Today’s automotive world is designed to provide consumers with choices. Whether it’s the latest new car with several trim levels or the multitude of car care products on the market, the modern automotive enthusiast has a plethora of decisions to make. And for the most part, car owners depend on the good old interwebs to help them with these decisions.
But did you know that one of the most searched items online is for a car wash near me?
It’s true – but who can blame them? There are more car washing options today than ever before. Back in the good old days, car washing consisted of a used bucket, some laundry soap, and your dad’s old underwear.
Nowadays, there are full-service car washing services, automatic car washing facilities, self-service high-pressure washing stations, and of course, the old reliable do-it-yourself hand car wash option.
With so many ways of skinning your car washing cat, where do you start? Well – that’s what we’re going to dive into today.
What to Look Out for When Choosing a Car Wash Option
Here is a pop quiz, how often should you wash your daily driver? Well, according to most car care experts, washing your vehicle every two weeks is best for keeping the paint protected. But here is the real question that we all should ask – how should we wash our car?
Using Two-Bucket Method
Most vehicle manufacturers and paint protection companies (including us) recommend using the two-bucket method of DIY car washing. If you’ve never heard of this, the video in the self car wash section below will explain how this method works.
While this method is great for reducing swirl marks and other paint damage to the clear coat, most of the users opt for the quick visit to the exterior wash down the street – or as we often search – that car wash near me on Google. So, if you’re going to head to the local car wash to ensure you have a clean car, there are some things to consider.
1. What Auto Supplies Are Used
Washing your car at the automatic or self-service car wash is simplified when you use the right supplies. When you head to any car wash, ask them if they use chemical-heavy or organic cleaning supplies. Most of today’s clear coats are quite good at providing protection against natural exposure, but chemicals are not handled well.
It’s always best to use a car wash with good, organic or car wash specific cleaning agents.
2. Consider the Wastewater Management
Nobody wants to wash their cars with used water. But believe it or not, some facilities do just that. While they are all required by law to treat wastewater before reusing it or putting it into the sewage system, some car washing facilities are better than others.
Always defer using a car wash facility that uses freshwater to clean your car.
3. Services & Pricing
Heading to the local express car wash also comes with which cleaning services to use. Most facilities offer a basic wash (which simply washes the exterior with soap, uses a high-pressure hose to rinse, and usually blow-dries the car), a wheel cleaning (which sprays a solution on the wheels), a clear coat protector (which is just a spray wax formula), or in some areas a rust protection treatment.
There are some that offer unlimited wash services or waxing. The best advice here is to just use the basic car wash and defer to professionals for enhanced paint and vehicle protection services, as most of the car wash options are a waste of money.
4. Customer Reviews
Finally, when you’re searching for a full-service car wash near me online, consider the reviews of like-minded car owners like you. Some great options include Yelp or Google Listings. One quick tip -- don’t use a gas station car wash -- as they are typically the cheapest out there.
One item we haven’t really touched on is the coin-operated car wash. The main reason is that not US states have these facilities available to consumers. For those who have them, this video is a great ‘do’s and don’t’ video to review.
What Car Wash Services Are Available?
If you’ve read the info above and are second-guessing taking your car to the local car wash – good. That was our intent. While they are quite convenient, using automatic car washing facilities is the best way to ruin your car’s paint.
However, in the interest of fair reporting, it’s important for us to list all of your options, so you can determine which is best for you and your car.
Mobile Car Wash
One of the growing trends in the automotive car care world is hiring a mobile car washing or auto detailing company. They’ll show up to your home or office with everything needed to wash your car onsite.
What’s the Process?
When you set up your mobile car wash appointment, you’ll determine whether you want it done at your home, your work, or any remote location. However, you should always verify that the location of your car wash is cool with this happening on their property.
Anyways, when they arrive, they will have all the cleaning supplies necessary (including water). Some of these mobile services use waterless car washing supplies – so you should ask them about how they clean the car, and what comes with their basic car wash. You can often have these same companies or individuals detail your car as well.
Pros of Mobile Car Wash
- Convenient for the busy individual and usually includes deep cleaning.
- A great way of reducing the potential of paint damage.
- Let a professional do all the hand-washing work for you.
Cons of Mobile Car Wash
- Typically, it is the most expensive car washing option.
- Easy to be ‘upsold’ for detailing.
- Can piss off your boss or landlord.
Hand Car Wash
So, you don’t want to have someone come to your location, but also don’t want to wash the car yourself. Is there an in-between? There is – in some locations. Some cities have hand car washing services, where you show up, and they’ll wash and dry the car for you manually.
What’s the Process?
At these facilities, you’ll show up to the location and pay the attendant for the car washing service. The process begins with vacuuming the interior in most cases. Some of them will send your car through an automated wash tunnel, but they usually use high-quality supplies and touchless car washing, to reduce paint damage.
Once the car is washed, they’ll drive it over to a location to be dried, and if you paid for it – they’ll detail the vehicle, wave the towel when complete, and you’ll pick up your ride. Here is a free bit of advice, make sure to tip the kid a few bucks for their efforts.
Pros of Hand Car Wash
- It’s cheaper than a mobile car wash.
- They do a pretty good job of cleaning the car – and will usually vacuum inside and clean windows too.
- Again, you don’t have to do anything but drive the car there.
Cons of Hand Car Wash
- It’s really not a Hand Car Wash. It’s usually an automatic car wash, using non-abrasive or non-touch technology.
- Potential for damage to side-view mirrors or antenna
- Can get pricy for upcharges like upholstery or interior detail services.
How to Complete a Car Wash at Home
If you’re looking to keep your car clean and protect the paint from damage caused by some of the car washing options listed above, your best bet is to do-it-yourself. We wrote two really awesome articles breaking down the car washing supplies you need – and the step by step process for completing a two-bucket method DIY car wash.
If you haven’t read those yet – here is a brief summary for your review:
What Supplies You’ll Need for a Two-Bucket Car Wash
(1) An automotive specific car washing soap or shampoo:
There are a lot of really good car washing soaps on the market. The key is to always use a product designed specifically for automotive applications. Never use a home or industrial soaps or cleaning supplies, as they can damage your paint.
(2) Microfiber Wash Mitts:
A microfiber wash mitt is an automotive-specific washing mitt that is less likely to scratch your vehicle. You should use two – one specifically for washing your wheels and tires ONLY, and the other for washing the car.
(3) Big Buckets:
So, we kinda fibbed by calling it the two-bucket method – it’s actually three buckets. One bucket should be used with the same microfiber wash mitt for washing the wheels.
You don’t want to use this same bucket to wash the car (as it will contain small metal shavings from brake dust that will scratch your paint. The (2) other buckets will be used for washing the car.
(4) Quality Microfiber Towels:
To dry your vehicle, you’ll need at least 4 high-quality microfiber towels. It’s best to use towels that are dry to reduce water spots.
(5) Rinse Hose
And finally, you’ll need a rinse hose to rinse the car during each washing cycle.
The Step by Step Process for Washing Car at Home
Once you’ve collected the right supplies, you’re ready to begin the process of washing the car at home – correctly.
Step #1 -- Set Up Your Supplies
Cleaning a car is much easier when you have everything ready and organized. Make sure to set up everything near the car, including your wash bucket, car soap, and wash mitts near the car, so you don’t have to go far to get them.
Step #2 – Prewash the Vehicle
This is easy – just spray the car with water completely. It’s like giving the car a shower before giving it a bath. Plus, it lubricates the surface to resist scratching or car soap drying on the paint.
Step #3 – Wash Your Wheels and Tires First
Remember when we said to use a separate set of supplies for the wheels and tires because brake dust has small metal shavings? Well, this is also why you want to wash them first – before washing the car.
When you wash the wheels and tires, soap and excess debris will go everywhere – including the paint. By washing the wheels first, you can wash off any residue from the body panels without damaging the paint – or having to wash it again.
Step #4 – Wash One Section of the Car at a Time
Using the two-bucket method of washing described in the video above, you’ll want to wash then rinse a small section of your car at a time.
For example, start with your hood, then move to the driver side front, driver side rear, and eventually around the vehicle. With every washing cycle, make sure to rinse off that section, which will keep the car wet and reduce water spots.
Step #5 – Dry the Vehicle
Washing the car using the methods above is 80% of the task. Drying is the part that really can make or break the car washing experience. We recommend using multiple high-quality microfiber towels.
Microfiber is less resistant to dirt and debris and reduces the potential of scratching the paint surface. The key here is to use SEVERAL towels, making sure to replace them when they become wet. You may want to also use a chamois first, to remove a lot of standing water.
Commercial Car Wash vs. Self Car Wash
So – you’re still on the fence about finding the best car wash near me – eh? And you’re curious as to which one you should choose?
Well, here are a few final items to consider.
The Quality of Wash:
Commercial washing uses inferior materials and methods that can potentially damage the paint surface of your vehicle. Completing the DIY self-car wash as described above removes these variables from the equation.
Impact on the Car:
As we stated above, when you take the car to the commercial car wash, you’re risking damaging the paint surface. In most cases, the damage is caused by automated car washes with those spinning things that wash the car. Unless you got a really good ceramic coating like AvalonKing’s, you are actually at a risk!
This tends to cause swirl marks and other scratches on paint – and makes it look horrible. Self-Car washing – not so much.
Impact on the Environment:
On average, washing the car yourself will use less water than a commercial car wash. As such, you’ll help Mother Nature.
Even the cheapest commercial car wash is likely going to cost you a minimum of $5.00 for each wash. Assuming you wash your car every two weeks as recommended, you’ll spend $130 at the minimum on washing the car. You’ll spend about the same to purchase car washing supplies – but they will last a few years. One ‘cost’ item to consider is the price for paint correction. When it’s damaged, you’ll spend north of $500 to have a professional fix the paint.
This item is a clear winner for the commercial car wash – as that’s why they are built – convenience and time-savings factor. It’s a statement of fact that self-washing your car is an investment in time and keeping your car as clean and protected as possible.
Wrapping it Up
When you break it down simply, there are many options for finding a car wash near me with your Google search. The key is knowing what each one offers, how much it’ll cost you, and how they impact the quality of your paint.
Of course, there are several great paint protection products – like our Armor Shield IX DIY Nano-Ceramic Coating that help to protect a vehicle’s surface from damage. It even has self-cleaning properties that repel dirt, debris, and other stuff from sticking to the clear coat of your vehicle.
It is important to note, that in order to care for this product, you should self-wash your car.