Just as we humans like to keep ourselves clean, your vehicle would like the same tender care. While you can’t pop your vehicle into the shower with you daily, and you couldn’t possibly wash your car every day, it’s important to realize that routine maintenance of your vehicle is not limited to the engine, transmission, brakes, and tires. Keeping your car’s exterior free of excessive dust, road salt, mud, and other debris is essential to not only making your car look more attractive, but actually has some major implications for its mechanical health overall. Road salt in particular has the ability to erode and rust the undercarriage of your vehicle if not cleaned routinely. Waxing your vehicle at least twice a year maintains the clear coat finish that your manufacturer put over your paint job. It's easy to see-the importance of car washing is not insignificant.
While we’re talking about the outside of your vehicle, treat the inside with the same love and care. Dispose of trash in an appropriate location (no McDonald’s bags tossed out of your window, please!), and vacuum your car regularly. There are many facilities that offer high suction vacuuming for just $1 a minute. And believe it-that minute can pull a lot of gunk off of your carpets, seats, and trunk carpets. If you have to spare two or three dollars to get a really good vacuuming, it’s worth it. Let’s face it, if you keep your vehicle looking its best, the likelihood of you reselling or trading in said vehicle at its optimum value is most likely higher.
There are roadblocks that a lot of people face when trying to maintain a healthy car exterior. You simply just don’t want to spend the time. Or even more limiting, let’s say you live in an apartment, and don’t have access to a hose or extensive outdoor location to wash your vehicle, like a driveway? That puts you in a situation in which you must utilize a commercial carwash most, if not all of the time. Those of us concerned for the environment may nervously shake our heads at the wasted water that routine cleaning of our cars costs our planet. Have no fear! There are options! And we’re here to show you a few, in addition to detailing why the practice of keeping your car clean is such a necessary tool in also maintaining your vehicle’s value.
You Simply Don’t Have Time
As mentioned above, commercial car washing locations are a great way to at least keep salt and mud off of your vehicle. Most facilities now even have an undercarriage spray that eliminates a lot of the road salt trapped under your vehicle in winter months. So, not a whole lot of sympathy here, folks-just get it done. It’s about a five minute routine. Yes, most of these washes can cost upwards of $7-$20, but 1) You don’t have to do it yourself, and 2) Such stations allow you to wash your vehicle even during the winter, when road salt is such a threat to your vehicle. Just be careful in supremely cold temps. The water may freeze your doors and windows shut!
As mentioned before, routinely washing the exterior of your vehicle not only protects the attractiveness of your vehicle long term, but can actually save you repair costs in rust repair, and add leverage to your deal when buying/trading.
I Don’t Have a Hose! Or a Bucket! Or…
Ok, we get it. In particular, those folks that rent an apartment or townhouse may simply not have the tools available to wash their vehicles routinely themselves. Even worse, most of these locations don’t allow a garage for vehicle owners. This makes it even more imperative for you to take extreme care of your car or truck’s exterior! (Think huge gobs of bird poo…)
We have to put you in the “don’t have time” peoples’ category. Not because your motivations are the same, but because your options are the same. Visit the car wash. It’s fast, and gets the worst of the grime off of your vehicle. You can also be creative at your rental property, and do some of the tougher stuff yourself. For example, invest in a bucket and brush, and clean your wheels (almost never thoroughly cleaned using a commercial car wash). You can use water from your spigot and Dawn dish soap, or other degreaser, and easily rinse it off with another clean bucket of water.
Our Mother Earth
Even if you wash your car at home, there are some steps you can take to treat our planet better. Use biodegradable and other Earth-friendly detergents. Be conscious of the water you use. Also, wash your vehicle NOT in your driveway, but on grass if possible. This method prevents a lot of runoff in the chemicals you use from reaching natural water sources. Soil helps filter these pollutants out. However, make sure to soak up any “puddles” of water left behind containing the soap you’ve used, so that pets and wildlife are not tempted to drink from the chemicals that you’ve left behind. If you have a garage with a drain in the floor-that’s even better. The water will travel to your local treatment plant. That being said, commercial car washes in the U.S. and Canada by law must ALSO filter the waste water into drains.
If you do happen to visit a commercial carwash, you will notice that most nowadays are pretty tech savvy. While several car washing stations still exist in which you get out and soap and rinse the vehicle yourself, those just “sit in your car and roll on through” ones are pretty damned cool. (Particularly the ones with the tie-dyed colored soap. Does that soap make anyone else smile??)
The stations which require you to get out and do it yourself serve a purpose for sure. They’re less expensive, in most cases you can “pay as you go”, and particularly in winter months, allow you to at least pressure-wash a good deal of salt off of your vehicle for a very low cost. Remember to get the undercarriage too though! That’s the most dangerous place for road salt to linger. Also, if you’re using a DIY station and soap up your vehicle, be wary of the brush in the stall. Inspect it for chunks of debris or coarseness, as you don’t want to harm the paint on your vehicle. For those renters and Earth-lovers out there, you can even bring your own rag, Earth-friendly wash, and bucket, and just rinse off in the stall. Just make sure it’s a very slow day for the car wash, as to not hold other drivers up!
But moving back into the realm of those totally nifty drive-thru washes…WOW! We mentioned earlier that some even have focuses on undercarriage and wheels. While we’ve found these services never quite beat the DYI routine in totally spotless clean, they still help tremendously. Some facilities run as inexpensively as $7 for you to just pull in and roll on through, and even include the drying mechanism! The normal routine goes much like this: You insert cash OR card (convenient), select the level of wash you want (options include just the basics, undercarriage, dry, wax, etc…), and wait for your turn. Then you simply just hang out in the automated car washing stall and watch the magic happen! You never get out of your car, have no danger of getting wet (Disclaimer: Um, unless you leave a window or sunroof open), and can use these facilities comfortably in colder temps.
Even more fascinating, some carmakers like Nissan are experimenting with self-cleaning cars! Well…wouldn’t THAT be fun?
To recap: Keep your vehicle clean! It will then pay you forward, both mechanically and economically. Road salt allows rust to eat away at crucial parts of your vehicle, and dirty vehicles in general are just not desirable for trade- in or resale. There are numerous ways to do it yourself, or you can take the easy techy commercial carwash road. It really doesn’t matter what method you use, as long as you do it- while keeping your wallet or environmental concerns happy. Maybe both? If so, good for you! In the end, it seems unlikely a post such as this even exists. Doesn’t everyone love a shiny ride?