How much is too much when it comes to washing a vehicle?
It’s such a simple question, and one that I have been thinking about for some time.
It’s more of a loaded question than you may think, so I think it helps to take a step back and understand why you would want to wash your car every week (or why not).
Factors like how you go about washing your car, what you use to protect your car, and your driving habits may dictate what’s right for you.
While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, today I want to share my thoughts based on my experience in this community at Carwash Country.
Washing a car weekly: a little overkill, but generally fine if done by hand
Simply put, a properly washed and protected car (which is really best when done by hand), should offer more than a week of protection for most people. That being said, as long as you are giving it a quick foam rinse-off once per week, you’re probably okay.
On the other hand, if your idea of washing a vehicle is simply running it through a car wash, I would say yes, once a week is probably too much over time. In this case, not properly waxing/adding a protective layer is likely why you feel the need to always wash it.
In terms of ‘hand washing’, the less contact you make with your vehicle the better, which is why I highly recommend using a foam cannon or foam gun if you do decide to wash more frequently.
If washing weekly, opt for a foam gun or cannon
If you aren’t making contact with your vehicle to apply soap (and are using plenty of it), your risks of scratching the clear coat are much lower.
That being said, if your weekly wash process involves using a bucket and a wash mitt to apply suds by hands, washing once a week may make your vehicle more likely to accumulate scratches over time vs. washing every two weeks.
A protected vehicle stays clean longer
In most cases, a garaged car should stay clean for a couple of weeks if detailed by hand and protected. Clean cars that are protected typically stay clean, as opposed to a car you are constantly running through an automatic wash.
Based on my experience, the ‘protectant’ (or so they call it) that is sprayed on at the end, doesn’t really offer that much protection.
Any product applied by hand (like a wax or sealant) is always the better option, not to mention a quality tire dressing you don’t get with automatic washes.
Should you run your car through an automatic car wash every week: probably not
Ever see those signs in automatic washes that say something like “we are not responsible for damage”? This implies that there is a chance these washes can scratch or damage your vehicle, especially with older washes that use flappers or brushes.
Even with a touchless car wash, these things can stay pretty dirty, and over time are more likely to scratch your vehicle as opposed to taking your time and washing it by hand.
Oftentimes, there is salt, mud, and other substances that can transfer from the ground to your vehicle and potentially cause damage.
Washing a car once per day vs once per week
While running your vehicle through an automatic wash once per week probably is okay if you’re not concerned with maintaining a show-car, keep in mind that washing a car once per day will begin to soften the clear coat over time and increases the likelihood of swirl marks, and scratches.
Since carwash membership programs have unlimited options, running it through every day on your lunch break will in the end do more harm than good to your vehicle’s clear coat and trim pieces.
The simple answer is that for certain people who drive for a living and deal with dust, dirt roads, and the elements -washing once per week is just fine.
However, for most people that commute to work (or own a garage) a proper wash and detail job should last you at least a week and a half to two weeks.
Concerned about your clear coat, but still want to wash every week? Consider a ceramic coating
Clear coats aren’t meant to last forever, and each time you wash your car, you are technically softening the clear coat to an extent: the part of your vehicle that protects that paint layer from damage.
If this is a concern for you or if you have an older vehicle with a thinner clear coat consider a ceramic coating.
A ceramic coating is superior to a wax or sealant, in the sense that it can protect your vehicle’s natural clear coat from the elements for several years, making a weekly wash frequency less of a concern.
If you’re curious as to whether or not taking the extra time to properly detail your ride (or pay someone to do it) is a good idea, check out my post: 5 Convincing Reasons Why Having Your Car Detailed is Worth It. Good luck!