Automatic Car Wash Accidents (Risks and What to Do)

It’s natural to be obsessive with the car’s shine, and you may want to keep them clean by visiting car washes regularly. You might not be expecting an unwanted accident during the car cleaning process, but they are quite common in car washes.

If you’re thinking of any prevention against car wash accidents, it’s time to break the sad news that it’s nearly impossible. You’ll inevitably have to deal with an accident during a car wash as you can’t always trust automated machines for life.

So what are your options as a car owner?

It’s essential to know the risks of being involved in a car wash accident and prepare yourself for it. This knowledge will help assess the liable party for the loss.

In this article, I will be sharing car wash safety tips, injuries and damage risks involved in a  car wash accident, and what to do if you or your car face a mishap situation during the cleaning process.

Read on the find out.

What Accidents Happen in an Automated Car Wash?

Most accidents happen because of the conveyor belt malfunctioning, which is responsible for taking the car in and out of the car wash facility. In gas stations, the in-bay automatic car washes can go out of control, causing serious damage to the vehicle.

Since there are different types of automated car washes available, accidents associated with them are also dissimilar.

Let’s talk about the different car wash types and how they can be dangerous for you and your vehicle as a whole.

Conveyor Car Wash

In a  conveyor car wash facility, the car is dragged into the tunnel with a conveyor belt where all the rinsing, soaping, washing, and waxing happens. During the car wash process, vehicles are put on neutral so that the belt makes a good grip with the tires.

Sounds great, right? — The accidents linked with it are equally horrifying.

Sometimes, car owners forget to put the car on neutral, which often turns out to be a disastrous event. In case of your car not being on neutral, it may lurch forward and hit the car in front; it’s called a rear-end accident.

Since you’re sitting in the car during the car wash, your acts can equally count towards an accident. For example, if you use the steering wheel when being on a conveyor belt, your car may veer off, ultimately hitting the sideways or the automated machines.

In-Bay Automatic Car Wash

As the name implies, in-bay car washes don’t move your vehicle. Instead, an automated machine moves back and forth around your vehicle to clean it in a bay. You’ll often see them in a fuel station.

Although in-bay car wash is much safer than the conveyor ones, the chances of getting your car damaged aren’t minimal. 

Since automated machines are programmed for a general car wash operation, they can turn an uncertain situation into a costly accident without notice.

Now that we have talked about different types of automated car wash accidents let’s talk about their reasons so that we can avoid them as much as we can.

Reasons Why Automatic Car Wash Accidents Happen

  • The car’s tires become dislodged from the conveyor’s belt
  • The car is not put on neutral during the car wash
  • The car’s windows are open during the car wash
  • The steering wheel of the car isn’t kept straightly aligned
  • You’re on a phone call during a car wash
  • The conveyor’s belt is faulty or malfunctioning
  • The automated machines aren’t set up properly

There can also be more than one reason for a car wash accident. It may be a car wash’s mistake or yours for which the accident happened.

Unfortunately, it can’t be decided on the spot which party is liable for your loss. You can minimize the chances of being involved in a car wash accident if:

  • You read all the signs along the path of a car wash.
  • You read car wash instructions thoroughly.
  • You communicate your concerns to the car wash worker or the manager.

Although it’s impossible to avoid all accidents, it’s always in your interest to be safe and cautious when driving your car through the car wash.

Safety Tips for Car Wash

Don’t Use or Talk On a Cellphone

Talking on a cellphone during a car wash can seriously put you in some uncertain situations that you won’t be prepared for because of low concentration.

Keep your phone on silent so that you go through the car wash process peacefully.

Keep Your Car Windows Closed

Automatic car wash has sharp machinery moving fast around the car. If you try to go out or open your windows, chances are you’ll hurt yourself.

There will be soap and dangerous chemicals all around, which may be toxic for your skin when in contact.

Follow the Instructions of Car Wash Employees

Car wash instruction manuals are specifically designed for your safety. The employees are on duty to tackle any unfortunate situation.

Call a car wash employee immediately if you feel your car moving or veering off the track. 

Read the Car Wash Signs Carefully

In the automatic car wash facility, you’ll often see the signs that you must follow to avoid accidents.

Even if it’s not your first time in a car wash — Reading signs don’t hurt!

Avoid Using the Steering Wheel

I know it’s hard to keep your hands off the steering wheel while sitting in a driver’s seat — But you’ll have to resist yourself for the sake of your own safety.

Steering wheels should be aligned straight with the car when you’re entering the car wash conveyor’s belt.

Don’t Use the Car Brakes During Car Wash

Just like you don’t want to accelerate during a car wash, it’s better to keep your foot off the brakes. 

Using brakes while being on a belt will make your car stuck inside the car wash. 

Make Sure That Your Car is On Neutral

Since most car washes require the car to be in the neutral phase, it’s best to ensure that it really is before entering the car wash.

If you doubt whether you should put the car on neutral or not, it’s better to ask the car wash than to be sorry later.

These safety tips can help you remain safe even in an unfortunate situation.

Most of the time, it’s the driver’s mistake that causes accidents during a car wash. For example, some drivers keep using mobile phones or keep talking to a person in the backseat, forgetting the instructions and signs all the way through.

Being involved in such acts can give your car wash owner a reason to blame you after the accident. By using mobile and doing such acts when you’re getting your car washed, you’re simply making your case weak in case of an accident lawsuit.

A negligent driver can’t file a lawsuit against a car wash company, and he or she will have to bear the expenses of the damage to his/her car instead of the car wash.

Please note that car wash facilities are monitoring their area with security camera footage. Even if the car wash employees don’t see any act of negligence from your side, the security camera footage can be a piece of big evidence against you — Don’t let the car wash exploit any situation.

Key Takeaways

  • Car wash accidents can cause severe injuries to the neck and back.
  • Car wash accidents are quite common
  • Avoid using mobile phones during the car wash process
  • Read car wash signs carefully
  • Most car wash accidents occur due to driver’s negligence
  • In-bay car washes are safer than conveyor’s belt
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge