Is It Safe to Drive Your Convertible Through an Automated Car Wash?

CARS.COM — Spring is finally here — temperatures are warming up, and convertibles are coming out of the garage. Or maybe you live in a part of the country that sees beautiful weather all year-round, but still your droptop gets dusty and needs a good wash now and then. You've resisted taking it through the automated car wash because you're just not sure if the high-pressure water, spinning brushes and moving mechanical machinery is safe. Is it, or is a touchless wash safer?

Who better to ask than the people who build the convertibles themselves? We spoke to some automakers and to some industry association experts to find out.

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Ford's Mustang convertible is one of the best-selling droptops on the market, and spokesperson Monique Brentley told us that while the company recommends hand-washing the Mustang convertible, it is safe to take it through an automated car wash. There are a few caveats, however. The owner's manual warns that high-pressure sprays can damage the top and its seals, which may cause water leakage.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles no longer makes a Chrysler 200 convertible, but the Wrangler is available from the Jeep brand. Like the Mustang, FCA said that the Wrangler really should be hand-washed, but that a touchless car wash would likely be OK in a pinch.

Buick's new Cascada convertible can handle a car wash like a pro, according to Buick Communications Manager Stuart Fowle. "The Cascada hearts car washes. No limitations. Every car is quality-checked to ensure water-tightness ... the top frame is very rigid to be able to handle going up and down at up to 31 mph, so a car wash brush is no issue."

Mercedes-Benz also confirmed that all of its convertibles are safe to take through a car wash. In the end, the best advice is to see what's recommended in your owner's manual, or to call the automaker's customer service hotline.

Generally, car wash industry experts agree.

"What you have to realize is that automated car washes actually wash thousands of convertibles every day, so we're already doing it safely and successfully," International Carwash Association CEO Eric Wulf told Cars.com by phone. "And what you may not know is that most automated car washes are designed to be safe for whatever car you put through it. All of the very high-pressure water, that's 800-1,000 pounds per square inch or more, is directed at the door handles and below. The highest-pressure water is actually aimed at the wheels."

That doesn't mean you should run out and take your classic Chevrolet Bel Air through the local Carz-n-Sudz, however.

"You have to make sure your top is in good condition," Wulf said, "with no loose fabric or trim, or worn areas."

And what about opting for a touchless car wash instead of one with brushes?

"Touchless car washes may not clean the top as well," Wulf said. "You often need that friction of a brush along with the detergent to get loose particles out of the fabric." 

 

 

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