The Ultimate Dilemma: Hand Wash vs. Automatic Wash

Just as an oil change is important to a car’s engine, frequent car washes are vital to a car’s cosmetic upkeep. For the on-the-go motorist, local car washes offer convenience and high-level professional services in the cleaning and care of their vehicle. For car wash owners, there comes the dilemma of deciding what kind of car wash service is best for customers and budget.

Professional car wash services and detail shops usually diverge into two categories; automatic (performed by a machine and usually through a drive through) or hand washed (performed by a car wash technician/detailer). Both hand wash and automatic car washes have their perks, however, you’ll be surprised to learn which method is truly the best.

Automatic vs. Hand Wash: Misconceptions vs. Reality

There are many misconceptions associated with automatic and hand car washes. Below, we have detailed some of the top misconceptions and the reality of each one.

Misconception #1: Hand Car Washes are Better for Finish
The Reality:Unlike car wash facilities of the past, today’s car washes use soft brushes and sprays to protect your car’s finish. Meanwhile, automatic facilities can offer multiple coats of soap followed by pressure washers to soften and remove debris, a service not often matched by a standard hand wash, especially those conducted at home.


Automatic air drying is also preferable to a hand dry, on account that rags used in drying can carry debris that can scratch car surfaces.


Misconception #2: A Hand Wash Provides Individualized Care

The Reality:People often have the misconception that having a hand wash somehow means their car gets more attention and is less likely to suffer damage. On the contrary, pressure washers in the hands of a car wash novice can stop any car lover in their tracks. Meanwhile, in the bustle of a busy car wash, your car may not get the time and attention it needs, leaving behind stray debris that is later scratched into your car’s paint by a careless hand dryer using a dirty rag.


This is not to undercut the benefits of a pressure washer, of course. Non-abrasive and touch-free pressure washers, such as those made from the industry standard manufacturer General Pump, offer a convenient solution for car washing. Unfortunately, even while hand car washes may abandon the old fashioned sponge and bucket, they suffer from under-trained car wash technicians who simply may not know how to properly handle a pressure washer when cars are being rushed down the line.


Washing your car at home? Studies find that washing a car at home uses significantly more water than a professional car wash. Most at-home car washers are not equipped with the proper equipment or detergents to tend to their car, resulting in spotting and scratches.


Misconception #3: Automatic Car Washes Can Leave Scratches

The Reality:Let’s not forget: automatic car washes are reliable. Each and every time you will get the same care in the same amount of time.


A University of Texas study found that at-home hand washes using sponges and towels can produce scratches penetrating up to 1/10 the total thickness of a car’s paint. This amount was exacerbated by low water use and certain detergents.


Misconception #4: Hand-Held Pressure Washers are Dangerous

The Reality: Most hand-held, General Pump pressure washers have a jet stream of 1200-1800 PSI (Pound Per Square Inch), while a run of the mill garden hose will have a PSI of 50. While it’s true that a pressure washer is not a toy, a hand-held pressure washer is not dangerous to the technician if correct training is received.


Pressure washer technicians should be trained to always firmly hold the spray gun, while maintaining a solid stance. They should also always wear goggles and never wear open toed shoes. Technicians should also learn about the different type of nozzles and how they affect the stream of water.


Meanwhile, automatic car washes eliminate the danger in human error. They have preset settings to optimize your car’s wash without risking damage.


Misconception #5: Any Pressure Wash is a Good Wash

The Reality:Pressure washers are incredible tools in the car wash industry. They cut away debris, dropping and other contaminants quickly. However, the use of high pressure water comes with an inherent risk. Improper use of pressure washers can cause human injury, strip decals, damage the car’s paint or force water into nooks and crannies, causing further vehicle damage in the form of rust, cosmetic erosion or internal damage.
Final Word

From a business standpoint, automatic car washes offer the best of both worlds. They offer consistent, quality care while also being a reliable and easy to maintain form of income. Their costs are also easily tracked. While a good hand wash is something to admire, wash quality is hard to maintain, while one simple error causing vehicle damage can cost your business greatly.

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