Skip To The Main Content

Blog

Car Washes: Safer for vehicles than ever before

by Eric Wulf | Feb 10, 2016

Given the size of the investment, it certainly makes sense for a car owner to ask questions about whether or not a car wash is safe for their vehicle. The best answer typically comes from a car wash manager who can effectively explain the wash process and equipment and detergents being used. To assist in those conversations, we're sharing the following information from Tommy Car Wash Systems. Thanks to Tommy for allowing us to share.

"Swirl Marks and Car Washes? What's Really Going On."

There’s nothing more American than the beloved personal automobile and the freedom, independence, self-sufficiency, and success they’ve come to represent.  People LOVE their cars and rightly want to see them taken care of, and properly understanding the threats to vehicles (both cosmetic and functional) and how to head them off is key to keeping a car running and looking great for decades to come.
 
This brings us to the topic of the day: swirl marks. These are circular microscopic imperfections on the surface of different vehicles, best seen on black or dark blue cars when illuminated by a single light source (like the sun). They are not to be confused with cracking or spider webs, both of which lie beneath the clear coat and are a result of imperfections or micro-fracturing in the paint itself. Most cars develop scuffing to one degree or another over their lifespans and they can be resolved with professional treatments.
 
The question, of course, is whether or not swirl marks are caused by automatic car washes like the Totally Tommy tunnel?
 
Even the most cursory search online (or conversation over dinner) reveals the incredibly strong feelings many people have about the relationship between these abrasions and automatic car washes (friction cleaning washes in particular). It’s often just assumed as common knowledge. Car wash brushes are said to be too harsh, scraping vehicles and marring the clear coat, or the brush material (and sometimes even the water in the high pressure hoses) is said to become impacted with dirt and grit, which in turn is spread from vehicle to vehicle, resulting in scratches.
 
But the truth is more complicated and much more interesting.
 
First off, car wash materials and cleaning instruments have changed with time, but what hasn’t changed is the need for car was operators and engineers to balance the cleaning power of the wash against the resilience of the car itself. Back in the early days of car washes and up until recent decades, most of the wash power came from scrubbing action rather than chemical or detergent action or wash pressure. When most of the cleaning had to be done with brushes and friction, the degree of friction was ramped up with brushes that took off more of the dirt but had a greater impact on the surface as a result. Older style brushes were more abrasive and often worked with less lubrication, which in combination with single stage paint jobs, made minor scuffing a regular occurrence.
 
But today this damage is virtually unheard of and well-maintained modern car washes have a number of safeguards in place to prevent swirl marks or customer damage. Advancements have been made in in water filtration, detergent application, high pressure washing, and in the friction cleaning material in particular.
 
Today’s soft cloths have forgone the nylon brushes that were famous for leaving brush marks in the 1970s and 80s and instead rely on a closed cell foam material that lacks any structure that could conceivably capture dirt or grit, OR a highly engineered cloth made from densely woven cotton or polyethylene microfibers. The foam and microfiber (which feels fuzzy like yarn with the consistency of a heavy cardstock and is often used for underwater curtains or faux-kelp in major aquariums) are both continually primed with body soap and fresh water, removing any debris and providing much-needed lubrication between the brushes and the body of the vehicle.  They’re safe to use and the overwhelming majority of patrons never have any issues—even after repeated washing.

But what about the occasional patron who does report scuffing and swirl marks?
 
There are a number of theories, each of which probably holds truth in certain situations.
 
1. Single stage paint: High quality foreign cars in dark blue or black are sometimes still painted with old-fashioned single stage paint, resulting in a more fragile clear coat that is more easily affected by regular washing materials in both hand washes and automatic washes. Antique and high end cars should always be cleaned with great care.
 
2. Revealing wear and tear: As a car wash cleans a car it can reveal imperfections and scratches that had previously been obscured by dirt and dust. The cleaner the car, the more easy it is to spot regular lines and nicks that can result from blowing sand, particle debris on highways, and even damage from improper hand washing practices like one-bucket washes, dishwasher soap, and artificial sponge use (which have been shown to be far more damaging to vehicle exteriors than most auto owners realize).
 
3. Perception bias: Nearly every car on the road has marks of one kind or another, regardless of how it is cleaned or maintained. Usually you only see them when you are looking for them, and then when you spot a problem it’s all you can see! Because smart consumers look very closely after their car washes they are more likely to spot preexisting damage and blame it on the wash—even if the type or pattern of damage is clearly inconsistent with the action of the car wash’s components.
 
4. Wax layering: New cars fresh from the dealer usually have a heavy, brand new coat of professionally applied wax to protect them from the elements, improve their gloss, and disguise those very same cracks and spider-lines we mentioned in the opening paragraph. As these brand new vehicles are driven that wax begins to break down, and when they go through the car wash the first time exposure to detergents and friction cleaning can actually thin and polish the original wax further, bringing out existing imperfections that had not been visible before (and often enraging the new car’s owners). A fresh coat of professionally applied wax easily corrects the issue, which is normally only present on very dark vehicles or vehicles with certain ‘flat’ paint tones.
 
If the brushes or chemicals in the wash were to damage a vehicle, the pattern of damage would be expected to follow very specific patterns matching the motion and action of the equipment used, and your average swirl marks don’t fit the bill. Incidents of car wash damage are extremely rare and when they do often they most commonly involve other factors.

1693 comments

Leave a comment
  1. pioneerseo | Jun 23, 2017
    We help Canadian and American Expats, Temporary Guests and Snowbirds with assets on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border — optimally structure their investments, liabilities and retirement savings in order to reduce their tax burden and minimize fees.cross border financial planning
  2. Hendy | Jun 23, 2017
  3. aasd | Jun 23, 2017
      A debt of gratitude is in order for setting aside an ideal opportunity to examine this, I feel emphatically about it and affection adapting more on this theme. On the off chance that conceivable, as you pick up skill, would you psyche overhauling your online journal with more data? It is to a great degree supportive for me.   Printed Dresses
  4. linkerSEO | Jun 23, 2017
    It is likewise an amazing write-up i always definitely relished examining. It's not necessarily day-to-day i always develop the opportunity to discover anything. Youtube to mp3
  5. alex | Jun 22, 2017

    I discovered this much enlightening, with respect to what I was precisely hunting down. A debt of gratitude is in order for such post and please keep it up. 

    Trouwpak

  6. alx | Jun 22, 2017

    Thank you for taking the time to publish this information very useful! 

    Escorts en medellin

  7. arnold | Jun 22, 2017
    I was taking a gander at some of your posts on this site and I imagine this site is truly enlightening! Keep setting up..  travel
  8. alex | Jun 22, 2017

    Any way I'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon. Big thanks for the useful info.

    estufas de gas

  9. aasd | Jun 22, 2017
    I admire what you have done here. I like the part where you say you are doing this to give back but I would assume by all the comments that this is working for you as well. keratosis pilaris on the face
  10. html color | Jun 22, 2017

    I read some articles on this site and I think your blog is really interesting and has great information. Thank you for your sharing.

    html color

  11. obat kuku cantengan | Jun 22, 2017
  12. Hidayat | Jun 22, 2017
    Sharing Obat Sakit Maag Mendadak Visit Obat Benjolan Wasir Thank you very much ...
  13. alex | Jun 21, 2017

    I'm sure many others will find it interesting because it's about a widely discussed topic.

    Estufa aga

  14. Joseph | Jun 21, 2017
    We have expertise with many various makes of pool and snooker tables. All install jobs area unit done by skilled game equipment installers and table game table movers of Montreal! Piano Movers in Montreal
  15. smith | Jun 21, 2017
    Fascinating and stunning how your post is! It Is Useful and supportive for me That I like it all that much, and I am anticipating Hearing from your next..  instant azon review
  16. jamesjack | Jun 21, 2017
    Awesome Information sharing .. I am exceptionally upbeat to peruse this article .. much obliged for giving us experience info.Fantastic pleasant. I value this post. .! Toby C
  17. alex | Jun 21, 2017

    To a great degree instructive post! There is a lot of information here that can enable any business to start with a productive casual correspondence battle! 

    brian3weekdiet.com/2-week-diet-review/

  18. Linker SEO | Jun 21, 2017
    This is an awesome motivating article.I am practically satisfied with your great work.You put truly extremely supportive data. Keep it up. Continue blogging. Hoping to perusing your next post. Pilates Studio
  19. johnb6174 | Jun 21, 2017
    Most of the time I don’t make comments on websites, but I'd like to say that this article really forced me to do so. Really nice post! Ron Perelman
  20. alex | Jun 21, 2017

    Thank you for such a well written article. It’s full of insightful information and entertaining descriptions

    Beauty and the Beast Cosplay Costume

  21. yaman herbal | Jun 21, 2017

    "Welcome to the web experts treatment of various types of diseases, do not forget to get the best health solutions here"

    Cara Mengobati Sifilis

    Obat Luka Bakar

    cara Mengobati Kencing Batu

  22. JAck | Jun 20, 2017
    But traditional marketing automation platforms don’t work for mobile. reach
  23. Joseph | Jun 20, 2017
    But, to get the most from your mobile marketing activities, you’ll want to define and report on events that matter for your business. mobile
  24. johnb6174 | Jun 20, 2017
    Very useful post. This is my first time i visit here. I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion. Really its great article. Keep it up.  pure garcinia cambogia extract
  25. Linker SEO | Jun 20, 2017
    Such a very useful article. Very interesting to read this article.I would like to thank you for the efforts you had made for writing this awesome article. basketball tips to jump high
  26. Linker SEO | Jun 20, 2017
    Excellent publish i have to state as well as many thanks for that info. Training happens to be a sticky topic. Register a company
  27. alex | Jun 20, 2017

    InstaSave helps you to download / save Instagram photos, videos and albums you like and share these Instagram pictures to your friends with no Instagram login, no watermark, no Ads.

    instasave

  28. jamsmalik | Jun 20, 2017
    This is a great inspiring article.I am pretty much pleased with your good work.You put really very helpful information. Keep it up. Keep blogging. Looking to reading your next post. Anttron Antennas
  29. sdsds | Jun 20, 2017
    Positive site. where did u come up with the information on this posting?I have read a few of the articles on your website now. and I really like your style. Thanks a million and please keep up the effective work. li-ion charger
  30. jamesjack | Jun 20, 2017
    Patent filing and registration in India. Easy, fast and secure patent registration at affordable prices by Expert Patent Agents and Attorneys. Patent filing india or Patent registration
  31. muener | Jun 20, 2017
    This is an incredible rousing article.I am basically satisfied with your great work.You put truly exceptionally accommodating data...  private detectives in singapore
  32. employee background check hyderabad | Jun 20, 2017
    Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a very well written article. I’ll be sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful info. Thanks for the post. I’ll definitely return.employee background check hyderabad
  33. digital marketing westchester New York | Jun 20, 2017
    Nice blog and absolutely outstanding. You can do something much better but i still say this perfect.Keep trying for the best.digital marketing westchester New York
  34. minyak lintah gunung belacak | Jun 20, 2017
    This is a fantastic website and I can not recommend you guys enough.I can set up my new idea from this post. It gives in depth information. Thanks for this valuable information for all,..minyak lintah gunung belacak
  35. dentist asheboro | Jun 20, 2017
    Its a great pleasure reading your post.Its full of information I am looking for and I love to post a comment that "The content of your post is awesome" Great work.dentist asheboro
  36. perniagaan internet | Jun 20, 2017
    Wonderful illustrated information. I thank you about that. No doubt it will be very useful for my future projects. Would like to see some other posts on the same subject!perniagaan internet
  37. bisnes homestay | Jun 20, 2017
    This is very useful post for me. This will absolutely going to help me in my project.bisnes homestay
  38. dryer vent cleaning houston | Jun 20, 2017
    I adore your websites way of raising the awareness on your readers.Thank you so much for ding the impressive job here, everyone will surely like your post.dryer vent cleaning houston
  39. solar storm tanning bed | Jun 20, 2017
    I would also motivate just about every person to save this web page for any favorite assistance to assist posted the appearance.solar storm tanning bed
  40. casino bonus online | Jun 20, 2017
    Mmm.. good to be here in your article or post, whatever, I think I should also work hard for my own website like I see some good and updated working in your site.casino bonus online
  41. kisah suami isteri | Jun 20, 2017
    A great website with interesting and unique material what else would you need.kisah suami isteri
  42. tips temuduga | Jun 20, 2017
    I think it could be more general if you get a football sports activityHi buddies, it is great written piece entirely defined, continue the good work constantly.tips temuduga
  43. kerja dari rumah | Jun 20, 2017
    I want to say thanks to you. I have bookmark your site for future updates.kerja dari rumah
  44. bisnes burger | Jun 20, 2017
    Very awesome!!! When I seek for this I found this website at the top of all blogs in search engine.bisnes burger
  45. alex | Jun 19, 2017

    I found this much informative, as to what I was exactly searching for. Thanks for such post and please keep it up.

    transportation in cancun

  46. jamesjcak | Jun 19, 2017
    There's corruption alright, but one might ask what harm the guard was doing by helping the prisoners get some drugs. I mean if you were looked up in prison for a drug "crime" hey let's have some drugs already..!
    blogged topics
  47. alex | Jun 19, 2017

    So luck to come across your excellent blog. Your blog brings me a great deal of fun.. Good luck with the site.

    Seo Cancún

  48. pioneerseo | Jun 19, 2017
    I think this is an informative post and it is very useful and knowledgeable. therefore, I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article.   Pilates New York
  49. alex | Jun 19, 2017

    I actually learn your website for executing assessments plus I actually at this moment come to feel hence invited.

    NAN OPTIPRO® ulewanie

  50. johnb6174 | Jun 19, 2017
    I am happy to find this post Very useful for me, as it contains lot of information. I Always prefer to read The Quality and glad I found this thing in you post. Thanks Dich vu SEO uy tin

    Leave a comment


    Subscribe to Car Wash NewsLearn about the car wash industry

    Follow Us