Treat your car right!
It feels like a no-brainer, but going to the right car wash makes a huge difference in the cleanliness and lifespan of your car. That's right: keeping your car clean is an important part of making sure that it stays running in the long term. That said, not at all car washes are created equal, and many of us don't think about what goes into a car wash until we're impulsively pulling into one.
To that end, let's look at some of the signs of a good car wash. There's a lot of craft, care, and attention to detail that goes into making sure that your car drives away with a newfound shine.
We've got some bad news for those of you that like to bundle your car washes in with your gas refuels and Slim Jim supply runs. You're not going to find many (or sometimes any) of the features that we describe below at a gas station or self-serve bay. Don't despair though, it's easy to find these at a professional full-service car wash!
With that aside, let's take a look at the technology that makes a high-quality car wash worth visiting. Starting with:
Foam and cloth choice. Good car washes don't just blast your car with soap and call it good. Instead, these car washes go through a sequence of foams that are designed to address different layers of particulates. This means starting with closed-cell foam with a soft-cloth material before switching to lubricated foam and biodegradable soaps. By going through a proper foam sequence, a good full-service wash will blast away at dirt without compromising the finish of your car.
The phrase "biodegradable soap" is important in that paragraph because a good car wash knows that good chemical choice matters. From the start of the cleaning process to the moment that you drive away, you'll want to make sure that your car wash is using chemicals that are good for your car's cleanliness AND health, along with the environment. It doesn't hurt to ask your car wash what they're using or Googling the names of their listed products for yourself.
On that note, you should also ask about any ceramic coating options available when you visit the car wash as well. This product is an absolute game-changer in maximizing the value you get from your car wash, and it should be available at most full-service locations. This is a layer specialty protective product that's used to guard your car's surface against dust and rain while also maximizing its shine.
Ceramic coating also works best when partnered with seasonal waxing. This is exactly what it sounds like: a coat of wax that you apply each season in order to protect the vehicle's surface from UV Rays and oxidation. Over time, this can make a massive difference in both the sheen and shine of your car's paint job, and staying on top of it is a lot cheaper than getting your vehicle repainted. If a car wash has ceramic coatings available, they'll likely have good options for waxing your car.
Finally, you'll want to make sure that your car wash provides a good undercarriage wash. This neutralizes contaminants on your vehicle's chassis such as mag chloride, dirt, and other grime. Most gas stations and self-serve car washes won't properly clean the underside of your car, meaning that junk is going to keep building up over its lifespan. Over time, this can compound into some pretty unpleasant maintenance issues. If you want to maximize the benefits of getting your car washed, make sure that you're actually washing your entire car.
Beyond all of the different factors that determine if you're getting a good wash, it never hurts to look for good interior cleaning as well! Seriously, if you're part of the 100% of people who don't enjoy cleaning the inside of their car, there's no substitute for having the pros vacuum between your seats. Know what's even better than new car smell? New car cleanliness.
Granted, keeping your car clean is largely something you can do at home. But if you're already at a car wash, then why not spring for one that can clean your car on the inside too? A good interior cleaning service usually includes good vacuuming and even a shampoo-ing if you pick the right place!
Ultimately, car washes are absolutely a service where "you get what you pay for." There's no shortcut for having a cleaning car besides putting some care into it, and that means picking the right place to trust with your car's wash and shine.
What are some things you look for in a good car wash? Sound off in the comments!