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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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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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2006 Subaru Outback Wagon 2.5L XT Limited
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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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Seeking touchless as well, they moved my thread to this forum from the Village... searching for a laser wash or touchless of some sort.

Yes, They exist. One form or another, but they do. And they can be hard to figure out from Google. Every car wash comes back.

Some of the older ones have brushes just for the wheels (hated that) They are hard to find in my neck of the woods. They do a decent to almost nice job. They will drop sealant and wax and get the salt off your car (always drive slowly in for the under carriage bit if you bought it, max water there. Don't race over it). But they miss things. On my outback, it missed the part of the rear window under the visor. Blocked from the best clean.

I recently used one at Hoffman's Car Wash up in the Kingston NY near the Catskills (video below from a different location).

I like touch-less... not brushless, not dangling dirty rags, touchless when I can't use my own driveway. Depending on where you live, this might be an option.

If you are an apartment dweller, and you have the time, a self cleaning bay might also work. This is also a "car wash" since it ain't your house.

Been my experience that if you are there early enough (or late enough, need the light) that you can use it to clean your car without risking being assaulted by someone waiting to use a bay during a busy time.

Use the wand to rinse your tires clean from tire cleaner and then to fill up your two buckets and damp down the car. Soap and clean and then use the wand to rinse. Pull out to a spot and then dry, wax, detail, dress your tires and go home.

Do NOT ever use the brush on the wand to touch your car. People pull out their mats and scrub them clean with those things. Tires too. That will more than swirl your paint.

If you are in this situation, use a synthetic wax to keep the longest lasting protection you can between washes. Use carnuba and you will need to make the time more often.

(no opinion on ceramic wax, not used them or had to maintain them. maybe later I will get curious. I will be back to this forum when the weather warms up to see what folks do with all the black trim and matt black roof rack... but later ;))

LaserWash and Reviews:

Now they got bad reviews on Google. It wasn't the cheapest touchless I had used. But it was perfectly fine. clean, new, maintained. I had wax already on my car (that helps), and it came out sparkling and blew off 7 layers of dirt and salt (multiple snow/melt/slush/dry cycles) from my trip. I just wanted the 1000 lbs of salt off my car. You have to use it to know if it is a good one.

Hoffman's



Laser wash Before and After

Before:

Automotive parking light Automotive side-view mirror Car Vehicle Automotive lighting



After (look and the clean non road part. Seems tires are decently inflated too):

505503



After (ice cube, but clean ice):

505504
 

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2018 OB 2.5 Ltd, No Eyesight, No Navigation
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Car color matters, and the original poster provided no information there. If white or silver, then a monthly subscription to an auto car wash is the way to go. If not for auto car washing, my cars would never get washed. I use the top option, which adds wax and paint protector. I have gone through the auto car wash at least 200 times at this point. The paint still looks fantastic. Because the car is white, you have to be about 3 inches away, looking at the proper angle in the proper lighting, to see any swirl marks. For all practical purposes, there are no swirl marks.

Personal hand washing is a waste of time. I used to spend over an hour hand washing, only to drive offroad the next day, which canceled out the car wash. Some people are extra careful right after hand washing their car, but this a Subaru SUV for crying out loud, not a Rolls-Royce sedan.
 

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Car color matters
This is an incredibly valid comment, and even if it gets on your nerves it is something you can remediate a little down the road like paying someone to polish your car two or three years out or doing it yourself.

Forest Green? Not gonna do a car wash that is anything but pure touch-less... no brushes, foam pads, slappy things that go left right up and down.

But silver or lighter... right? much less of a worry or notice. But find a good one. If they are not well maintained, or even one of those brushless human mitt washes....

Your mileage may vary.
 

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now now... while I am not a woman, there are woman in the forum who might feel they prefer, shall, we say, a different car wash?

I will leave it to them to make their suggestion as to what that might look like....

but my wife seems to be suggesting that their are great many local and deserving firefighter departments that could use the money....

and apparently is now volunteering...
 
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