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High-Pressure Washing for Washing a Car: A Good Idea?

Man washing his car with high pressurized water outside in the sun

Your car is your pride and joy. Experts in the industry suggest that you wash your car at least once a week, which can get very expensive if you are having someone else do it for you. It is much cheaper to buy a good pressure washer and do it yourself, but is high-pressure washing for a car a good idea?

Pressure washing a car is a good idea because it will blast away all the grime and dirt. The trick is to use the proper tip size and pressure to prevent paint from peeling and breaking mirrors or windows. Precautions should be taken to achieve an even spray and avoid causing any damage to the car.

It is a common misconception that pressure washing your car is more damaging than it is worth, and that can be true if it is not done correctly. Some precautions and warnings must be followed, so let’s dive right in.

Washing the Car with High Pressure

Washing your car with a high-pressure hose has been ingrained into your head for decades. Following along with the concept that touchless and brushless car washes are the best way to go. Even then, you may have seen a broken mirror or two, and perhaps a chunk of paint being stripped off.

This is because many of those places are designed to get your vehicle in and out rather than concentrating on the car in front of them. That is why you should stop spending your money on car washing and grab yourself an excellent high-pressure washer designed for use with vehicles.

If you do not do the task correctly, you may still cause damage to your vehicle. Here are some safety guidelines you must follow when using a high-pressure washer.

  1. Use a 25-degree tip for the wheels and rims
  2. Use a 40-degree tip for the rest of the car
  3. Wash the tires and rims first
  4. Start from the top of the car and work your way down
  5. Use water first to pre-rinse
  6. Use soap and water with a microfiber cloth
  7. Rinse with water
  8. Apply wax by hand

Washing your car in this way is an enjoyable, satisfying experience. You can prevent any damage by simply paying attention to your vehicle. If there is a paint chip on the front, do not apply the full pressure of the water on it.

If your windshield has a chip, stay back. Not only will you get your vehicle sparkly clean, but you will also get to know every little problem on the exterior of your car that you may need to take the time to repair.

Close up of a person pressure washing a blue car


Keep reading to find some frequently asked questions about using high pressure on your car when washing it.

What PSI Should Be Used to Pressure Wash a Car?

It may be tempting to set the PSI to the highest setting in the hopes that it will wash off all the tough road grime without using some elbow grease. That may work, but you also have a great chance of taking some paint and a clear coat with the dirt. Following the proper steps without trying to take shortcuts is the only way to properly wash your car or truck.

The highest PSI that should ever be used is 2200, with the optimal setting being more like 1500 PSI. This amount of water pressure will do the job that the high-pressure washer was designed to do while minimizing the damage.

Car cleaning supplies such as microfiber towel, glass cleaner, brush, and gloves along with a pressure washer against a cinder block background

Will High-Pressure Scratch My Car?

Out of all the experts online, the only major company that suggests you refrain from using a high-pressure washer for your own vehicles is Consumer Reports. That may seem strange when considering how many people like the site for advice and recommendations based on facts.

Let’s see what some of these reasons were:

  1. Paint can be peeled off
  2. Scratches can occur if you touch the car with the tip
  3. Marks can be seen if the dirt and debris are not pre-rinsed before scrubbing
  4. Damage can be done if there are any imperfections in paint or glass

They are all great points to make, but if you follow the simple guidelines above and pay attention to what you are doing, pressure washing your vehicle at home can be completed without any issues.

Consumer Reports is just playing it on the safe side because some people out there think the experts know little or nothing compared to themselves. This is, of course, until the back window shatters because the wand is tapped on it while trying to get a spot clean.

Will High-Pressure Washing a Car Remove Wax?

It takes substantial time and effort to wax your car by hand, so you do not want to worry about it coming off when washing the vehicle. The wax is designed to stay on the car for a specific amount of time or through a set number of washes, which will be placed on the product you choose.

If those directions are followed, the wax will stay on for as long as directed if you follow the rules of using high pressure. Obviously, if you are careless and end up peeling some paint, the wax on that section will be gone. Otherwise, the pressurized water will not harm any wax or coatings on the car.

Woman pressure washing a black Tesla with car wax


A good quality high-pressure car washing machine at home is the best way to ensure your vehicle is clean whenever you want it sparkling. You can save a substantial amount of money if you opt to go this route rather than running through your local car wash once a week. Plus, you can take the time to make sure it is done correctly, with the proper precautions for your specific vehicle taken.

The important things to remember are never to get too close to the paint or chrome, always use a 40-degree tip on the car’s body, and never exceed 2200 PSI. If you follow these simple rules and complete the stages of the process in order, your vehicle will look like it just came off the showroom floor when you get done washing it.

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Consumer Reports

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Ernest Martynyuk

An automotive enthusiast who's been tinkering with vehicles since I was 15-years old. Repairing automotive electronics has been my main job for over a decade now and have a passion for everything technical regarding cars.

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