • Separate Microfiber Towel (for drying)

Once you have collected everything you need, you can get started by filling two buckets with deionized water. Then, use the 2-gallon pump to rinse your car of standing dirt and debris. Make sure to use the recommended amount of car shampoo. Pump the nozzle the create pressure and spray down your vehicle. 

Next, you should add the recommended amount of shampoo into ONE of your buckets. One bucket will be used for soap, while the other will be used for soaking and wringing out the debris-ridden towel. Once you rinse the dirty towel, you can soak it with soapy water to use it again. 

Wash your car in sections, moving from top to bottom, remembering to place the used towel in the water bucket and wringing it out before washing another section (this is your opportunity to clean all of the hard-to-reach spots). DO NOT rinse your car after this step. 

After you feel confident with your wash, it’s time to dry! The best way to achieve a flawless finish is to use a dry microfiber cloth with a terry weave, and a 70/30 blend of polyester and polyamide. The more polyamide, the better the water absorption. 

Pros of The Two-Bucket Method 

Attention to Detail with the ability to clean by hand, you can get into those nooks and crannies. 

Avoid Harsh Chemicals since you will be using a towel and direct contact, you no longer need a harsh chemical-based shampoo to break down debris. 

Complete Drying by using a towel to hand dry your car, you avoid swirl marks and water spots.

Cons of The Two-Bucket Method 

Time-Consuming while your wash is more effective, it will take longer, especially if you like to clean thoroughly. 

Labor Intensive this process will require you to bend and reach a good amount. If you are unable to move your body in this way, a touchless car wash is your best option. 

Automated Car Wash vs. Handwashing

When choosing how to wash your car, look at the pros and cons of each process and find the one that works well for your lifestyle. Automatic car washes offer low-cost and convenient services, although the wash can be incomplete, leaving possible dents, and water spots. Although it will take more time and effort, handwashing can benefit your car by allowing you to clean it in great detail, without harsh chemicals, and leaving your car with a showroom-quality finish. 

With all of this information, you should feel more confident choosing which process works best for you. Good luck, and DriveSmart!

Written By: Madison Kennelly

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