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Definitive Guide On How To Pressure Wash Your Car Properly

white porsche 911 parked near white house

Planning To Pressure Wash Your Car? Here's Everything You Need To Know

Regularly washing your car can help maintain its appearance. Likewise, it's a budget-friendly way to protect its value. You can choose to wash by hand, but it will be too time-consuming, and you may not be able to get rid of all the dirt. On the other hand, taking your vehicle to an automatic car wash frequently can hurt your wallet. Besides, more and more car owners are getting unsatisfied with the results from these services.

If you want your car to look like a million bucks, as well as save time and money, consider pressure washing your car at home. Gone are the days where you have to use a sponge and bucket to keep your vehicle sparkly clean. You can easily clean your car like a pro using the best pressure washer on the market. It will rinse all the muck and grit off the surface of your car quickly and more efficiently than a soapy sponge.  

But before picking up your machine's spraying gun, make sure you know everything you need to know about how to pressure wash a car. While this cleaning method comes with numerous advantages, there are also a few disadvantages you need to consider.

Is It Safe To Pressure Wash My Car?

You may be wondering whether pressure washing your car is good or bad. Car experts and owners alike have varying opinions regarding the use of pressure washers in cleaning cars. 

Pressure washing a car does come with its set of pros and cons. So before you decide on using one, make sure to consider them. With that in mind, here are some benefits of using a pressure washer:


In most cases, you simply don't have enough time (and energy) to scrub your car. This is where you and your car can benefit from a pressure washer. In a matter of 10 minutes, you'll be able to get rid of all the filth stuck on your car's surface. 

Aside from that, you can use your machine to effectively clean your patio, outdoor furniture, house exterior, and more in as little as 30 minutes. That's why experts advise that every homeowner should have a pressure washer in their home.

Easier and cost-effective

Compared to manually washing by hand, high-pressure car cleaning is easier. Likewise, it does not require plenty of cleaning tools and solutions to cover all areas of your car. You only need a high-quality car wash detergent and your pressure washer. Hence, it's also lighter in your pockets.

There are also extra attachments, like the foam cannon, that make dirt removal even more manageable. Moreover, you won't have to bend over as much to tackle hard-to-reach spots when pressure washing. 

Minimize scratches

Your handsome car can acquire scratches when hand-washing. All the grit and dirt picked up during the cleaning process tend to stick to your towels or sponge. You may be wiping them away, but they are causing scratches along the way. Although some ways can help prevent it, the problem is still common among car owners.

When pressure washing, you avoid directly contacting the paint, thus decreasing the likelihood of scratches. Once the water hits the dirt, it is washed away instantly instead of adhering to your cleaning cloth.

However, keep in mind that even though scratches can be prevented, pressure washing can damage the paint if you're not careful. If you'll use high pressure immediately on the murky surface, you'll push the abrasive filth against your car's paint. This, in turn, will cause scratches. 

Additionally, if your vehicle has flakes or paint chips, the jet of high-pressure water can make its way under the chipped paint, making it larger. So be very cautious, particularly if you have an old car.

white chevrolet car parked on gray concrete road during daytime

Prepping Up

The best time to wash your car is early morning or evening. Avoid doing it when the sun is scorching hot. But if you truly need to clean your vehicle in the middle of the day, move it to a shaded area at least one hour before you plan to wash it. Doing so will allow your car's surface to cool.

Bring out your pressure washer from the storage and check that you have all the things you need. Unwind and loosen up its power cord. Then, connect that to a nearby power outlet, ensuring that it will not lie in water. Use an extension cord if necessary. Do not turn your unit yet.

The next thing you have to do is to connect your pressure washer hose to the lance. Make sure that it has no twists or kinks. You want to use an adjustable lance that enables water to produce a spray fan. The majority of models come with this. If you're unsure, check with your owner's manual.

Choose The Right Nozzle

Choosing the appropriate nozzle is crucial since it plays a huge role in pressure washing your vehicle. That's because the nozzle will determine the angle at which the water leaves your machine. If the angle of the water is too sharp, you'll most likely damage your car.

Pressure washer spray tips come in several various sizes. However, some of them will do more harm than good to your car. In general, wider nozzles are more suitable for washing your car's body since they apply less pressure while covering more area. Meanwhile, narrower nozzles cover less area and apply more pressure. 

The nozzles most suitable for washing cars are the following:

  • Green or 25-degree nozzle. This is best for eliminating mud from the body of your car. You can also use it for cleaning its wheels and pre-wash rinsing.
  • White or 45-degree nozzle. It is applicable for washing large surfaces quickly. Use this when rinsing detergent off your car and cleaning its body.
man in black jacket standing beside silver car

Steps On How To Properly Pressure Wash Your Car

Step 1: Lightly rinse the top layer of dirt and grime

Adjust the variable jet spray of your device if it comes with one at about 5 to 8 cm wide. Lightly rinse all heavy dirt off your car from top to bottom. The spray should be strong enough to wash them off but not damage your car's paintwork. For fragile areas, such as lights and windows, you want to use a less powerful and slightly wider setting.

Also, stay at least 3 feet away from your car when doing this step. 

Step 2: Apply detergent to your car

Use your pressure washer's detergent tank or a foam cannon if you have one. 

To completely coat your car with a layer of soap, set your nozzle to the least powerful and widest setting. Then, leave it for a few minutes, allowing the detergent to do its magic. However, make sure it does not dry out, or you'll see yourself buffing out patches and residue later. 

Step 3: Loosen any stubborn grease and grime

You can do this much faster with the help of an attachable brush. If you'll use the same one to wash the paint, as well as the wheels and their arches, tackle the wheels last. The last thing you want is to rub the small grit and stones picked up by the brush when washing the wheels to rub against the paintwork. When done, thoroughly rinse your brush to get rid of all the grit.

Step 4: Rinse your car thoroughly

When rinsing off the paintwork, use a slightly more powerful setting than you would with glass areas. Also, stay at least one meter away from your car to prevent damaging its surface. The paint of your car could chip off if your spray too close. 

Additional Tips 

  • The safest PSI for pressure washing a car is 2,000 or less.
  • Make sure your nozzle is pointed at the ground at all times before switching your pressure washer on. 
  • Perform the car wash on concrete and avoid doing it on gravel since stones may likely hit the body of your vehicle.
  • Make sure all the windows are properly closed.
  • Check the car interior for any leaks after spraying.
  • Do not pressure wash the engine bay of your car.

Once you're done using your unit, disconnect the water lines and allow them to drain entirely. Doing this can help reduce standing water in the hose. Likewise, it can prevent bacteria growth and corrosion.