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Drivers want pulling into a car wash to be simple.

Mercedes-Benz just took a great first step.

Car Wash Mode

When drivers first began reporting problems with the advanced safety technologies on their vehicles when visiting car washes, we moved to learn more by surveying more than 500 locations across the United States.

We learned that:

  • 78.7% reported damage to automatic wipers due to operation during the wash cycle
  • 61.1% reported problems with “auto shift to PARK” transmissions
  • 39.3% reported issues with stop/start systems applying during the wash cycle
  • 38.4% reported problems with keyless fobs and 26.1% noted vehicles with keyless exterior entry systems being locked by contact with brushes
  • 37.4% reported collision avoidance systems applying during the wash cycle

Creating a Plan

We took that information to vehicle manufacturers, SAE, the Association of Global Automakers and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and recommended three possible solutions:

  • ICA could create an online database of ADAS technology instructions so that car wash operators could assist drivers when visiting car washes
  • Vehicle manufacturers could create a car wash function (or "mode") to more easily allow drivers to wash their cars at a professional car wash
  • Vehicle manufacturers could offer telematics systems that would recognize when their vehicles entered a car wash and then automatically engaged a car wash function or mode, with a reset upon leaving the car wash
To date, ICA has built a database of technology settings for more than 190 vehicle makes and models. While this has been helpful in some instances, we do not believe it best serves car owners due to speed of service and ever-changing technology updates.

Why a Car Wash Function?

After two years of work we have seen just one OEM create a car wash function. The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS contains a standard "Car Wash Function," a significant innovation that makes vehicle care easier and safer for drivers. Upon engaging the mode, the 2020 GLS will make several modifications to regular driving mode:

  • Moves the active suspension to its highest setting for car wash rail clearance
  • Folds in the exterior mirrors
  • Closes the side windows and the sliding sunroof
  • Disables rain-sensing wipers
  • Switches the climate control to air-recirculation mode
  • Activates the 360º camera’s front image for ease of car wash entry
We recommend that future evolutions of a car wash mode also:
  • Deactivate any automatic "shift-to-park" settings so that the car can roll even without a driver present
  • Deactivate any automatic braking
  • Deactivate keyless entry so that high pressure sprays do not lock the driver out of the car
These systems should then be able to reactivate upon leaving the wash.

Are You Interested?

If you are a vehicle designer, product planner, brand manager, or simply someone who can influence the design of future vehicles offered by your company, we would love to talk with you about helping your vehicle owners with a car wash function. We'll explain the key issues involved, define the benefits, and talk with you about how we might help you promote the inclusion of the car wash function in future vehicles.