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Why Do You Have To Handwash A Tesla? Pro Tips

Keeping your Tesla clean is a priority for most Tesla owners. But handwashing your car takes a long time and you may find it tedious. Could you take it to an automatic carwash instead? 

You don’t have to handwash a Tesla, but it is the best option. An automatic carwash with brushes can scratch the paint on your car. It can also break off parts like your side mirrors and windshield wipers, and damage the sensors. The harsh chemicals used may erode the paint.

So, what should you do?

In this post, I discuss the different methods of washing a Tesla, and their pros and cons. Don’t worry, you are not doomed to stand outside in the middle of winter with a bucket of frozen water, trying to clean your car! 

7 Setbacks Of Handwashing A Tesla

Though it’s the safest way to wash a Tesla, there are a few setbacks to hand washing your vehicle. These setbacks are not unique to Tesla, though, and discourage most drivers from hand washing their vehicles. 

The main setbacks of hand washing a Tesla are time, weather, and quality. Hand washing takes more time and effort than an automatic wash and can be difficult to do in extreme weather. Quality can also be affected if you don’t put the effort in. 

Hand washing your Tesla ensures a gentle wash that won’t discolor the vehicle or damage any of its parts. If you don’t have the time or don’t want to put in the effort, you could look for detailing services specializing in handwashing at Tesla or hire someone to do it for you. Again, this is the safest way to wash your Tesla, so that may be worth the extra cash.

Other than that, we went into further why handwashing your Tesla has some clear disadvantages. 

1. Handwashing Uses A Lot Of Water

This can end up costing you quite a bit of money, depending on how often you wash your Tesla. If you often drive in conditions that make your car dirty, your water bill might start to reflect this. 

2. Handwashing Takes A Lot Of Time 

When compared to an automatic carwash, handwashing takes significantly longer. You may not have the luxury of time to handwash your car. 

3. Handwashing Requires Sufficient Space 

If you do not have a big garden or outdoor space, you may struggle to reach all parts of your Tesla while washing it. 

4. Handwashing May Be Impossible In Winter 

In areas that get very cold in winter, the water will freeze in your bucket while you are washing your car. Many areas turn off their water outside during the coldest part of winter. It prevents it from freezing in the hose. This makes handwashing impossible unless you fetch water from inside your home.

The-Hood-Of-A-Red-Tesla-Covered-In-Water-Droplets-Photo-Taken-In-Bucharest-After-A-Heavy-Rain
If you can, you should handwash your Tesla. But if you are not able to handwash your car – because you do not have the time, or it is too cold, or you are physically not able to – make sure to take it to a touchless carwash. Photo @WorldOfIrene via Twenty20

5. You May Not Enjoy Handwashing Your Car 

Some people love washing their cars. It gives them a feeling of satisfaction and they enjoy the process. But if you are not one of these people, you may quickly find handwashing boring and an inconvenience. 

6. Handwashing Requires Specialized Cleaning Equipment 

You will need to invest in quite some cleaning equipment to handwash your car. These costs can build up. (Although if you consider the potential cost of having to repaint your car after damage in an automatic carwash, these costs may be worth it.)

7. Handwashing Requires Physical Strength and Flexibility 

You need to be able to stretch and bend when handwashing your car. If you have back troubles or are simply not as flexible as you once were, you may not be able to handwash your car. 

As you can see, handwashing has some definite disadvantages. Let’s compare it to an automatic carwash to see which option is better. 

What Are the Advantages of Washing Your Car Through an Automatic Car Wash?

An automatic car wash is convenient and saves you time. It can even be the cheaper option when compared to handwashing your car. To handwash your Tesla, you will need to buy equipment such as microfibre cloths and soap with a suitable pH. It also requires a lot of water, which can get expensive. 

However, you could argue that paying for cleaning equipment and water saves you from an expensive paint job in the future. This is because when you use an automatic car wash, your car may be damaged. This is explained below. 

What Are the Disadvantages of Washing Your Car Through an Automatic Car Wash? 

Automatic carwashes may use large brushes and rollers to wash cars. This equipment can scratch the paint on your Tesla; it holds dirt from previous vehicles. It may also break off parts like side mirrors and windshield wipers. A touchless car wash (without brushes and rollers) is better. 

Touchless car washes are also recommended because they do not damage the sensors of your Tesla. However, even touchless carwashes may use harsh chemicals to clean the cars. These can also damage the paint of your Tesla. They can also strip wax off your car, which can lead to color fading. That is why handwashing is still your best option. 

When driving through an automatic carwash, you also run the risk of your car sliding or skipping off the track. This can damage your rims. 

Can You Take A Tesla Through A Carwash?

You can take a Tesla through a carwash. You must make sure that it is a touchless carwash to avoid damaging the sensors of the car. However, there are several reasons why you may want to avoid an automatic carwash and rather wash your Tesla by hand. These are discussed earlier in this post. 

I have listed them below as well.  

Automatic carwashes:

  • Are more likely to dent your car 
  • Are more likely to scratch your car 
  • Are more likely to damage parts of your car, such as your side mirrors and your windshield wipers 
  • Are more likely to damage the sensors of your vehicle 
  • It may damage your rim if you slide or skip off the track 

How To Run Tesla Through Car Wash

When running your Tesla through an automatic carwash (make sure it’s a touchless carwash), you need to put it into neutral. The Tesla will automatically change back into park mode after 20 seconds, so you will need to stay in the car. Also, turn off your automatic wipers. There are some other tips as well. 

You may want to turn on the inside air circulation while going through the carwash. This helps to avoid the smells of the soap coming into your car.

Note that if you have the Model 3 or the Model Y, you can use Tesla’s Car Wash Mode included in the 2021.24.4 release. This mode will make the process a lot easier. See below for more information about this mode. 

Why do you need to put your Tesla into neutral while going through a car wash? 

Automatic carwashes have a conveyor belt that drags the car through. For this to work, the wheels should be able to turn freely. To put your Tesla into neutral, you need to pull the stalk down lightly for two seconds.

Your foot must be on the brake pedal at the same time. You’ll know you were successful when the display indicates that the vehicle is in neutral.

What is Tesla Car Wash Mode?

The Tesla Car Wash Mode is a feature brought out in the 2021.24.4 release. It quickly makes several changes to your car to make it ready to go through an automatic carwash. It can be enabled via Car Controls > Service > Car Wash Mode. Here’s what your Tesla will automatically do in Car Wash Mode: 

  • The charge port, windows, and trunk (if you have an automatic trunk) close 
  • The automatic wipers turn off
  • Sentry mode turns off 
  • Walk-away door locking turns off 
  • Parking sensor chimes are disabled 
  • It allows you to put the car into neutral by tapping the “Enable Free Roll” button instead of having to use the gear stalk 

Your display screen shows a list of the different features of car wash mode. If the feature is enabled, it will show in green. If not, it will be red (for example, if you left your trunk open, that will be indicated in red). 

To exit Car Wash Mode, tap the exit button. It will also turn off if you put your car into Drive and drive faster than 10 MPH.

Some things to note about Tesla Car Wash Mode:

  • It is only available for Model 3 and Model Y vehicles (not Model S or Model X vehicles). 
  • The Car Wash Mode doesn’t technically do anything that you can do without the mode. It just makes it a lot easier to make sure your car is ready for a touchless automatic carwash. 

Can a Tesla go through a touchless car wash?

A Tesla can go through an automatic touchless car wash. Although handwashing your Tesla is usually a better option, an automatic carwash is convenient.

You will need to put your Tesla into neutral (for which you need to stay in the car during the wash). You must also turn off your automatic windshield wipers. 

Also, make sure your trunk is closed.

Can I Wash My Tesla Using a Pressure Washer?

You can wash your Tesla with a pressure washer. But you must make sure that you do not spray the water directly onto the sensors. This would damage them and make the collision warning feature inaccurate. Using a pressure wash to hand wash your car is still a better option than an automatic car wash. 

This is because the pressure washer will not scratch your car as the rollers and brushes of the carwash can. 

An even better option than a pressure washer is using a bucket of water (or two buckets) with a microfiber cloth. 

Other Points To Consider When Washing Your Tesla: 

  • Make sure to dry your Tesla after you have washed it. Otherwise, dust may stick to it while it is wet. You may also leave watermarks if you leave your car to airdry. 
  • Wash your Tesla from the top to the bottom. The lower parts of the vehicle are usually dirtier. Washing from the top helps to prevent this dirt from being transferred to higher parts of the car. 
  • If you have repainted your Tesla, you should wait at least a month before washing it. This allows the paint to harden first. 

How to hand wash your Tesla 

Use two different buckets when handwashing your car. One bucket is for washing (contains water and soap) while one is for rinsing (which contains only water). This helps prevent cross-contamination of dirt across different parts of the car. 

  1. Pre-wash your car with snow foam (this helps get rid of tough grime and debris).
  2. Rinse the car.
  3. Coat the car with a layer of suds and rub with a soft cloth or soft wash mitts.
  4. Rinse the car with clean water.

Pro-Tips for Hand Washing Your Tesla

Handwashing your Tesla, as mentioned above, is the safest way to wash your vehicle. However, it’s not the safest by default. You still need to be extra careful when washing your car. 

If you are going to handwash your Tesla, there are a few things you need to be wary of. You should always be cautious of the charging port, as damaging it can completely ruin the vehicle. You can use Car Wash Mode, which we discuss a bit below, to ensure that all doors and windows lock. This decreases the risk of water getting into the cabin. 

The official Tesla Owners Manual suggests: 

Don’tDo’s
Not washing in direct sunlight Use Car Wash Mode 
Not using windshield treatment fluids Hand wash whenever possible
Not using hot water Make sure the vehicle dries completely, including the undercarriage
Not using chemical-based wheel cleaners or pre-wash products Spraying high-velocity water at the vehicles charge port 
Not using a cleaner that contains hydroxide or has a pH over 13 
This table compares the essential Do’s and Don’ts for washing a Tesla, as recommended in the official Tesla Owners Manual.

The manual suggests rinsing the car thoroughly to remove any dirt or grime, handwashing with a gentle cloth and cool to warm water, and shampooing with high-quality car shampoo. It’s essential to find a high-quality shampoo to avoid discoloration. 

This video gives you a good visual of what this process might look like:

Additionally, don’t forget to clean the small spots. Your cameras are essential for safe driving use, so remove any dirt, mud, or debris during your wash. Then, you’ll rinse again with water and dry with a chamois or with a brief drive.

EV Speedy’s Take

There’s nothing worse than seeing your expensive, luxurious Tesla covered in dirt and mud. You may have heard that hand washing is the only way to clean your Tesla, but is it true? 

You have to hand wash a tesla to avoid discoloration, hand washing is always the best idea to clean it. With Tesla’s in particular, hand washing should be done most of the time, with automatic and touchless options happening few and far between. 

You care greatly about your Tesla, so it’s natural to have some questions! With all its moving parts, plus a fragile water-based paint coating, washing a Tesla has some unique guidelines to follow. We hope that this article was helpful.


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Erwin Meyer
Erwin Meyer

Thanks for visiting evspeedy.com. The goal of this site is to be a helpful resource for Tesla and EV owners as this is where my passion lies. I was a TSLA shareholder before the hype and still am. I also believe in Tesla’s speedy mission to accelerate the world to a sustainable future.