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Washing our Model S

There have been opinions, rumors, statements etc. about not sending our new cars through a carwash. Overall this seems to make good sense. While I believe the issue of injuring the battery has been thoroughly dispensed with, I’m still picking up advice that an automatic carwash is not a good idea because: a) the Model S is an aluminum body; b) it will damage the paint armor; c) the Tesla paint is water-based; and/or d) fill-in the blanks. Again, some of these reasons seem to make sense. But here’s the rub: I am rapidly approaching the age where spending an hour giving my Model S the tender loving care it deserves is impractical because the back isn’t what it used to be. For the record I have been washing my family’s cars and then my own cars since before I could drive. It has been a religious experience which served to really bond me to the beauty and pride of owning a nice car.

However, life intervenes.

So (finally) my question is what do you think the real implications will be of running it through a normal car wash, that isn’t brushless? I know I can always try to find someone to hand-wash my car regularly, but is this carwash business really hype or will I be risking serious damage to the vehicle? What do y’all think?

ddruz asked us to repost our excerpt from Tesla’s Guide for Owners, “If washing in an automatic car wash, use “Touchless” car washes only. These car washes must have no parts, such as brushes, that can touch Model S. Using any other type of car wash could cause damage that is not covered by the warranty.”

As for personal experience, we took our Model S to a local car wash where the car is pushed down a washing lane where it is sprayed with automatic water sprayers and washed by hand as it rolls along. However, the mechanism to push the car down the lane was a roller the moved along behind the right rear wheel. Obviously, the car had to be in neutral for this to work. I wasn’t sure this would be OK with the Model S, so I elected for the more expensive hand car in the back corner of the lot.

Rod and Barbara,

Good call. The rails on the mechanism have a tendency to cut the sidewalls of the tires. These can be seen as cuts that look like loops. The wider the tire is the more likely it is to be damaged.

I've seen far to many tires with this type of damage on them to every put my car through one of those.

Rod and Barbara, Thanks very kindly for reposting that quote and for your experience. I apologize for not remembering where I'd seen you post it before.

It is unfortunate that "Touchless" is the only sanctioned type of car wash. I live in a major metropolitan area where grime and grit accumulate quickly. Touchless just doesn't seem to do a very good job here in the northeast. As much as I enjoy handwashing it would have been nice to have the option of brushless, however, not at the risk of tearing the car apart.

"The paint finish of Model S will raise the bar in the premium automotive category."

As far as I'm concerned, raising the bar means I shouldn't have to worry any more about scratches/swirls in my paint or shredded tires and wheels from going through the local soft-touch automatic wash than I have had to on my 2005 Acura TL. Never had any issues going through monthly on average over the past seven years.

I'm thinking about a pressure washer with A foam cannon so it breaks down the dirt first and I dont have to scrub so hard, thoughts?

MandL you're on! Since we both use the same local soft-touch carwash, I'll let you put your Sig through several times before my car finally arrives a few months later. :)

Of course I am hoping this carwash will work since the alternative, for me, is a lot more effort/expense.

To everyone else on this thread: thanks for your valuable input. Keep it coming!

I plan on coming back to this tread and ask those locally for their experience with places to I can take my Model S to the same place as well. I don't mind driving a little bit to get a good job on my expensive and precious baby... ;)

Besides, I probably wash my car 2 or 3 times a year tops? No point washing in the late Fall, Winter or early Spring around here.

We have long taken our cars through a brushless car wash here in Seattle called Brown Bear Car Wash and have never had a swirl mark. Because of the rain we get this time of year, it is almost a requirement to use the car wash. We plan on doing the same with the Model S. Note on its first time through, after being in neutral through the wash, you can't go directly to drive without going to park first or stepping on the brake first. Our Leaf allows going directly from neutral to drive without touching the brake first.


Brown Bear is brushless, but not "touchless"? Do you know of any touchless car washes in Seattle?

Is leaving a Model S in Drive without pressing the accelerator pedal at all be just like leaving it in Neutral? Would that be the way to go through a car wash?

I should have said "Drive with Creep turned off" in the above post.

Really good question, Amped. I'd like to know that too. We have touchless here in SF.

What products does Tesla use to wash cars in their service centers?


My BMW 5-series (auto trans) will not shift from N to D without touching the brake while shifting. I've found it pretty easy when the green Exit light comes on at end of the wash to briefly touch the brake and shift into D. Same procedure probably will work with MS?

Here in the northeast we just point the car at the hurricane for a 5 second pressure wash and return to the garage. Don't try it in Atlantic City, however, or you'll be left with a DeLorean 2.0

Yeah, but you need to add a lot of water to the intern paste otherwise it leaves streaks on the glass.

@tharasix LOL!

Poor interns never heard the car coming...

There's a touchless one near my house I might consider. You might also check out this guy's videos on washing cars to avoid swirl marks...

Reposted from another topic:

GregG | November 5, 2012

So, in a weak moment, i took my model S to a "brushless" carwash. i know, i know....

fifteen minutes later, gouges on each driver side wheel AND big chunk out of each tire!

cost me two tires. :-(

not sure why because i have brought Porsche Turbos here with wider tires.....

perhaps because the car itself is so wide...?

What ever, dont do this! :-)

@GetAmpedSoon: An S in Drive with creep Off and no go pedal is just like a manual car in neutral, or maybe the better analogy is, like a manual car in gear with the clutch pedal depressed. It should work in a car wash just fine, if the car wash tracks don't eat your rims.

Thanks STEVEZ. There was a lot of talk about this, but based on GregG's post I think I'm going to be putting quarters in and freezing my fingers off when it's 35 F. Frunk - place to put your carwash supplies!

this is making me afraid. gotta find me an "intern."



I’m not going through any car wash … any DIY tips anyone (products/process)?

Wait for rain, then drive fast for about 5 minutes.

@joefiorelli - check out aaronw2's post six above yours. The video by "The Junk Man" is good watching.

I have 14 cars and about half of them have never seen a car wash. I have a RO/DI system that fills a 100 gallon tank. I use a pump to a hose to first rinse the car, then I brush it with a soft brush from a soapy bucket. Then a second rinse with the RO/Di water. The wash and rinse only used about 15-20 of the 100 gallons.

Finally, I use a blower that I got from Griots that blows high volume/speed air to remove all the water. Finally, I use a micro fiber towel to catch the few water spots that the blower missed.

I can do my Telsa roadster in 15 minutes with little or no touch.

nick, aaron;
Good "Junkman" videos (5) -- but that guy does like to talk!! Repetition until you swoon! Either he thinks no one has a memory lasting more than 5 seconds, or he doesn't. Heh.

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