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Automatic Tunnel Wash vs. Detailing Services

Car in car wash

I have been asked this question by many customers time and time again. What's the difference between your service and the local car wash? Many people ask this question due to not being educated about what goes into the detailing process. This is when I take the time to educate my clients.

The unseen dangers in tunnel wash systems.

At a car wash, your car is routed through a tunnel where mechanized cloths and brushes, detergents, waxes and water jets are used to clean your car. After your car travels through the wash tunnel, a car wash employee may be present to dry your car or high-speed air is used to blow water off your car. Some car washes also offer interior cleaning services that are done after the wash process. This process usually consists of a quick vacuum and wipe down of interior surfaces. The process, as mentioned, produces a relatively clean car at a cheaper price. The main problem with this process is that it is not thorough and the wash can cause damage to your car’s paint. Brushes and clothes are usually the sources of paint damage; however, it can also occur during the drying process also. If the towels used by the car wash staff are not clean or have been cross-contaminated your car will be contaminated by the wheels or other dirty areas, this is where damage can occur. These types of issues may not be typical of every car wash; however, I have observed it on customer’s cars when I detail them. If I have seen paint marring and scratches left in the paint. Lastly, if the car wash water is from a recycling system is used in the majority of wash processes; it will contain any used chemicals, detergents or waxes. Therefore, a recycling system needs to be used to completely remove these chemicals from the water. It is very important to ask if recycled water is used and if the system removes all chemical and waxes from the recycled water. Best guess NOT.

If you are really enthusiastic about the appearance of your car, a commercial car wash is not likely to exceed your expectations. Please keep reading to see how the auto detailing process is different and offers many more benefits to you.

Get to know your detailer.

When your car is detailed by a qualified shop or mobile detailing company, it is hand washed. Each section of your car is carefully washed with the human hand and this delivers a better cleaning process. The wheels, wheel wells, and tires will also be carefully cleaned by hand. The paint is gently dried with quality microfiber towels that never touch any other area of the car. When your car is detailed, the paint will either be hand waxed or polished and sealed with a dual action polisher. This process will both protect and enhance your car’s paint. Paint protection is important because it prevents UV damage and waxes and sealants’ keeps contaminants from bonding to the paint.

When the interior is professionally detailed, the same care is taken. Brushes and various vacuum attachments will be used to get into cracks and crevices. Hard surfaces, such as vinyl, plastic, and leather will be carefully cleaned. Care must be taken because certain interior surfaces that can be damaged with the wrong cleaning process. There are many professional cleaning solvents on the market and when the wrong dilution or strength is used this can cause permanent damage. This may not be noticeable right after the cleaning process, so that’s why a professional detailer is the best way to go. I have seen plenty of badly scratched and stained touch screens, which are expensive to replace. Only water-based UV protectors should be used on interior hard surfaces, which have a natural matte shine. Thick and oily products applied at some car washes, can attract dust and create a glare effect on the dash and can cause a safety issue when applied to the steering wheel.

In summary, when you have your car professionally detailed, you will notice the difference. More time will be spent on the key areas and greater care will be taken not to cause damage. The benefit to you is that your car will look like new for many years. Sure, auto detailing is more expensive than a car wash; however, the value is many times greater.

Please feel free to contact me at with any questions you may have about detailing or regarding this topic.


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