10 Big Disadvantages Of Automatic Car Washes

Dirty cars are an eyesore that needs quick washing.

In the past, people washed their cars manually using buckets, soap, and other tools or took them to a manual car wash.

However, with the existence of automatic car washes, things have changed.

Washing at an automatic car wash saves time, is convenient, and is energy efficient.

But it’s not perfect and not without risks.

Quick Answer

As a general rule, the disadvantages of automatic car washes are that they can be detrimental to your car’s finish due to the washing material, soap, and water. Furthermore, they don’t wash effectively and can leave water spots on your vehicle.

The major concern with washing cars in automatic car washes is their potential effects on the finish.

Whether you should use automatic car washes depends on you.

However, you should check whether the disadvantages in this article are negligible before you do.

Disadvantages Of Automatic Car Washes

Automatic car washes are convenient; you’re out and on your way to your other appointments in about ten minutes.

The convenience and low effort involved are soothing and something you wouldn’t want to pass for long minutes of hand washing and sweating in your garage or getting wet.

However, automatic car washes aren’t all that great.

In total, the disadvantages of automatic car washes include the following:

  • Leaves water spots
  • Has reduced capacity
  • Incomplete cleaning
  • Recycled water
  • Harsh chemicals
  • Removes paint protection
  • Not best for electric cars
  • Scratches paint
  • Not cost-effective
  • Not reliable 

Automatic car washes have undeniable advantages.

No one would want to pass off convenience for manual labor when you can save time to rest and do other things.

But automatic car washes are not perfect and have the following disadvantages:

Leaves Water Spots

You can’t determine the equipment that will wash your car at the car wash.

Should older or worn-out equipment be used, it can leave water spots on your car. 

The air-drying equipment may not dry your car correctly, leaving streaks on your car.

Your car may end up coming out dirtier than it looked before entering the car wash. 

What’s worse? The water spots can last a long time on your car.

Therefore, this may require an extra drying effort on your end to dry your vehicle correctly.

Has Reduced Capacity

Touchless washing is great since it somewhat minimizes the impact of the materials on the cars or causes scratches.

However, there are downsides to that. 

This means that the equipment won’t remove grime or stubborn dirt on the car.

Therefore, you may notice some grime on the car even after thorough washing in the car wash.

Incomplete Cleaning

You can expect incomplete cleaning if you wash at an automatic car wash.

Your car has some hard-to-reach spots that even the hoses in the car wash can’t get to. 

Even though the hoses have sensors to match your car’s shape, some modern car designs make it difficult for the hose to access some hidden areas.

You may not get the perfect cleaning out of it and need to do some extra work on your own.

Recycled Water

Recycling water is a great way of saving the environment, and this is an advantage of using automatic car washes.

However, this is also a disadvantage. While the water has been recycled, sometimes, it can’t be 100% clean.

Chemicals may remain in the water. 

Before washing cars, there is a pre-rinse process at automatic car washes that, if not done correctly, can leave dirt and grit on your car.

Furthermore, the high-tension hoses can push the dirt or grit around and scratch your car during the washing process.

Harsh Chemicals

Washing your vehicle at an automatic car wash is risky due to the potentially harsh chemicals involved.

Some car washes use harsh acids that can eat into your car’s clear coat. 

Furthermore, some don’t use car wash shampoo, but other alternatives that may have abrasives and harsh chemicals that can damage your car’s finish.

Removes Paint Protection

Automatic car washes can reduce your paint’s lifespan due to the harsh chemicals and acids used in washing cars.

They cut down the grime and also affect the paint. 

Soft-touch car washes cannot afford to change brushes daily for their customers, and depending on how many cars the brushes have washed, the harsher they are and the more serious the damage they can do to your car’s paint.

Furthermore, some automatic car washes use harsh chemicals that can strip dirt and grime off cars since the method is touchless and there’s no other way to scrub off the dirt.

These chemicals and harsh brushes damage the paint protection.

Not Best For Electric Cars

Automatic car washes are not the best for washing electric vehicles, not because they can’t wash them clean or the risk of electrocution.

The contrary is the case. 

They can damage sensors and electric motors if you’re not careful enough.

The damage can be costly if you forget to fold your side mirrors or lock the door before washing. 

Scratches Paint

If you scrutinize your car’s paint after a wash at an automatic car wash, you’re likely to notice some scratches on the body.

The brushes and spinners that run over your car can be aggressive and leave swirls and scratches.

Furthermore, the drying towel can collect dirt from cleaning other cars and scratch yours. 

Not Cost-Effective

Automatic car washes use expensive equipment and machines.

Therefore, the cost of washing your car there might be more expensive than cleaning it at home.

Not Reliable 

The machines and equipment in automatic car washes are not always reliable.

Sometimes, they may be weak and not function to their total capacity; therefore, they won’t wash your car as clean as they should. 

Other times, they can dent or scratch your car when they don’t function well.

You may also have to wait for other users to finish depending on how much traffic the car wash gets.


Washing at an automatic car wash will save a great deal of time, but it may have a lasting negative effect on your car.

It can cause damage. It can ruin the protective coating, scratch the paint, dent your car, or leave water spots. 

Of course, washing your car yourself isn’t perfect and doesn’t guarantee anything; however, you’re in control of the washing agent, equipment, water you use, and how gently you scrub.

Key Takeaways:

  • Automatic car washes can ruin your car’s paint,
  • The machines and equipment at an automatic car wash aren’t reliable,
  • The harsh chemicals from automatic car washes can affect your car’s clear coat,
  • You should dry your car after a wash to prevent water spots.









Jan-Lucas Ganssauge
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge