The big difference between the two is that I find 'brushless' car washes take the "shine" away from your SUV quicker. I've never had a problem with scratching but I've noticed that if you don't get a quality waxing (versus doing it yourself), you will lose some of the 'showroom' luster.
I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "brushless." Around here we have "Touchfree" as well as "brushless," the former being just soap and water sprays at varying pressures, and the latter being undulating strips of wet cloth that the car slowly moves under (with soap and water sprays, natch).
The touchfree works well for quick cleanups, but doesn't clean as well as hand washing; in particular, the liftgate and rear window are not nearly as clean as from handwashing. I use it anyway, as it keeps the X from looking too grimy. I've also used the brushless, which does a good job; I've never seen scratches from either system.
I can't speak to the gloss issue -- I wax the car spring and fall with Meguiar's, using a 9" orbital buffer. It looks great to me, but probably wouldn't satisfy a detailing fan.
1)you have NO control of the quality of car detergents that goes in the wash
2)you have NO control of the quality of car wax that goes in the wax
3)The blowers that dry the car does not do a detail job. Its a freakin robot for heavens sake
4) Time is not long enough between washes to really get the dirt out.
5)The blower can NEVER get the dry done completely.
As for hand car wash...Well if you are doing it yourself...GREAT you will have an EXCELLENT looking car. If you let someone else do it..You will have SPIDERS on your paint and it will be EXPENSIVE to get rid of it by a professional detailer.
I exclusively hand wash for the reasons Fireblade suggests.
However, I live in Texas, so I don't have to worry too much about snow, salt spray and subzero temps.
I used to live in Chicago and limped thru winter months by going to a "touchless" place, just to keep the grime off the car without freezing my posterior off.....then handwashing/waxing whenever there was a break in the weather. It was a compromise, but it worked pretty well.
Every chance I've had this winter (on weekends) I have hand washed and I prefer to do this. If not we use a new no-touch that opened recently. Today it’s 25 and snowing but here is a picture from last Sunday and the Zaino is still doing a great job. My last application of Zaino was early September.
THe key thing to check on any touchless wash is to make sure that it does not use a 2 step presoak. Many washes use an acid based presoak and then a high PH presoak. The acid based presoak is just like using dish soap. It cleans the glass and chrome but will also strip the Zaino right off the paint finish. The high PH presoaks work well on the painted surfaces but not as well on glass and chrome. Most touchless washes use only a high PH presoak but there are a few that use both types. ONe other thing about the acid based presoaks is that it usually consists of Hydroflouric acid that can be lethal if you get it on your skin.
Why is it that whenever I think that I have everything figured out, someone comes along and bursts my bubble. (Eggs are bad for you - No eggs are good for you. Milk is good for you - No milk is bad for you. Flouride is good for you - No flouride is bad for you...)
Finally a decent 2 step presoak "Laser" car wash opens literally 2 miles from my house (that takes CREDIT CARDS!) and I am in clean-car heaven. Now soapydad tells me - no, 2 step bad. Geesh, what's a fella supposed to do. I had even resolved to always use the car wash PRIOR to hand washing after learning my lesson trying to remove the road salt spray that is so stubborn in the Northeast. It can't be loosened with a simple garden hose blast, especially given the water temp. out of the faucet in the winter. So I use two buckets (wash and rinse), warm water, good car wash soap, and cotton/wool mitts and I STILL got 2 fine scratches on the passenger door from some particulate matter during the last hand wash.
At least the car wash presoak DOES effectively remove the salt spray (and accompanying fine grit), and with the under carriage wash is the only way to really get the salt off of every nook and cranny underneath that is difficult to reach with a hose.
I guess the question is which is more damaging - leaving the salt spray on the paint finish (for longer than normal fearing the inevitable scratch) or the presoaks from the car washes?
Ask the laser wash if they do in fact use a acid based presoak and what it contains. They may be using a 2 step presoak without an acid base. It may just be 2 passes of the same high PH presoak. Road salts may be more than salt. Alot of places around the country use either magnesium chloride or calcium chloride. They do this becasue it works at lower temperatures than salt. If your local highway dept. uses calcium chloride I would definitly get it rinsed off very often. The magnesium chloride is not a bad on a paint finish as salt but it will attack concrete and cause it to break apart so many hiway departments are not using it now. I would get all of this stuff off my car often even if you have to use a touchless with 2 step presoak. Just apply the Zaino a little more often.
For me, I use our local gas station car wash with it's drive thru soft cloth system about a mile from our house.
I'm sorry, but with all the muck and cold here in Chicago, I'm not about to go out in the middle of January, somehow unfreeze my garden hose, and wash the car, only to then have it sheet over with ice.
The car wash I use is a great value at $3.50, and for that money, at least I have the salt and muck scrubbed off my car with soft cloths rather than just purly jets. Another perk is the attendant jets off the car with a soapy jet spray wand right before you start moving thru the wash on the conveyer.
I've tried those touchless ones, but at almost $5 bucks a pop, I at least expect the dirt to come off. Instead, all I can ever notice is the film residue it leaves all over my windows, and how my wheels brake dust is still there.
But it's all personal preference. For me, based on the convenience, price, and great results I've been getting there for the past 16 years, I'm sticking with my Mobil soft cloth tunnel car wash.
soapydad, where'd you come up with that hydrofluoric acid bit? Having worked in the technical glass industry for 40+ years, I can't imagine that HF would be used for anything that could conceivably come in contact with any living being. HCl, maybe, but not HF.
I own several touchless carwashes and can tell you that most acid presoaks do in fact have hydrofluoric acid in them. THere are a few that don't. I have never used acid based presoaks and never will. THe best thing to do is ask your local carwash what type of presoak or soap they use. NOt all carwashes are bad for your car.
It's my understanding you will probably see the acid based soaps more often at the touch-free carwashes, simply because they cannot "rub off" the dirt like the ones with cloth strips. I have been using a carwash for the last two years with the cloth strips and I have not experienced any problems with my TL.
Now the question my wife asked the other night, is it safe to run the X through and not worry about the antennae on top, or does something need to be done with this prior to using a carwash? We have only had it a week, so it hasn't had it's initial "bath" yet, and we wouldn't want to screw it up the first time. Thanks.
... but there are a number of products sold to car wash operators that do contain ammomium biflouride. Typically this is used to remove "brake dust".
Yes, NH4HF2 will form measurable amounts of hydroflouric acid in air/water, but you can't make a "soap" out of this stuff. If any car wash, self-serv, touchless, or soft cloth routinely soaked their customer vehicles in HF soon the glass would be so etched as to be permently frosted. Even operators who use solutions with high percentages of NH4HF2 on just wheels would get lots of complaints if they didn't also use an alkaline neutralizer.
Car wash operators are not stooopid, no customer would be happy if their cars were being ruined! Even though products with LOW pH (acid) can aid in cleaning wheel & chome, such products will also beat the heck out of the car wash equipment. Similarly, alkaline products (HIGH pH) will also beat up equipment. Most car wash operators want their equipment to last, and the chemical industry therefore emphasize products that are mostly mildly acid (pH <7) or mildly alkaline (pH >7).
Tip: ask the operator what they use, if don't know, GO ELSEWHERE!
I agree with most everything said here. I can hand wash my car in less time than it takes to drive to the touchless and back. First of all, you don't know what cheap crap they put in their soap, etc. Secondly the high pressure rinse would be equivalent to sand-blasting your car's finish.
I do use them in the winter to quickly wash off dirt and snow. What i have observed is lots of unsightly water spots (despite using the spotless rinse)
I suggest you buy yourself a bucket and supply of good cleaning supplies and do it at home. Oh, and no one will complain if you play your music loud and drink a beer while doing it either.