A Trip to the Automatic Carwash Can Be Tricky in Newer Vehicles

Credit: Tanya Bernard / EyeEm - Getty Images
From the car and driver
With current security technology, putting your car on idle for the car wash is no longer as easy as it used to be, and sometimes it is difficult to figure out the right way to get your car through an automatic car wash.
A list on a car wash news site reveals that the problem affects models across the industry, but typically vehicles with higher equipment and more safety sensors.
The solution, as so often, is to check your manual or owner's website for the exact solution. Or hand wash your car, of course.
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Some experts recommend never giving your car a car wash, citing the potential damage caused by abrasive cleaning tools. Many drivers suggest that these experts should come over with a sponge and bucket as driving through a car wash is easier and only takes a few minutes. We're fans of detailing cars ourselves whenever possible, but we understand that driving through the tunnel with the spinning brushes is also good.
Different types of car washes pose different potential problems for your car. Soft fabric car washes can damage objects protruding from the car, such as B. loose panels or side mirrors. But not every car performs equally well on automatic car washes, especially those that pull a car through the brushes into neutral. An archived article on the Carwash.com industry news site points out a number of models that have particular challenges due to their neutral attitude. This makes it clear that owners of vehicles who are five years or younger must learn how to be prepared for a ride through the car wash.
"There are several vehicle models that are not designed to idle the car with the engine off, and that is an issue," Autobell Car Wash COO Carl Howard told Carwash.com in 2016. "In those cases, we actually had to put the customer in that car and change our operations a little."
We did not receive a response from Carwash.com regarding an updated list of problem vehicles. The bigger problem these days, however, is that some modern advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) are preventing a car from moving forward thinking it might hit an object, and the automatic windshield wipers with rain sensors can lock in when you least want to want.
As of 2015, the list indicated that the 2015 Acura TLX and some hybrids of the Lincoln and Lexus, among others, need to be turned off just right to ensure the car idles long enough for the car to pass through the car wash. Some models require drivers to turn off dynamic cruise control functions in order to get the car through properly. For others, such as For example, on the newer Subarus, you may need to turn off the controls for pre-collision braking, auto vehicle stop, and auto windscreen wipers individually before entering the car wash.
New Volvos with Auto Hold Braking as part of their Pilot Assist technology suite automatically apply the brakes after three seconds of inactivity. This function is useful in most situations, e.g. B. to prevent the vehicle from rolling down a hill, but not in a car wash. That was still an issue in 2017, but on newer models, Volvo has updated the technology so that it won't trigger when the car is now in N. Perhaps the best is the Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class, which from 2020 and in newer models will have a single-stage "car wash mode".
Photo credit: Mercedes-Benz from Princeton via YouTube
You can't rely on knowing what works for every car these days. So check your vehicle manual for specific instructions on using car washes. Bottom Line: Don't go into a car wash until you've checked the owner's manual and made sure you know the protocol that will keep your car safe while getting it clean.
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