How to Use a Self-Service Car Wash

You’ve been telling yourself that it’s time to finally wash your car yourself, but you’re not sure how to use a self-service car wash. Of course, you’re familiar with what they look like, but they seem so — well — uninviting. Don’t let them fool you, though. They’re highly convenient as long as you prepare yourself in advance.

Here are the best strategies for getting the most out of your self-service car wash experience.

Collect the Things You Need at a Self-Service Car Wash

 Before you step foot in the self-service car wash, gather some items for your outing. These will include soft cloths to buff and dry the car, a bucket and super-soft sponge, a squeegee for the windows and tons of quarters.

Why the quarters? Most self-service car washes still take change, and quarters are at a premium. Yes, some of the newer self-service washes accept credit or debit cards, but why risk it? Bring those quarters sitting on your dresser drawer or collecting in the bottom of your purse.

Center Your Car in the Middle of the Bay

When you get to the car wash, always park in the middle of the bay. This will give you a great vantage point, and not force you to squeeze into weird angles to get to any part of the vehicle.

After parking, be sure to remove all those things you collected. The last thing you want is to open your car doors or pop the trunk when the wash begins!

Familiarize Yourself With the Hose Settings

The hose and nozzle spray unit will likely have several settings. The ones you’re probably most interested in are washing and rinsing. The rest are normally not that important, such as soaking. If you’ve brought along some soap of your own to use on your vehicle, get it ready.

When you have everything all set to go, pop in the quarters and hose down the car on the “wash” setting, which may or may not include soap. Then, aim straight for the tires while standing back a few feet to limit splashing. Tires are grimy, and getting them cleaned off first is a must-do during your car wash experience.

Scrub Your Car the Right Way

After hosing off the tires, add the soapy water to the rest of the car. Then, turn off the sprayer and use your soft cloth or sponge to give the vehicle the once-over. Don’t be afraid to use some elbow grease, especially on the taillights and headlights.

Beware of using any sponges or scrubbers at the automatic car wash itself. They might leave scratches on your paint, which can be a costly problem later.

Rinse off the Car

Car all soapy? Good! Now, stand back and hose it off. Begin with the top and work your way to the bottom. Use up all the time on your sprayer, even if you think you don’t need it. Hey, you’re paying for it, after all!

Dry the Car Completely

Although it’s tempting to simply drive out of the bay with a wet car, especially on a sunny day, it can leave streaks and marks. A better solution is to use your squeegee to dry off the windows and your towels to buff the car. Unless you’re in a tremendous hurry, you’ll appreciate the way your vehicle looks after taking this extra step.

That’s really it! Once you get your automatic car washing down to a science, you’ll discover that it takes very little time to restore your car’s gleam.

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