TTAC commentator raded writes:
I recently bought a new car for the first time. Up until 9 months ago, I had been driving a 1995 Buick Regal coupe that wore scratches and dents like badges of honor. After the transmission went out, I drove a hand-me-down 2002 Saturn L200 that had spent the majority of its life behind a motor home. In eight years of ownership, I took the Buick through an automatic car wash maybe three times and never washed it by hand (I live in Portland, Oregon. It rains almost nonstop October through May. That’s kind of like a car wash, right? Right??). Recently I took the Saturn through a car wash for the first time simply because I’m trying to sell it.
Now my fiancée and I have a pretty blue 2012 Mazda3 hatchback. For the first time in my life, I have a car that I want to keep looking good.
Trying to find an answer through Google hasn’t helped at all. There are groups that swear by every conceivable option. I’d love to hear that spending $5 at an automatic car wash every 3-4 weeks is all I need to do, but I’m not so sure, especially after reading about detailers regularly blaming automatic car washes for “swirling” that has occurred. And since it’s essentially an economy car, I’m also not willing to spend an hour hand washing it 3-4 times a week. Honestly I’d prefer to avoid hand washing altogether. I’m looking for a happy medium – something that will keep it looking clean without ruining the clear coat or turning it in to a huge time sink. What do you think?
Love the writeups.
Yo, can you walk over to that Red Robin so I can HAZ CHEEZBURGER? Perhaps I shouldn’t write these Piston Slaps on an empty stomach. Hmm!
But seriously, you’d prefer to not hand wash? Everyone wishes we could have something for nothing…but that ain’t happening, son. Perhaps a touchless car wash in your area, and perhaps Yelp is your friend. Or not.
If an employee towel dries your ride after the car wash, will their towel add more fine scratches? Which turn into significant paint damage 5-10 years from now? Quite possible, if you really care.
There’s no right answer here: wash it yourself, lovingly wax it 1-2 times a year with a polymer-based Wax…and be grumpy that you have to do all the manual labor. Go to a touchless car wash place, let them wax it regularly, pay big money and wonder if they are too harsh in the long term.
So, tapping into my vast brilliance (giggling) when it comes to car care, here’s my suggestion: let the touchless guys in your area do the regular cleaning, but you do the big stuff 1-2 times a year. Wash, Wax and enjoy a shiny blue Mazda. And don’t forget the clay bar on occasion, too.
Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.