Car washes - safe or not?

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CX5
I've heard that if you take the CX5 through the car wash, the machines can chip your paint. Is that true? Does everyone here handwash? Any experiences?
 
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2019 CX-5 White Pearl Sig
I haven't heard of the paint getting chipped but it certainly gets scratched going to the drive-thru washes. My neighbor lady bought a black CR-V a couple of months ago and has gone to the car wash maybe three or four times. The paint looks terrible, I can't find any painted area on it that isn't scratched all to hell.

I've been using the two bucket wash method but have decided to go with Griot's foam cannon before doing the contact wash. Looking forward to trying something new.
 
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2019 Mazda CX-5 GTR
I have an unlimited wash plan and take my Machine Gray GTR through 1-2 times per week. No issues whatsoever. I'm thinking that any BLACK vehicle would have an issue with swirl marks though.
 
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2016.5 CX-5 GT AWD titanium/black 2016 Miata Club ST MT white
Unless it's a 'touchless' car wash your risking your paint. Even then, the chemicals used are very unfriendly to your paint and most certainly to any wax you may have on the car.

In the winter months I take my vehicles into the manual bay of the car wash and only use the rinse mode to get the salt off. In the summer it's hand wash only.
 

sm1ke

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It would depend on the car that went through the wash before you, but generally no, the wash shouldn't chip your paint. It will give it some nice swirl marks though. If you don't care about swirl marks, go to town. If you do, and you absolutely have to take it to a car wash, bring it to a touchless wash. Swirl marks are much, much more noticeable on black paint, but they'll be visible on any Japanese paint regardless of colour (because Japanese paint is soft).

I always hand wash in warm weather. When it gets too cold, I take the car to a coin-operated wand wash and just rinse it thoroughly to get the road salt off. If I want it really clean in the winter, I go to the wand wash, rinse it, then I do a waterless wash with a few microfiber towels.
 
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13' CX-5 and 16' Mazda6 both Touring w/Tech/Bose
I haven't heard of the paint getting chipped but it certainly gets scratched going to the drive-thru washes. My neighbor lady bought a black CR-V a couple of months ago and has gone to the car wash maybe three or four times. The paint looks terrible, I can't find any painted area on it that isn't scratched all to hell.

I've been using the two bucket wash method but have decided to go with Griot's foam cannon before doing the contact wash. Looking forward to trying something new.

Hybrid 1 bucket method for me.

I pre-soak car in garage with Optimum No Rinse with Wax (green) using a spray bottle. I mix 1/2 gallon of Reverse Osmosis water to 1/2 cap of ONWWW in bucket and mix. Throw 2 large Miguiar MF towels into bucket and soak up completely. Take one towel and wring out excess back to bucket. Fold until I have about 16 fresh clean side to work with per towel. Proceed to wipe each painted panel per side. Tower is never re-introduced to clean buck...I simply fold to a new clean side. 2 towels = lots of sides!

After all panels are done I wipe all glass surfaces then wipe dry with a 3rd dry Miguiar MF towel. I always have excess clean ONRWWW solution leftover. I pour it into my bottle...same bottle used to pre-soak car at very beginning. Ready to be used at next wash.
 
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2019 CX-5 Signature
I will only take mine thru touchless washes. There is one next town over which I have been using for years with several cars; never any issue. Of course, those particular ones are not as effective on caked-on grime, especially if you wait weeks to let it dry real hard on the finish. I will not use one with brushes. Had a bad experience with a brush wash in 1995 with a Nissan I had at the time. It was black and I took it thru because it was pretty filthy (in my estimation). Anyway, next day I walk up to the car in the sunlight, and from a distance it looked as if there was no paint on the center of the hood. When I got closer, i realized that most of the paint was "burned" off the hood by the brushes. Went and got a bottle of the liquid car wax which has paint pigment mixed in with it. Yes, the kind many used car dealers use to mask chips and paint flaws. Anyways, I slathered that paint/wax on and it looked pretty good; restoring the hood back to what it used to look like. However, I had to re-apply it every month until I traded the car in six months later.
 
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2021 RDX A-Spec
owners of cult luxury vehicles regard automated car washes with horror

- up to you

Not just cult luxury. Anyone who fancies car detailing views auto washes with horror. It definitely will swirl up the paint faster than hand washing, but it*s not irreparable. You can help by waxing regularly, but that quickly negates the time savings of an automatic wash.
 
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2018 CX-5 Sport
It is for all cars, going through a car was can give swirl marks. The worst is when there are two or three guys with towels at the end who rub the car dry. Many people might not even notice the micro scratches or they do not care about them and they like the ease of a good wash, which is fine. For me, I will only hand wash mine.
 

sm1ke

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when I was younger and looking for a 2nd job, I worked at a local full-service car wash. The kind where there are a couple of people who pre-rinse with pressure washers, then the car goes on rollers and gets soap sprayed on it, and it gets pulled through the brush system. At the end, a big fan blows the majority of the water off the car, then 2-3 people hand dry the car with towels. The one I worked at used microfiber towels at least, but even the "clean" towels looked (and felt) dirty. It seems like everyone who works there generally doesn't give a s*** about anything. I worked there for two days before quitting, and I will never bring any of my cars to an automatic wash again. Just my opinion, YMMV.
 
I've heard that if you take the CX5 through the car wash, the machines can chip your paint. Is that true? Does everyone here handwash? Any experiences?
Just my observations re car washing. This is a commentary from someone that is about as OCD as one can get. I refer to my obsession with auto care as “potty trained at gunpoint,” 😀

If it’s a matter of exterior preventive maintenance, you will find yourself cornered between “Oh, well,” and “It’s Perfect.” If your ride has a darker color paint, it is imperative to avoid any outside influences that will detract from the appearance. I’m talking about that most dreaded of eyesores: SWIRL MARKS.

In this world of immediate gratification, it is so easy and convenient to slip into the nearest robo wash and let the machines do the work, while we sit inside. Grooving to the latest iTunes on our Bluetooth system. Quick, convenient, easy, in/out, no harm, no foul. Not so fast, my friends.

Pitfall #1: those rotating, back & forth fabric strips are churning away at the dust and grime. But you can’t see it because your windshield is saturated with suds. Each pass of the strips, every rotation of the brushes, is acting like a microfiber towel you dropped in a sand pit. And you’re not going to see the after effect until the sun’s rays strike the car and there they are. Almost invisible: swirls. And “swirl happens.” To every exterior paint surface. It’s just more noticeable on the darker colors. I would venture to say if you were the first customer at the grand opening, those high-speed, ultra-RPM slapping sounds can’t be good.

Pitfall #2: assuming that your carnuba paste wax has your back. Maybe. Maybe not. It’s the “maybe not” you need to be cognizant of. Those chemicals used in auto washes are designed for one thing: removal of a variety of grime and exterior elemental assaults upon your paint. And your wax protectant. To them, you’re public enemy #1. Yes, the hand wax helps. But it is not the “be all, cure all.” This is an all-out assault on your ride. You are the enemy. And you have already lost this battle even before you declared war on dirt. It happened when the recessed robo chain grabbed your front tire and propelled you forward.

🤷🏼‍♂️ “So what do I do,” you ask? That age-old answer for a century: hand wash. With a quality auto shampoo designed for automotive paint. The ONLY time you would use something like dishwashing soda (similar to Dawn), is the removal of previous wax applications. Then rinse well and wash a second time with auto soap. In the shade, dry immediately, then do your wax Or a ceramic shine overlay/detailing.

Just my opinion, but stay out of any auto vehicle wash. If you have to have a quick wash, opt for the touchless systems. No brushes, no foaming blanket strips. Just high pressure H2O.

Hope this long diatribe helps someone down the road.
 

sm1ke

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For some us hand washing isn't possible 6 months of the year. Touchless car washes are better than nothing.

I fall into this group of people. From early Nov to early March, I use a touchless wash with the "wax spray" at the end, or if necessary, I go to a coin-operated wand wash to rinse the majority of the dirt/salt off.
 
Totally agree with this. I was remiss in taking into account “Winter” season. It’s touchless or hand wand here, as well.

We do have a day coming up this week where the forecast is 64F. I’m gonna give it my best try, if the temps hold up, that is.
 

sm1ke

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I forgot to mention that if the wand wash I use isn't busy, they'll allow hand washing and drying in the stall. I'll spray out the foam brush, then use it to get soap on the car by holding it over the car and letting the soap fall onto the paint. Then I'll use a microfiber or two to go over the whole car, followed by a rinse. After that, I'll dry using a fresh microfiber, using a spray wax as I go for a thin layer of protection. It's usually pretty busy when I go, so I don't get to do this often.
 
I forgot to mention that if the wand wash I use isn't busy, they'll allow hand washing and drying in the stall. I'll spray out the foam brush, then use it to get soap on the car by holding it over the car and letting the soap fall onto the paint. Then I'll use a microfiber or two to go over the whole car, followed by a rinse. After that, I'll dry using a fresh microfiber, using a spray wax as I go for a thin layer of protection. It's usually pretty busy when I go, so I don't get to do this often.
Great idea. I have (in the past) taken a bucket with my micro fiber sponges and soap with me. I use the “spot free” rinse to fill the bucket part way and agitate the soap. Use remaining time to get the car wet with normal spray. Have to work with some expediency before the soap dries. Rinse off with a second spray, then flip the selector switch to Spot Free. Drive on the highway approx 5-10 minutes to air dry. Works good enough to please me.

When the weather improves, I sometimes use my power washer and foam cannon. Does a spectacular job. But such a hassle to get the hose, hookups, etc. But since I’m retired, I need something to do and always pleased with the results. In that regard, it’s worth it.
 

sm1ke

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'18 CX-9 Signature
Great idea. I have (in the past) taken a bucket with my micro fiber sponges and soap with me. I use the “spot free” rinse to fill the bucket part way and agitate the soap. Use remaining time to get the car wet with normal spray. Have to work with some expediency before the soap dries. Rinse off with a second spray, then flip the selector switch to Spot Free. Drive on the highway approx 5-10 minutes to air dry. Works good enough to please me.

When the weather improves, I sometimes use my power washer and foam cannon. Does a spectacular job. But such a hassle to get the hose, hookups, etc. But since I’m retired, I need something to do and always pleased with the results. In that regard, it’s worth it.

Bonus: The "air dry" can be fun too :)

I normally use the pressure washer and foam cannon in the warmer months. I like being able to take my time with it, but I agree that the hassle of getting everything set up can be a chore.
 
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