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Why It’s a Bad Idea To Never Wash Your Car

For the average person, washing your car is one of those tasks you may not care to do all that often, but what happens if you never wash your car? Is it really worth the hassle of finding a car wash from time to time, or buying soap and car wash gear?

While you may not mind driving around with a dirty vehicle, it can eventually cost you quite a bit of money if you ignore or neglect your vehicle.

The truth is, not washing your car is bad for several reasons due to the fact that dirt is abrasive, and can eat away at your car’s clear coat over time. This can cause additional problems, like rusting, pitting, fading, and can even be dangerous if visibility is impaired.

In this blog, I’ll go into more detail and list 5 simple reasons why never washing your car is a bad idea.

1. Your vehicle’s clear coat will degrade faster

 If you think of a clear coat on a vehicle, it really is similar to the skin on your body. It protects what’s underneath and is the first line of defense against dirt, acid rain, bird droppings, tiny rocks, and just about anything else that you can think of.

However, over time what begins to happen if dirt and other substances aren’t removed is that they can begin to eat away at your clear coat. While it looks harmless, dirt clings to a vehicle’s clear coat (like static electricity) and needs soap to loosen this bond and carry it away from time to time. Once a vehicle’s clear coat has been worn down to the paint layer, substances can then eat through the paint layer as well, eventually reaching the sheet metal and causing rust spots.

This process starts slowly but really happens to all vehicles at some point. The problem with not washing your vehicle is that this process speeds up dramatically, causing damage many times years before it normally would happen.

2. Rusting and fading are accelerated

Washing and waxing a car is not just for car guys who like to show off, it actually can play a big role in protecting against pitting and rust, which happens quicker if you don’t ever wash your vehicle. Your clear coat also contains a UV coating that plays an important role in preventing the sun from fading your paint and needs to be protected.

The dangers of salt

Even if you aren’t all that crazy about keeping your vehicle spotless, taking your car through a car wash or using a self-service sprayer to remove salt in the winter is just a good idea no matter what.

It’s one thing to keep your vehicle spotless, but it’s another to help protect what you have, so you aren’t stuck with a huge bill at the body shop in the near future. The easiest way to do this is with wax.

Wax and sealants protect your car’s clear coat, much like lotion protects your skin in the winter from cracking (yep, another skin analogy). Carnauba waxes and sealants create a hydrophobic barrier that basically makes it difficult for mud grime to stick to wheels and paint. Wax is great for door jambs, wheels, and other areas where rust usually begins.

3. Impaired visibility

Based on personal experience, neglecting to properly clean your windshield (especially in the winter) can make visibility very difficult, especially when driving in rain or dense fog. You can actually get fined in some states like Michigan if your license plate is too dirty or if your back glass is obstructing your view.

dirty back glass

Dirty headlights are another visibility risk that can occur if you neglect washing your vehicle. If you have a pretty old set of headlights, cloudy headlights present even more of a problem when the UV coating begins to wear down, causing cloudy headlights that can’t be restored by water alone. Check out this post I wrote for a step by step guide on restoring cloudy headlights back to clear (and what causes this).

4. Your resale value will take a hit

Not only can rust and pitting cause problems like rusted out floorboards, they can also harm the resale or trade-in value of your vehicle. Studies have shown that something as simple as cleaning your engine bay can help you get top dollar at trade-in since this is one of the areas many people will notice during evaluation.

According to Edmunds, a new car loses about a third of its value within a year, and pitted rims, early signs of rust, and exposed unwaxed paint can be like pouring money down the drain. This is something to consider if you are looking to trade or resell your car in a few years for a new model.


The simple answer is yes, it is bad if you never wash your car… especially in the wintertime. I’ll admit, sometimes you don’t feel like it, and while I’m not a huge proponent of car washes they can at least remove salt and dirt if you find one with an undercarriage option.

With so many options these days to have your car washed at work using a mobile app, and so many self-service washes, it’s really pretty easy to wash your vehicle and is one of those simple tasks that will delay problems further down the road.

Baxter Overman is the founder of Carwash Country and has been been cleaning up dirty vehicles for nearly 20 years. Since 2017, he's helped thousands of beginners see better results by learning the fundamentals of washing and detailing. He's on a mission to make the car wash process more fun...and way easier.

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