What Really Grinds My Gears: Automatic Car Washes That Don't Dry Your Car

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

I don’t expect an automatic car wash to clean my car particularly well. As long as it takes the bird shit and obvious dirt off and doesn’t scratch my paint, I’m happy enough. I’ll do the wheels myself. But if the machine’s going to leave water drops all over the surface, so that I have to chammy [ED: Chamois?] every damn square inch of the Beast’s sheet metal, what’s the friggin’ point? I might as well have washed it myself. I’ve never been in an automatic car wash that A) washed all the dirt off the back end of an SUV and B) dried a car properly. I’m sure there’s an association somewhere that’s already got an e-mail teed-up for this one; something about the 85th percentile of automotive shapes and hi-tech blowers. Never made the tech guys. If car wash owners weren’t trying to save a few pennies on electricity costs, the line would proceed slowly enough to let a couple of hair dryers finish the job. And what happens if I complain? They offer me a free wash. I’ve got an idea! How about YOU come out here and dry my car by hand, instead of peddling refined sugar, corn syrup, starch, fat, salt and nicotine whilst waiting for the day you have to say, “I can’t open the till, I swear!” Just sayin’.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Power6 Power6 on Sep 15, 2009

    I used to live in Waltham MA and they have a really great automatic wash there. It has the cloth strips zinging the car of course but the Dodge paint stood up to it just fine. The dryers were the up and over kind that ride on the wave of air just inches from the car, and then there were two dryers blowing crosswise at the exit. A car was virtually dry coming out of there. $11 including the wheels which wasn't bad. I tried the car wash in Belmont MA but the whole process barely washed the car, in fact the rinse was so meager there was always soap left. They didn't have dryers but employed young girls to swirl up your paint with damp towels. And they charge $12+ for the same level of wash. Now that I have moved from Waltham to Arlington, there are less options. I can now pay $16 for the same wash, with meager rinse and free swirl-mark dry. At least now I have a driveway where I can wash it myself, just don't always have the time, and the winter is tough. Hmm glad I wrote this down, seems like the ride to Waltham is worth it for a good wash. BTW the "other british car show" Fifth gear did a paint damage comparison between hand washing and machine washing and found that hand washing was the hardest on the paint. Not scientific at all but interesting.

  • Thetopdog Thetopdog on Sep 15, 2009

    Power6 : What's the name of the car wash in Waltham? I live in Waltham, I'd be interested to know

  • Keepaustinweird Keepaustinweird on Sep 15, 2009

    Robert - keep a California Dry Blade in your car. That has always been the best way IMHO to quickly remove water from the car after a wash. Then just take the car for a quick spin on the highway to air dry any remaining droplets.

  • Pmd1966 (of GM) Pmd1966 (of GM) on Sep 15, 2009

    I don't know about the rest of the country, but in southeast Michigan, most of the car washes recycle their water. Did you ever wonder what those fountains in front were for? They aereate the water to keep the smell down. In the winter when you run your car through a car wash to "Get the salt off" all you did was give one Hell of a salt water bath. Next time you go through a car wash, breath only through your nose, see how good it smells.