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Discussion Starter #1
I have been taking my 2016 Outback only to car washes that wash the car by hand. This is based on reading, years ago, that automatic car washes produce small scratches across the car. I tried automatic car washes that are labelled as "touch free" when I search in Google maps, but when I tested them by driving our other much older car, they are not touch free. Is there such a thing as a true touch-free car wash? Or have car paints improved to the point that I should stop worrying and just use any automatic car wash?
 

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Depends on what color your car is.. dark colors (black, grey, navy blue) are more susceptible to "swirl" marks while light colors (white, silver) swirl marks are less noticeable. I would not take dark colored car through an automatic car wash. Most people aren't that particular with their paint and will not care how their car "ages" over time..

I am personally a fan of getting full detail with clay bar wax every 1-2 years just to preserve the my paint.. if you go to a new car or a recently waxed car and rub your hand across the paint, it should feel really smooth. If it feels really rough, that means the clear coat has been rubbed away.

There is also the other spectrum of people on here that feel an OB runs better when dirty..
 

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2018 Outback 3.6 R Limited
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There is also the other spectrum of people on here that feel an OB runs better when dirty..
Ha! Yes, there is that... :)

There are many different types of automatic car washes now - and even more opinions on them. An always clean car is better than an always dirty one. Scratches come from dirt, dirt helps corrosion form, etc. Yes, the brushes can leave marks - especially with the older systems out there, but if the car is well waxed (even once a year) it'll be fine unless the particular car wash uses wire brushes. There are also real touch-free ones, where high-pressure water blasts the car from different angles. Not the best, but good for knocking the big stuff off...

Ultimately, there are many levels of obsession when it comes to paint care. For me, the daily drivers go through the car wash if I can't get to it by hand, and the other (older) cars will never see the inside of a car wash. Everything stays waxed...
 

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If you take your car to a car wash that washes expensive cars, then you know they will be careful with your car. It maybe more money.
 
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2018 Outback Limited 2.5 w Eyesight
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In short - My Driveway. I prefer my own sponges & my own hose. I use Autoglym products exclusively - wash, super resin polish, leather cleaner, all purpose cleaner, etc. Nothing I have found works better.

In winter I will usually just use the local coin-op do it yourself and use only the power washer just to get the salt off - AND NEVER USE THE SOAPING BRUSH IN THESE THINGS!!.

If it is really cold I will go to a true touchless automatic - no brushes, no contact - just so I get the dryer, but they really don't do any better of a job than the coin op do it yourself power washer. Honestly my Subaru dealer has one of the best touchless washes around!

In winter it is more about getting the salt off and getting the undercarriage washed off than a really nice wash and wax.

I avoid commercial car washes with brushes - I've lost wipers, aerials, etc in the non-touchless ones.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks, everyone, for your replies. Very helpful. My own driveway may be an option on some occasions. I did not know that wax is protective for this purpose--I'll keep getting the car waxed yearly. For the cold season and for when I am in a rush, I will perform my Google maps search again but limit it to the wealthy neighborhoods :)
 
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