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Why are car washes so bad?
Take a look at this sign. Not Responsible for: Antennas, License Plates, Bike Racks, Bug Shields, Wiper Blades, Roof Racks, Vehicle Leaving Track, After Market Accessories, Tail Pipes & Low Hanging Mufflers, Damage due to driver negligence, rims, wheel covers, and custom rims, mirrors, excessively muddy vehicles will be turned away. Automatic folding mirrors must be folded prior to entering car wash. While all of them are important, the ones that stand out are: NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR Custom rims, After Market Accessories, Tail Pipes.
Would you spend $10 at the local car wash and accept all of these release of liability statements?
Car washes will dull your paint, potentially cause premature failure of the UV coating on your headlights, and potentially induce deep swirls and scratches into your paint. The best way to keep a "perfect" finish is to wash your vehicle yourself.
When the “car wash” is a part of your vocabulary, you probably don’t even think twice about it being part of a bigger problem with your car. Most people think their paint only looks good for a few years then the car needs to be replaced or repainted, or maybe even “detailed”. The problem is that the car wash doesn’t do a proper detail as their main line of business is to wash your car. So if you pay extra for a detail, the results will be marginal and your expectations will be low.