Car Wash

Automatic Car Wash vs. Hand Car Wash: Pros and Cons


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For the busy vehicle owner, the automatic car wash presents a quick and convenient alternative to the hand car wash. When comparing the two options side by side however, a variety of pros and cons arise. Deciding which method best fits you requires careful considerations of the two.

Benefits of an Automatic Wash versus a Hand Washing

Automatic washes shine in their speed and convenience. While even a basic hand car wash requires running water, a bucket, soap, and a mitt for washing and drying, an automatic wash simply requires getting into your car and visiting your local car wash. In addition, it is quite easy to scratch and mar your vehicle’s finish when washing improperly by hand. In contrast, a touchless car wash will have a very low chance of damaging your vehicle when used properly. For those with a busy schedule however, the biggest advantage to an automatic wash is the fact that most will take only 5-10 minutes to complete. Whereas a hand washing, even when rushed, will take between 20 minutes to an hour or more.

Benefits of a Hand Washing versus an Automatic Wash

While automatic car washes have advanced greatly in the past decade, their lack of contact tends to greatly hinder their ability to completely clean a vehicle. What this means is, that in most cases, even an amateur hand washing will be more effective at removing dirt and grime than an automatic washing. For proper exterior care, washing is only the first step. Claying, polishing and waxing follows. These additional processes help to remove embedded contaminants, as well as to restore the luster of a damaged finish. A hand washing helps to identify such problems, as well as give the ability to pay trouble spots additional attention. None of these steps have a comparable step in automatic washing with the exception of waxing. Though results from an automatic waxing tend to leave much to be desired. In addition, most automatic washes will use either air drying, or a hand drying with a towel. These methods tend to leave extensive water spotting and exterior scratching respectively when compared to a proper hand drying with a clean, micro fiber cloth. For expensive or vintage vehicles, hand washing may be worth the trouble.

Should time not be a factor, hand washing tends to be better in every way when compared to automatic washes. In the real world however, where busy schedules and daily commutes are commonplace, a mix of both methods may be the best approach. Hand washes along with the corresponding additional steps such as claying, polishing and waxing should be done whenever time allows, for best results. Automatic washing and quick detailing should be done after particularly dusty days or any time weather is particularly severe, in order to help slow the accumulation of dirt and grime. By combining both options as time allows, you can essentially have the best of both worlds and a cleaner, better looking car as a result.

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