Some do it at least once a week, others only every few months. Even if weekly car washing is perhaps a little excessive, regular cleaning of your car is important. Because if you do not remove the dirt regularly, it can quickly build up on poorly protected chassis parts and sheet metal edges.

Broken paint with scratches and flaking is prone to corrosion. In addition, the effect of headlights, sensors and cameras is severely impaired – not to mention poor visibility. How often you should wash your car depends on many factors such as weather or the extent of soiling. But if you go to a car wash or visit a self-service wash every four to eight weeks, you are not doing anything wrong.

Drive-through car wash

Car drivers have many prejudices about washing in the car wash or automatic car wash line – for example, paint scratching brushes. For modern car washes and cars, however, this is not a problem.

First, the paint of modern cars is very resistant, so the brushes in the car wash cannot do much damage to it. Second, almost all brushes today are made of polyethylene, a plastic very similar to textile fibers, which is why these brushes are also known as textile brushes. In combination with the right cleaning agent, there is no danger to the paintwork.

However, it may happen that the brushes leave traces of plastic on the paint, which may look like scratches. In addition, in rare cases – it can happen that coarse dirt from the car exterior sits in the brushes. The result could be so-called swirls, i.e. fine, round scratches.

Important: Before we drive the car into a car wash, it should be thoroughly pre-washed. Some car washes require a manual pre-wash. This removes the coarsest dirt in advance – and prevents scratches caused by dirt particles.

Tips for drive-through car wash

If you want to clean your car quickly and with little effort, you can drive through the automatic car wash. However, there are a few things to be aware of to ensure that the result is optimal, and we do no damage to the car. It is not always the highest price or the longest wash cycle that achieves the best result. You can do without additional programs if you wash regularly and save yourself a lot of money. To test the quality and accuracy of a car wash, inspect cars that have already been washed. This is a good way of identifying a bad car wash.

The car wash alone does not always remove all dirt. That’s why it’s worth pre-washing the car with a steam jet or water jet, softening stubborn dirt. This way, hard to reach places are cleaned thoroughly. Before the car wash, all windows should be closed. It is best to unscrew the antenna so that it is not damaged. The windscreen wipers (including rain sensor) should be switched off. After the wash, it is worth taking a walk around your own vehicle. You should report any damage that has just occurred to the operator of the car wash immediately, otherwise it will be difficult to prove later.

For the sake of the environment and your wallet, visit a thorough car wash only when it is overly dirty. Often clear water is enough to remove light dirt. Whether you drive frequently or less often, clean your car thoroughly at least twice a year. This not only pleases your car but also maintains the value of the vehicle.

Choose the right washing program

The choice of washing program depends primarily on your wallet and weather. In winter, a program with active foam, hot wax and underbody washing is recommended from time to time.

Place the car in the right position

Close windows and sunroof. With the engine running, turn off the windscreen wipers and especially the rain sensor. Always lock the car, otherwise the fuel cap may pop open. If you want to be on the safe side, fold in the wing mirrors. If possible, remove the antenna. The operator specifies the exact rules.

Car wash follow up

Immediately wipe dry with a microfiber cloth to avoid unsightly water stains. Clean hard to access places, such as the door catches by hand. Dry door and flap seals first and then treat with a care pen. Clean all windows from the inside and the wiper blades with glass cleaner. Seal damaged paint spots as quickly as possible with a paint stick to prevent rust formation.

Tip: Check the windscreen washer fluid after washing and top up if required.

Self-service car wash

The alternative to a drive through car wash is the self-serve car wash system, where your car can be washed exactly according to your own liking.

Especially with older cars, hand washing is essential, as the paint is less resistant than in modern cars. To start the self-service wash, depending on the type, you either buy coins in advance or throw small change directly into a machine where you can choose the washing program. A wide range of cleaning agents and tools are also available. However, many drivers do not mind bringing their own cleaning agents, cloths and brushes.

Before use, check whether the tools are clean, because dust and dirt can leave unsightly scratches on the paintwork. A thorough pre-wash with a high-pressure cleaner is also essential in the self-service wash box.

Important: Make sure that there is sufficient space between the tools. About 30 to 50 centimeters, distance between the start of the water jet and the surface is optimal.

Guidelines for washing your car properly at the self-service car wash


Especially in summer, the bonnet and windscreen are covered with insects and bird droppings. Since these can be stubborn and are often still visible even after thorough cleaning, treat them beforehand. You have the following options:


Place damp newspaper on the insect remains to soak them. Do not let the paper dry on the windowpane.

Cleaning plasticine

This special plasticine or clay bar is ideal for removing coarse dirt from the paintwork and windows. Dirt erasers or special sponges can be used alternatively.

Insect remover

These sprays are specially designed to remove insect remains. But they can also remove other types of dirt. Apply the agent before cleaning and allow it to act briefly as described on the packaging instructions.

Preliminary cleaning

After you have removed the coarse dirt from the car, first wash it off with the high-pressure cleaner. This will remove surface dirt such as dust, sand and pollen. Pay attention to the correct distance of the nozzle which should be between 10 and 30 cm depending on the pressure. Work from top to bottom, from the roof to the tires.


Whether with a sponge or brush, make sure that there is no debris or other dirt inside to avoid scratches. You should rinse the brushes on the self-service washing machines thoroughly before use. If there is no water, spray them briefly with the pressure washer beforehand.

Hand wash

If you want to use your own shampoo, remember to bring two buckets and possibly water, as many self-service car washes do not have taps. Alternatively, you could fill the buckets carefully with the water nozzle. It is advisable to use two buckets – one filled with shampoo, the other with clear water. Then proceed part by part by first applying shampoo and then wiping with water to prevent it from drying and leaving streaks.


In the self-service units there is softened water, with which you now hose down the car. This prevents water stains from forming later. Here, too, work from top to bottom.

Tires and rims

If the tires are dirty, spray them with an extra rim cleaner and let it work for a short time before rinsing. To cover all sides, move the car a little back and forth in between. There are also special cleaning brushes for the rims that help you get better between the spokes.

Cleaning windows

You may use a special window cleaning agent to clean windows.


Finally, the sealing is done with a layer of wax. You can also bring your own car waxing product if you do not want to use the wax from the nozzle.


The problem with hand washing is that the water droplets are not blow-dried automatically. However, some self-serve car washes also have drier facility. If you wash the car yourself, it is therefore advisable to rub the paint dry with a microfiber cloth or a special cleaning cloth. In this way you avoid annoying water stains. Pull the water off the paintwork from top to bottom.

Some spots are often forgotten

  • In the trunk area, people like to forget the spots between the trunk door and its support. Over time, a lot of dirt accumulates here, which you should remove during exterior washing.
  • Dirt also collects in the door frame and on the hinges.
  • Rub the treads dry after cleaning to avoid water stains.
  • The rubber strips on the doors may dry out. Regular treatment with a care product will keep them supple. The same applies to plastic moldings.
  • We often neglect the filler cap opening. However, you can remove old fuel residues by hand washing them.

Washing the car at home or on the street

There are no uniform national rules for car washing on public or private property. The groundwater must not be contaminated by outdoor washing, for example by chemicals or dissolved fuel and lubricant residues. Car washing may be forbidden on unpaved ground where the waste water seeps directly into the ground and does not drain into the sewage system. However, the decision on the exact regulations is made by the local authorities. In case of doubt, ask the authorities in advance about the local rules and penalties.