There are many ways to wash a car. Some will debate what you should and shouldn't do while washing your vehicle. So here I will talk about the advantages and disadvantages of tunnel automatic car washes.
Types of Tunnels Washes
Two primary types of automatic car washes are Brush/touch and Touchless car washes. These are the giant spinning brushes you see above and on both sides of the vehicle as it goes by. They spin with soap and water to remove the dirt from the car's paint. Touchless doesn't use the brushes, just high psi water to blow off the dirt with the soap.
Pro to Automatic Car Washes
The biggest reason someone uses these is they are convenient. In most cases, it will be less than 5mins, or maybe 15 if there is a line, and your car will be washed. These are also cheap compared to most detail centers or services, costing up to $100 for a basic wash. The busiest time you'll see at these places are nice, sunny days after winter. However, the best reason, in my opinion, to use one is to get the salt off your vehicle during winter. These also will spray water underneath and reach places that are easier than doing it yourself. Also, they can be fun! Especially if you have smaller kids in the car. The newer ones have flashing lights and different colored foam; it can be exciting for them to go through. One big reason I would use one is to get it off ASAP if you happen to drive through wet paint on the road or something similar. Yes, this has been a thing that happens. Also, if you're on vacation and have a ton of new bugs on the front of your vehicle, it is best to get them off ASAP.
Cons of Tunnels Washes
The main issue is any automatic car wash that uses spinning brushes of any kind can swirl (or worse, scratch) your car's paint. This is why most detailers, including me, will advise if you have/do use one, use a touchless car wash. Another con is they won't get your car as clean if you did it yourself or had it professionally done. This is even more true with touchless. Brush car washes will get them cleaner but might damage the paint. Touchless won't swirl the paint but may not get your vehicle as clean. Another reason is that these places have to use higher Ph chemicals to clean the cars. This can cause waxes and paint sealants to break down sooner and even affect the water beading abilities of ceramic coatings. It can also cause a rainstorm to happen on the same day.
Pros of Hand Washing
The biggest pro is that your vehicle will get even cleaner than an automatic wash. I have had multiple clients comment on how clean and great their vehicle looks, and all I've done is a proper hand wash with no protection put on yet. You can control the soap and chemicals touching your car's paint. This will slow the degrading of rubber and plastics trim and the breakdown of your vehicles wax or sealant. Also, using the proper towels and wash method can reduce/prevent swirl marks from being put in your car's paint! With an excellent rinseless wash soap, like Owners Pride Eco Wash and process, you can even hand wash your vehicle in a garage or parking lot! This is our go-to soap.
Some even find doing it themselves as therapeutic or a moment of peace. It can be relaxing and satisfying watching something go from dirty to clean. Also, if you have kids, it could be a fun activity to do together!! It can also cause a rainstorm to happen on the same day.
Cons of Hand Washing
The biggest con is time. This will take the longest out of the three. Most people can take an hour plus to do it; although with an excellent rinesless wash soap & routine, it can still be done within 15 minutes safely! If you have limited movement, then this may be hard or dangerous for you to do. With improper technique /wash methods, you can induce swirl marks and scratches. It can be dangerous to do if you have street parking or live in a busy parking lot. If you don't have a heated garage during winter, you won't be able to wash your car. It can also cause a rainstorm to happen on the same day.
We all have busy lives. It is best to do it yourself or have your favorite detailer do it for you! But if you like using automatic car washes, use the touchless only. And try to once a month do hand wash if you can. I even use the automatic carwashes for their quickness and convenience of them. Our cars are coated with a ceramic coating, making them even easier to wash by hand or tunnel. We even sell the same products we use on our client's vehicles.
I hope this helps. The most important thing to remember is to have fun and use whatever method makes you happy. And using both Is perfectly ok.
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