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Part 2 - Continued from page 1

It was a missed opportunity and to be honest, the kind of damage caused on that occasion wasn't really what I had in mind when I had decided to write this article. But all the same I do hope this anecdote does make you think twice before you take your pride and joy through an automated car wash. If you should remember this witty and well written article (did I also say I was modest as well as handsome?) as you are just about to feed your tokens into the slot, I ask you that pause for a moment and take the time to carry out a quick inspection of their equipment.

You will probably find that most car washes have bristles. These are really no different to the bristles on a garden broom... only longer. If you were to clean your car yourself by hand, you would probably use a soft sponge and a chamois leather. Would you scrub it with a broom? Not on your Nelly!

No good for car cleaning

not good for exterior Valeting


The top photo shows the bristles from a 'soft wash' which really isn't exactly velvet soft or in the baby's bum class. In fact as far as I can tell, they have made the bristles slightly thinner and slightly longer than a normal car wash, but the material used is still a stiff nylon type plastic.

The lower photo shows bristles from a normal car wash. It is thick plastic wire of about 1mm diameter. The endings are worn and look as if they have been rolled and bashed between bricks. This comes from whipping against your car at high speeds.

To be fair, many of the newer car washes are of the 'soft wash' variety. These are softer than the broom bristles, but feel them for yourself and ask if they are the right thing for your paintwork. Would you want it lashed with plastic wire? So if you have taken my advice and copped a feel of an automated car wash, you will will not need much convincing that these evil machines scratch paintwork. Yes I did say 'evil' and no I don't think this is sensationalist. These damn machines should carry government health warning like cigarette packets are forced to do. (See photo below).

Below is a photo of typical car wash damage. Repeated use of automated car washes leaves very visible scratches where the rollers have passed as can be seen here.

Car wash scratches. Photo by Superior Shine Detailing
Many thanks to Joe Fernandez of Superior Shine for allowing me to use this photograph. The Super Shine Detailing company is based in California, which may be too far to travel for many of us, but his site is worth checking out because Joe is a master of paint buffing, his paintwork restoration photos are astounding.

On a daily basis, people bring cars to Clean Image which have damaged paintwork caused by automated car washesT "Clean Image restored the paint back to it's former glory". The damage is of three kinds. Firstly, scratches on the paintwork that run from front to back over the bonnet, roof and boot and to a lesser extent down the sides.

The second kind is great swirling circular scratches caused by the brushes. These swirl marks really show up on dark coloured cars. A quick look at the photo (right) and it shouldn't be too hard to imagine the kind of scratches that this 18" diameter rotating brush causes.

Stiff Broom for washing cars? Say no!

Then you have pitting and chipping caused by the sharp ends of the bristles whipping against the paintwork. This third kind is less common and seems to be caused by using older style car washes on a regular basis, but it's something we still come across.

To add insult to injury, these car washes don't even clean your car properly! It may be true that they remove dirt from the centre of the body panels but they also remove all the wax and some of the lacquer! They don't, however, manage to get into the nooks and crannies, they tend to push all the dirt into the recesses and crevices such as those around your windows. Over time this dirt builds up into a greyish- brown halo around your window rubbers. This deposit of dirt harbours all kinds of pollutants and harmful compounds which slowly eat through your paintwork, this is why you so often see rust blisters around the windscreens and sunroofs of cars.

And if that isn't bad enough (how much worse can it get???!!!), some of these car washes recycle their water to keep the bills down... nice eh? Unless they desalinize it too, the road salts are just going to go around and around. Washing your car in salt water is not a good idea. Oxidization (rust) is all about electrons moving about, from iron to oxygen. Salt makes water a better electrical conductor, meaning electrons can flow around much easier, speeding up the rust process.

The answer is simple... Just say no! Don't use Automated Car Washes, ever, no excuses. They damage your car and damage means devaluation!

I know what you are thinking. You think I am going to tell you to get your car valeted instead, and this is all a sales pitch. Not at all. Car washing is very different from car valeting. Besides, car washes generate a large amount of business for us, after all, somebody has to repair the damage!

Instead I suggest you clean your car yourself by hand. If you don't find the time, then pay somebody else to do it for you. As a kid, I spent my weekends and summer holidays going around cleaning cars for pocket money and I am sure this tradition continues. If you have your own kids, then you won't even have to pay them! Find an excuse to punish them and then send them out with a bucket and sponge. (Just kidding).

There are plenty of hand car washes about. At Somerfield in Billericay, two chaps will wash your car for a very reasonable price while you go shopping. This service may cost a little more than an automated car wash, but at least they will do the job properly without scratching your paintwork!

Here is the best bit. If your car is cleaned properly, your paintwork remains shiny, unscratched and has a good coating of wax (or better still a sealant) then your car will need washing less often. The reason is simple. The dirt won't stick to it so easily.

We can do wonders with scratched and dull paintwork, and in all but the very worst cases, we can completely restore your paint finish. Because cars are never polished at the factory before their first coat of wax, our buffing process could leave your paintwork so smooth and polished that it will be shinier than when brand new. In the case of severe damage, we can promise at least a 90% improvement.

Want to know more about Paintwork Restoration? Then our cunningly entitled Paintwork Restoration Article should do the trick! [Link]

Once your paintwork is restored, we can give your car a coating of good quality wax which will protect for 4 to 6 months. Alternatively, a sealant lasts for years. With quality coatings such as these, water will bead up and roll off of your car. This leaves very little work left to do on your part. Dirty water, road grime and salts will rinse off with very little more than a squirt from a hose pipe.

Note: If you are a car wash vendor who found this page through a search engine while looking for "Damage Alerts", then visit the International Carwash Association's web site and go to the 'Vehicle Damage Control Centre' page found under 'Business tools', they have pages of stuff but you will have to pay membership and join up.


DannyDanny Argent ~ 03/07/04



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