View Full Version : taking a convertible through a car wash
10-24-2009, 02:13 PM
Is it safe to take my cloth-top convertible through an automatic car wash?
10-24-2009, 02:22 PM
I've had four such cars now. The last two had language in the manual strongly discouraging the use of automatic washes. I can't remember what the other two might have said.
What do you mean by safe?
What is the car?
How old is it?
What is the condition of the top?
I never took any of my convertibles though a car wash. Commercial car washes use high power spays and a very strong detergent to get your car clean. I believe that these deteregents will over time damage the top especially if it is a canvas top. In addition, the high pressure spays will possibly overcome the window seals to a greater or less degree.
If your top is already old and held together with duct tape, then no for sure.
10-24-2009, 04:02 PM
My roadster was made back in the days before people expected soft tops to be 100% proof against the elements. Heck, only four years prior the model was noted for having roll-up windows. So my car gets hand-washed.
As Rick notes, the detergents are harsh. The question is whether the detergents will destroy the top before you have to replace it anyway. If you have a new car and run it through a modern car wash (preferably, one of the 'no touch' ones where they have people doing the washing instead of machines) -- and the manual says 'strongly discouraged' instead of 'must not -- I'd assume it's OK once in a while. But it's better to hand-wash.
10-24-2009, 04:38 PM
I took my convertible through the car wash.
I didn't like the sound of the brushes/beaters hitting the roof. Seemed like a "bad idea" to keep doing it, although I don't think just once or a couple times would cause any noticeable harm. I take it to a self-wash place with a foaming brush thingy.
10-24-2009, 04:44 PM
Put the top down and put on the cover, that should protect it.
10-24-2009, 04:45 PM
My roadster was made back in the days before people expected soft tops to be 100% proof against the elements.
Pfft. The British still haven't figured it out. From my 2005's manual:
The constant changing of loads and strains
to which a car is subject to when driving on roads, and the
tolerances required to allow for repeated removal and refitting
of the roof, means that minor wind noise, and seepage at joints
between the roof, body and doors cannot be completely sealed
in certain areas. Therefore small leaks are considered normal
for this model.
10-24-2009, 05:55 PM
Commercial car washes use high power spays and a very strong detergent to get your car clean. I believe that these deteregents will over time damage the top especially if it is a canvas top. In addition, the high pressure spays will possibly overcome the window seals to a greater or less degree.
My personal answer to the OP question about taking a convertable through the car wash would be No.
To expand a little on what Rick has said. The power sprays are very strong! The new touchless car washes seem like a good idea and I would use them occationally in the winter, before I had a gargage, because the car must be clean before I drive in public. And, hey, no brushes touch the car, only water and soap.
But I noticed an area about the size of a quarter, on a door, where the clear coat was gone! I think that there was a rock chip flaw in the paint the chemical wash and high power spray exacerbated that minor flaw into a bubble and blew off the clear coat. So I don't use even the touchless wash anymore.
It also says in my owners manual that a car with T-tops should not go through a car was because the spray may deform the weather strip enough to cause leaks, although I didn't have that problem myself.
To take any convertable through a car wash is just asking for trouble.
10-25-2009, 09:41 PM
I've done it for years. I replaced the top at 13 years old, and now go through with the new top. Did going through the car wash hasten the demise of my original top? Maybe, but I figure 13 years is a good long life for it (the back window lost it's footing).
10-26-2009, 06:59 AM
I had a 1972 MG and a 1978 Triumph that I wouldn't have dreamed of taking through a carwash. The seal between the top and the windows didn't even keep the rain out, let alone the high pressure jets of a touchless carwash.
I currently have a Miata, and while the seal is better I still wouldn't risk it.
10-26-2009, 09:04 AM
I had my Mustang for 10 years and always took it to a car wash. Never a problem. Same with my Saab--you all must be going to some super-powerful car washes. I've not ever had anything happen to the cars, and never even thought about it.
10-26-2009, 09:31 AM
I took my 1998 Jeep Wrangler through a brushless carwash one time. I got pretty wet.
10-26-2009, 09:52 AM
I've been told not to as the soap can damage the fibers and the water pressure can drive dirt deeper into the top. No evidence, of course (just OCD car people's say so), but I've just been rinsing my top with clear water or using a shop vac and brush or even a lint roller to remove stuff. I also use 303 fabric protectant when I notice the water isn't beading up very well on my top. Washing my car takes only 5 minutes when I can basically ignore the top, but our outside water will be shut off probably next week and taking it through a touchless will be tempting.
10-26-2009, 09:57 AM
Auto manufacturers cannot account for the wide variety of car washes, detergents, hand crews and other add-ons that the industry uses, so they play it smart and tell you not to use automatic car washes. It's smart advice, because early failure will have more people beating down their door for warranty repair, and/or people will see the top getting rough early and see it as poor quality.
It's pretty smart on their end to recommend not using automatic washes.
That being said, many of the soft touch car washes are probably very very safe, especially if you so no to all the extras. Get a basic wash, and nothing more.
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