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

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CARS.COM — Spring is finally here — temperatures are warming up, and that means it’s time for convertibles to come 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 visiting an automated car wash because you’re just not sure about the high-pressure water, spinning brushes and moving mechanical machinery. Can you drive a convertible through a car wash, and is a touchless wash safer for your car’s top?

Related: 5 Best Cars to Take to the Drive-In

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 what your options are — removable hardtop, cloth top or otherwise.

Choose a Gentle Car Wash (or Wash Them by Hand)

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 for the vehicle, however. The owner’s manual warns that high-pressure sprays can damage the top and its seals, which may cause water leakage in the car.

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.

If you do prefer to hand wash your convertible, we love this two-bucket method shown in The Best Way To Wash Your Car. But it’s probably not the only option for your car.

Most Convertibles Are Car-Wash-Friendly

Buick’s new Cascada convertible can handle automated washes 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 drive 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.”

Pros and Cons of Touchless Car Washes

And what about opting for a touchless car wash instead of one with brushes? Remember, FCA recommends hand-washing their Jeep Wrangler convertible — but says a touchless car wash will likely do when hand-washing isn’t an option.

“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.”

Did you know? Car washes aren’t just for washing cars to get them cleaner. Check out Nissan’s minature car wash, for testing paint. 

Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

Photo of Aaron Bragman
Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman has had over 25 years of experience in the auto industry as a journalist, analyst, purchasing agent and program manager. Bragman grew up around his father’s classic Triumph sports cars (which were all sold and gone when he turned 16, much to his frustration) and comes from a Detroit family where cars put food on tables as much as smiles on faces. Today, he’s a member of the Automotive Press Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. His pronouns are he/him, but his adjectives are fat/sassy. Email Aaron Bragman

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