Car Wash Etiquette: Do You Fold in Side Mirrors? – Plus What To Do In The Case Of Damages

An automatic car wash is a very convenient place as it allows you to get rid of the dirt on your beloved four-wheeler super quickly and efficiently. However, it doesn’t come without risks, as the car wash may inadvertently damage your car in the process. Some precautions need to be taken before taking your car to a car wash, and some of them have to do with your side mirrors. 

Side mirrors should be folded in when driving a car through a car wash. This is especially the case for large cars or trucks, as the car wash machinery could hit the side mirrors, damaging them in the process. Most automatic car washes require the car owner to fold in the side mirrors to avoid any potential damage.

In this article, I’ll go through the reasons for folding in your mirrors at the car wash and how you should go about doing that. I’ll also go through some possible reasons why you might not want to fold them. Finally, I’ll give you some tips on what to do if your car suffers damages at the car wash. 

Do You Have To Fold in Mirrors in a Car Wash?

Folding in side mirrors before using an automatic car wash is considered good practice, as it avoids any potential damage to the side mirrors. This is especially true for large cars and trucks. There is a maximum width for using a car wash and folding in the mirrors usually guarantees that this limit is not broken.

The easiest thing you could do is a look at the instructions at your car wash. If there are no written instructions, ask the staff about the rules and guidelines. If you’re instructed to fold in your mirrors, do it – the team most likely knows what they’re talking about. 

If there are no such guidelines, you probably don’t need to take any precautions, and you might leave your mirrors as they are. This could save you some time as you won’t have to adjust them again after washing. However, fold them in anyway if you don’t want to take even the slightest chance. 

If you do fold in your mirror, make sure you do it yourself. Some car wash owners have complained about the preppers damaging cars. This way, you avoid the damage and spare the owner some headache. 

Therefore, if you’re really in a hurry or worried that tinkering with your mirror may cause problems, you may choose not to tuck them in. 

Alternatively, you can choose a touchless car wash. Since no part of the equipment comes close to your car, you don’t have to be afraid of damaging it in any way. This is good for your paint job as well; you don’t have to worry about any kind of damage to your paintwork either. 

What To Do if the Car Wash Has Damaged Your Mirrors

There are a lot of things to consider when an automatic car wash has damaged your car. This is why I have written an extensive guide about it here. Make sure to check it out.

If the car wash has damaged your mirrors, be sure to know your rights and to stand your ground. Many car washes will have a sign that says they’re not responsible for any damages. However, this is often incorrect, and you have the right to ask them to pay for the damage. You can even take them to small claims court. 

Ensure that you always follow the guidelines put forward by your car wash. That way, you can’t be held responsible if there is any damage to your car, and they can’t wash their hands off it that easily. 

Furthermore, you should ensure that the damaged mirror is a factory part and not sourced from a third party. If the latter is the case, most car washes will claim that they are not responsible for the damage as referenced in this Youtube video:

Therefore, make sure that all the parts on your car are original and be ready to back that up with evidence. You can even contact your car dealer and ask them to help you out. They might be willing to do it. 

Here are a few additional things you can do:

  • Consider your vehicle’s age. Another point to consider is the age of your car. If it’s an older car, the owner may see that as the reason for the damage and use it to dismiss your claims. However, if your vehicle is in good condition, this should be a non-issue because its age doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s prone to damage, so don’t give in on this point. 
  • Get video evidence: You should also try to get a video of the incident if possible. This will clearly show who’s to blame and what exactly happened. It will also give you some hard evidence against the car wash. After all, it’s very difficult to argue against obvious evidence.
  • Be persistent. Persistence is often the key in such situations; if you’re persistent enough, the car wash may give in to your demands and pay for the damage. After all, nobody likes being pestered by an angry customer or to risk damaging their reputation. You can even mention this in passing, just so they know they’re dealing with a serious person. 

If all else fails, you can go to small claims court, according to this ABC15 Arizona report.

If the damage is not significant, this is probably not the best idea, but it may be worth it if it is. Still, according to an analysis by Zucker and Her, pretty much anything can be taken to small claims court. 

Key Takeaways

So, should you fold in your mirrors at the carwash? This is what you need to remember:

  • Folding in your mirrors is not a must 
  • It may be the safest bet if you don’t like taking any chances
  • Be sure to fold them in yourself 
  • If you don’t want to fold them in, make sure that they’re small enough not to get in the way
  • If your mirrors do get damaged, don’t remain quiet, make a stink
  • You can even take things to small claims court  


Reddit: If my mirrors don’t fold, can I go through an automatic car wash?

Can Star Blue: Automatic Car Wash: 5 Things to Remember

Car Wash Forum: Mirrors…fold or no fold? 

Hein Online: The People’s Court Examined: A Legal and Empirical Analysis of the Small Claims Court System 

Jan-Lucas Ganssauge
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge