3 Simple Reasons To Avoid Automatic Car Washes With Ceramic Coated Cars

Ceramic-coated cars look cool, but they need great care to maintain the longevity of that coating. Should you consider going to a car wash with ceramic coating?

Quick Answer

Automatic car washes should be avoided with ceramic-coated cars. Automatic car washes use recycled water and unmaintained brushes, which scratch the coating during the washing process. Using automatic car washes often can remove the ceramic coating completely. Instead, it is best to wash ceramic-coated cars by hand.

How exactly is an automatic car wash harmful to your ceramic-coated car?

I will talk about each car wash type and will assess the best one based on specific criteria.

Read on to find out.

Can I Go Through a Car Wash With A Ceramic-Coated Car?

Quick Answer

Driving a ceramic-coated car through an automatic car wash should be avoided at all costs. Even though ceramic coatings are scratch-resistant, the dirt and friction of an automatic car wash can damage the coating over time. It is best to wash a ceramic-coated car by hand.

There are some other factors that make automatic car washes not suitable to wash a ceramic-coated car:

  • Contaminants of the Previous Cars
  • The pH of the Automatic Car Wash
  • Particulates Due to Less Efficient Filtration System

Contaminants of the Previous Cars

As you may know, automatic car washes are obliged to recycle water for preserving the environment.

There is nothing wrong with it — But your car’s ceramic coating might be at risk due to this factor.

You never know how many cars have been washed by the car wash facility before yours.

They may have grease, salts, dirt, mud, and oils mixed up with recycled water.

And when they hit the ceramic coating, they will reduce the life of it and will also make it dull and ugly if you take your car to the car wash frequently.

The pH of the Automatic Car Wash

Automatic car washes don’t have a perfect chemical filtration system in place that can eliminate those chemical pollutants.

What comes out as a result of those chemicals present in the car wash water?

A highly acidic pH that can wash away ceramic coating faster — And you don’t want it to happen.

It’s not always about the water. Car wash soap can be a lot harsher than the regular DIY washing soap.

It’s typically manufactured to wash away the dirt quickly with automated spraying machines, but it also results in washing away the ceramic coating.

Automatic car washes generally use harsh chemicals in order to be time-efficient.

The goal of an automatic car wash is to wash as many cars as possible in a day to maximize profits.

Harsh chemicals make that possible but can damage cars and car coatings at the same time.

After spending a lot of money on a ceramic coating, you should totally avoid automatic car washes as the chemicals will dull and maybe even damage the ceramic coating.

Particulates Due to Less Efficient Filtration System

As I said above, you should never rely on how a car wash filters its water.

Most of them are just trying to comply with the water conservation policy and don’t bat an eye on water quality.

Water quality is questionable in almost every other car wash, because of the mass car washing demand that they just can’t handle.

Filters can’t trap every single particulate and wear out with time.

If particles pass through the filter, you know what it means for your ceramic-coated car — It will turn out to be a disaster for the coat.

There is a reason why professional car detailers use the two-bucket method in order to prevent debris and other dirt from getting on the cleaned paint.

They moreover use a touchless pre-wash procedure in order to minimize the risk of scratching the car.

If you are curious about the two-bucket method on pre-washing a car with a foam gun, make sure to check out the article I wrote about it here.

If you still think that an automatic car wash is the way to go to properly wash your ceramic-coated car, make sure to check out my in-depth comparison article about automatic car washes and hand-washing here.

After reading it, you will not see an automatic car wash ever again!

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Types of Car Washes & Ceramic Coating

There are many different types of automatic car washes out there that all have different effects on your car.

Generally there are two main themes for automatic car washes; touchless car washes and friction-based car washes.

Let’s take a closer look at these:

Touchless Car Wash for Ceramic Coated Vehicle

At first glance, it might seem that a touchless car wash is a simple and safe way to clean a ceramic-coated car.

There is no friction from any brushes or microfiber towels that can scratch or take off the ceramic coating.

Even though this is correct and touchless car washes do not use any kind of friction to clean a car, they use harsh chemicals in order to achieve a cleaning result most customers are satisfied with.

Touchless car washes need alkaline shampoos and detergents in order to clean up any debris, fallout, bird droppings, and other contaminants in order to effectively remove them without touching the car with a brush or towel.

Alkaline shampoos and detergents can damage a ceramic coating over time, so it is best to avoid touchless car washes with a ceramic-coated car.

Friction-Based Car Wash for Ceramic Coated Vehicle

Friction-based automatic car washes are not suitable to clean any car, be it a ceramic coated one or an unprotected one.

The major downside to friction-based automatic car washes is that the brushes are not maintained properly, they are not suitable to wash a car, and that there is usually no good pre-washing procedure when using an automatic car wash.

In the end, this means that any dirt on your car is scrubbed against your car, acting like sandpaper and scratching your car’s paint or coating.

Moreover, the brushes or towels used also contain dirt from cars washed before your one, so they basically act like sandpaper, grinding the dirt into the paint and scratching it in the process.

Also, brushes are simply not suitable for washing a car in a safe way. I have written an in-depth article about it here, so make sure to check it out!

What Is the Best Car Wash For a Ceramic Coating?

Quick Answer

It is best to hand wash a ceramic-coated car in order to keep the protective properties of the ceramic coating intact. If a handwash is not an option, it is best to use a touchless car wash in order to minimize the risk of scratching the coating.

As highlighted in the paragraph above, it is best to avoid automatic car washes no matter if it is a friction-based one or a touchless one.

Each of these types of automatic car washes has major disadvantages and can severely damage the ceramic coating of your car over time.

Nevertheless, sometimes there is no time to give a car a proper handwash and an automatic car wash is the only way to go.

If this is the case, it is best to use a touchless car wash without any shampoo if possible.

The water pressure will take off a lot of dirt already without damaging the ceramic coating.

The car will not be super clean afterward, but the ceramic coating will stay intact and the car will look a lot cleaner.

Quick Note: Don’t wash your ceramic-coated car within seven days of application. Washing the coat before it cures on the vehicle’s surface is an easy way of wasting it.

How Do You Wash a Ceramic Coated Car?

Properly washing a ceramic-coated car is not hard and not too different from a regular maintenance car wash.

You can check the video below to find out how to wash a ceramic-coated car.

To wash a ceramic coated car, follow these steps:

  • Rinse the car from top to bottom
  • Pre-wash the car with a pH-neutral snow foam
  • Clean the wheels with brushes and wheel cleaner
  • Rinse the wheels
  • Perform a two-bucket hand wash with a pH-neutral car shampoo from top to bottom
  • Rinse the car from top to bottom
  • Dry the car using a drying towel
  • Optional: apply a SiO₂-based spray sealant

As you can see, washing a ceramic coated car is not different from washing a car without a ceramic coating.

Make sure to use gentle, pH-neutral products and also make sure to perform the two-bucket method and you are good to go and wash your ceramic coated car.

Also make sure to wash your car in the shade and low light hours if possible.

This way the surface of your car will not heat up and burn any product you use into the paint.

Quick Note: As you’re avoiding automatic car wash for the same reason, don’t use recycled water or dirty clothes to wipe the car’s surface.

Instead, always go for clean media (even for buckets, wash mitt, and towel) to avoid cross-contamination — It’s for your own good.

Key Takeaways

  • It’s better to avoid automatic car washes for ceramic-coated cars.
  • Contaminants of the previous cars can damage your car’s coat.
  • The pH of automatic car washes isn’t suitable for ceramic coated cars.
  • Particulates keep jetted on your vehicle during an automatic car wash.
  • You should wash your ceramic coated car by hand.
  • Use a pH-neutral shampoo with no added wax.
  • Use clean media during DIY car wash for ceramic coated vehicles
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge