Is it safe to power wash a car?

Washing a car with a pressure washer is not a new thing because many amateur detailers and professional companies use power washers on a daily basis. However, it’s still unclear as to how beneficial it is to wash your car with a pressure washer because they exert lots of pressure which can potentially damage a lot of surfaces.

As such, if you have access to a pressure washer that does not exceed more than 2000PSI at the very maximum, you should be safe to wash a car with it. On the other hand, if the pressure washer exceeds 2000PSI, you are most likely going to cause damage to your paint.

There are also a few additional factors you need to consider such as the softness of the water, the type of nozzle you are using, specific trim pieces of your car, and if you are using an electric pressure washer or a combustion engine pressure washer.

Finally, there are a few benefits to using a pressure washer to wash your car such as time efficiency, overall ease of use, and less scrubbing. On the flip side, pressure washing a car also comes with a few drawbacks such as not knowing the right pressure and even the necessity of using a pressure washer anyway.

Specific factors you need to consider

Believe it or not, water differs substantially as far as softness is concerned. This means that some types of waters are softer than others thus less likely to damage your car. The amount of calcium in water determines how much soap scum can form. If the water is calcium-rich, soap scum is more likely to gather thus making it more or less effective.

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Water temperature is also an important factor because hot water is better at breaking down all sorts of contaminants. However, probably the most important factor to consider is the type of nozzle you are using because some nozzles are bound to damage your car even if the water PSI is far from 2000 PSI.

So-called “zero-degree” nozzles shoot water in a thin small line which means that this boosts PSI significantly. “15-degree” nozzles are a bit softer, but still too aggressive for most car surfaces. Anything above 15 degrees is suitable for cleaning all types of car panels. However, be vary when cleaning plastic trim pieces.

Benefits of using a pressure washer to wash your car

As previously mentioned, using a pressure washer to wash your car lowers the time it takes to completely wash a car. If you own a large vehicle like a large sedan or a seven-seater SUV, it makes a huge difference to use a pressure washer because cars such as these are too large for regular hoses.

Furthermore, cleaning specific types of dirt is almost impossible with a regular hose. This includes baked contaminants such as sun-exposed bug splatters, bird poop, sticky leaves, and so on. By using a pressure washer you are able to efficiently take these off in no time.

All of this means that you will scrub the car considerably less. That’s the main advantage of a pressure washer, it makes everything easy and time-efficient.

Drawbacks of using a pressure washer to wash your car

However, using a pressure washer to wash your car also comes with its own set of drawbacks such as the aforementioned potentiality of causing all sorts of defects to the paint. Even if the water PSI is even around 2000PSI and you are using PSI increasing nozzles, you are likely going to damage your car.

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Furthermore, if you hold the nozzle too close to the car you are also more likely to damage it. Sometimes it makes no sense to wash a high-end car with a pressure washer because cars such as these are usually garaged anyway, especially if they are not daily driver cars.

Finally, some states such as California will even fine you if you pressure wash your car on your driveway because these states have strict water consumption laws. This means that you can even be fined for more than $500 if you are pressure washing a car on your driveway.

FAQ Section

What’s the difference between a gas/diesel-powered and an electric pressure washer?

Pressure washers that run on combustion engines are designed for industrial purposes only. This means that these types of pressure washers are made for more serious cleaning which makes them overkill for car washing. Most gas/diesel pressure washers easily exceed 5000PSI which is well enough to cause a lot of damage to your car.

Electric washers are more efficient, quieter, and offer more adjustments when it comes to PSI. They are better for the environment and cheaper to use. They are made for home-oriented use which means that most of these are best if you want to pressure wash a car.

How much does an electric pressure washer cost?

The average cost of a pressure washer these days is around $250 including both home-oriented and industrial use pressure washers. Industrial petrol/diesel-powered pressure washers are the most expensive because they are usually the most powerful.

Battery-powered pressure washers can be had for less than $190 while standard run-of-the-mill electric washers cost around $170. Pressure washer prices differ substantially depending on how sophisticated they are and how much PSI they offer.

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Is it better to hand wash a car or use a pressure washer?

Even though you can use a pressure washer to wash a car, it’s best if you stick to the good old double bucket hand-washing method because this method is by far the best one to go for if you want to be 100% sure you are not going to damage your paint.

Even though the double-bucket method takes considerably longer when compared to just pressure washing your car, it offers better cleaning properties which means that your car is going to benefit from a good old hand wash. Automatic car washes are also an option in a pinch, but these are also known to sometimes cause damage, so it’s best to avoid them if not necessary.

Marko Mikulic

Why do you love writing about cars? I love writing about cars as cars are a huge personal interest of mine. I was raised in a car enthusiast community and ever since I was young, I always wanted to do car-related work.

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