Beware of Automated Car Washes

Sep 20, 2022
We've been taking the van to this open car wash for 2 years and never had an issue. But while on a trip south, we stopped at a random car wash to clean the van. it's one of these things where you have to line up behind other cars and follow though all at the same speed. Now I've seen and heard that if one person stops there's a back up on the wash and people are complaining about rear ending each other. In this instance this was not the case for us.

One thing I notice while in the system, is that the swing out arms where throwing the back of the van around and didn't think much of it and even though I inspected the van after wards, I was more focused on the hydraulic fluid all over the driver side wheels. I ran up to the staff and told them I spotted the fluid on our drive side wheels and they might need to check the system.

Once home I started in detailing the van.. when I got the drivers side rear panel, I notice to scratched which actually remove the top layer of paint from the panel. No metal was exposed, but I suspect that the arms I spoke about above had scraped these areas and because I left the car wash, There was nothing I can do about it now. This means one takes their chances while on the road in having a random car wash, wash their cars or trucks.. The sad part about this.. this is a well known and up and coming car wash that we'll never use again. Guess I'll have to throw my wash mits and supplies in the van while traveling, Which will be coming up in Sept, Oct & Nov.

One bright spot, is while having Advance auto change our wiper blades the tech couldn't stop looking at our van, checking out the spar tire inside and the diamond tucked interior. He told me that he has an old van which he uses as a mobile detailing services and before we left in Sept we'll have him hit the van before the trip. he also told me (after seeing our van) that he wants to get rid of his econoline and opt for a Connect. I suspect, without him telling me, we're prob looking at 300.00 for a full cleaning and detailing. Sounds expensive but should be worth it for at least once a year.


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You mentioned, "up and coming car wash." Is it Club Car Wash, by chance? We've had a few open around here in the last few months.
I run my vehicles through an automatic wash almost daily and have not had any problems other than one time a truck with a diesel tank in the box was ahead of me and some of the dirty diesel fuel was transferred from the brushes to my Honda. It wiped right off. The Corvette is washed by your truly and my other vehicles have unlimited car washes. It takes me way too long to wash all the vehicles by hand and it's just too much work. They look so nice after running through the automatic wash.
You have to line up in close succession and rely on the driving skills of complete strangers and risk nose-to-tail pileups just to get a car washed?
That seems incredibly badly designed. Incurring such risks is foolish.

the swing out arms where throwing the back of the van around and didn't think much of it
What? The thing hit your van more than once? Then it burst a hydraulic hose?
I'd seek another method.