How To Use A Car Wash: Everything You Need To Know

Keeping your ride clean is one of the biggest chores for car owners up and down the country. And knowing how to use a car wash is pretty important. 

It always seems to be that the day after you get the bucket out is when the heavens open and all your work proves to be in vain.

Add to that all the muck and dirt that your car drives through daily, and the prospect of continually cleaning appears to be pointless.

Because of this, many people turn to the trusty car wash. Both to save time as well as to spare themselves the annoyance of seeing hard work go to waste. 

Yet some drivers out there simply don’t know how to use a car wash at a gas station. So, what should you expect when you pull up to the bay for the first time? 

Keep on reading to find out everything you need to know about how to use a car wash.


Here are some useful tips to consider when thinking about how to use a car wash.  


Before you set out to get your car cleaned, have a look online for the closest car wash to you. 

These stores can be anywhere – at a petrol station, a supermarket. Or even tucked away on a road you’ve never been to. And there will likely be one closer to you than you thought. 

If you’re looking to find the best value, have a look at the different prices and deals offered by each car wash. 

Remove Any External Appliances

Of course, going through a car wash will inevitably subject the exterior of your car to a barrage of high-pressure water. 

You’ll need to check any external appliances that may be attached to your car.  An aerial or an externally mounted dashcam for example – is either waterproof or removed before your trip. 

Forgetting to do so could cause permanent damage to your electricals. So it’s worth giving your car a once over to make sure nothing will be affected before you leave. 


By now you should be ready to make your way over for that first clean. When you approach the drive-through, you’ll likely see an automated payment system that looks similar to a vending machine. 

Here, you can select the type of wash that you want as well as make the payment. Keep in mind that some car washes will require you to exit your vehicle and pay in person at a small stall nearby. 

Signs or road markings will usually indicate where you need to stop. 

Once you’ve paid, it’s time to approach the car wash. It may be that, for all your knowledge and experience of driving, you’ve never been shown how to use a car wash bay. 

Approaching The Car Wash

Luckily, it is a relatively straightforward process. Most car washes operate with a track mechanism. That will push your car through the machine to emerge clean on the other side. 

For this to work, you have to align your tires with the track prior to entering it. Make sure you approach the track slowly, taking care not to overshoot. 

A sound or a set of lights will usually indicate if you have been successful in lining up your car.

Turn Off Your Engine

Next, make sure to turn off your engine and put your car into neutral if you are driving a manual car, or park if you’re driving an automatic.

Never under any circumstance should you engage your hand brake or emergency brake. As the car travels along the track, all the wheels need to be able to rotate freely in order to prevent damage. 

Engaging the handbrake would lock the wheels and could put your car at risk of sustaining serious damage.

The next thing to do is to turn off your windscreen wipers. Many modern vehicles have automatic windscreen wipers. That will activate as soon as they feel water fall onto the windows. 

Secure Your Car

Of course, it goes without saying that you should also close all your doors and windows before entering the car wash.

After all, nobody wants a car filled with water or soapy residue that could cause dampness or leave a nasty lingering smell.

If you’re driving an older car, don’t be too alarmed if some water makes its way inside.

The sealing on older vehicles is a lot less effective than with newer makes. And a few drops here and there shouldn’t be any cause for concern.

Some car washes will provide you with windscreen wiper protectors. These are small plastic sleeves that slip over your wipers. This prevents them from becoming tangled with the large bristles that clean your car.

Some car washes may not give you a windscreen wiper protector at all. But this is normally because their technology does not interfere with the wiper blades. 

If the car wash wants to provide you with protectors, there is no need for you to get and apply them yourselves. An attendant will come and do this for you.

All that’s left is to check that your wipers are turned off and you can head towards the track.

Drive Away Happy

Once the wash is underway and your car locked onto the track, your job is done. 

You can sit back and relax in the knowledge that your car will emerge from the conveyor belt just as shiny as the day it rolled off the production line. Well, nearly as clean as that.

Despite their popularity, many people really don’t know how to use a drive-through car wash. For the purists out there, a bucket and sponge on a sunny day is an almost integral part of owning a car

There is no denying, however, that this old-fashioned method of cleaning is becoming increasingly unsuitable to today’s fast-paced world. 

A lot of people simply don’t have the time to clean their car by hand or would rather use that time to do something else. Even if you put in the time and effort to clean it yourself, your car is likely to be covered in watery smears and dirt by the end of the week. 

Hopefully, this guide will have taught you how to use a car wash.

Once you’ve done it a few times, you might find that you never go back to cleaning your car any other way.

Whilst you’re here, why not check out some of our other articles on car maintenance, such as How To Use Jump Leads On A Car or How To Use A Multimeter On A Car.

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