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? 

Handwashing is the best way to clean a Tesla, but it can be time-consuming. Touchless car washes are a safer option, but they still require proper maintenance. Use specialized cleaning products, avoid harsh chemicals and maintain the sensors. For best results, handwashing and touchless car washes should be done on a regular basis to keep the car looking new and the sensors working properly.

In this article, we’ll be discussing the different ways to wash a Tesla, their pros and cons, and the best methods to keep your Tesla looking shiny and new, without damaging its sensors and other components. So, grab your bucket, wash mitt and let’s dive in!”

Table Of Contents
  1. 7 Setbacks Of Handwashing A Tesla
  2. Advantages of Washing A Tesla Through an Automatic Car Wash
  3. Can You Take A Tesla Through A Carwash?
  4. How To Run Tesla Through Car Wash
  5. Why do you need to put your Tesla into neutral while going through a car wash? 
  6. What is Tesla Car Wash Mode?
  7. Can a Tesla Go Through A Touchless Car Wash?
  8. Washing A Tesla Using a Pressure Washer
  9. Other Points To Consider When Washing Your Tesla: 
  10. How to hand wash your Tesla 
  11. Pro-Tips for Hand Washing Your Tesla
  12. What is a Touchless Car Wash?
  13. Step-by-Step Guide for Handwashing a Tesla
  14. Wash Maintenance Schedule for Teslas
  15. FAQs

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.

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. 

Advantages of Washing A Tesla 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. 

Disadvantages of Washing A Tesla 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.

Washing A 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. 

  • Always wash the car in the shade to avoid water spots.
  • Use a microfiber mitt (clean microfiber towel), clean cloth, or towel to avoid scratching the paint.
  • Avoid using high-pressure water when rinsing the car, as it can damage the sensors.
  • Make sure to wash the car thoroughly, paying special attention to areas that are prone to collecting dirt and grime, such as the wheels and undercarriage.
  • Use specialized car wash soap that is safe for Tesla paint.

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: 

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.

What is a Touchless Car Wash?

A touchless car wash uses high-pressure water jets and special cleaning solutions to clean a vehicle, without the use of brushes or other mechanical parts. This makes it a safer option for Tesla vehicles, as it eliminates the risk of scratches or damage from mechanical parts.

Why are Touchless Car Washes Better for Tesla Owners?

Tesla cars have sensitive sensors and advanced technology that can be easily damaged by traditional car washes. The paint on Tesla vehicles is also more delicate than that of traditional cars and can be easily damaged by harsh chemicals or abrasive brushes. Touchless car washes are a safer option because they use gentle cleaning solutions and high-pressure water jets to clean the vehicle without causing damage.

Specific Touchless Car Washes Safe for Tesla Vehicles

Some touchless car washes that are known to be safe for Tesla vehicles include:

  • The Eco Touchless Car Wash
  • The Aqua Jet Touchless Car Wash
  • The Soft Touch Touchless Car Wash

It is always recommended to check with the touchless car wash service before visiting, to ensure that they have experience with Tesla vehicles and use cleaning solutions that are safe for the paint and sensors.

Step-by-Step Guide for Handwashing a Tesla

  1. Gather necessary materials: Before starting to handwash your Tesla, gather all the necessary materials such as a bucket, car wash soap, microfiber towels, and a hose. It’s recommended to use a specialized car wash soap that is safe for Tesla paint.
  2. Rinse the car: Start by rinsing the entire car with water to remove loose dirt and debris. Make sure to use a gentle stream of water to avoid scratching the paint.
  3. Wash the car: Next, fill the bucket with water and add the recommended amount of car wash soap. Using a microfiber mitt or towel, wash the car in sections, starting from the top and working your way down. Be sure to wash the car thoroughly, paying special attention to areas that are prone to collecting dirt and grime, such as the wheels and undercarriage.
  4. Rinse the car again: Once you have finished washing the car, rinse it thoroughly with water to remove any remaining soap residue.
  5. Dry the car: Use a microfiber towel to gently dry the car, making sure to remove any water spots.

Wash Maintenance Schedule for Teslas

How Often Should a Tesla be Washed?

It is recommended to wash your Tesla at least once a week, or more frequently if you frequently drive in dirty or dusty conditions. Regular washing will help to protect the paint and maintain the vehicle’s appearance.

Paint Maintenance

Proper paint maintenance is essential to preserving the appearance of your Tesla. It’s important to use a specialized car wash soap that is safe for Tesla paint and to avoid harsh chemicals or abrasive brushes that can damage the paint.

In addition to regular washing, it’s also recommended to apply a coat of wax or sealant to the paint to protect it from the elements. This should be done at least twice a year, or more frequently if you live in an area with harsh weather conditions.

It’s also important to avoid parking your Tesla in direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time, as the sun can cause the paint to fade or discolor.

Cleaning the Interior

Regularly cleaning the interior of your Tesla is also important to maintain the appearance and functionality of the vehicle. This includes cleaning the seats, carpets, dashboard, and other surfaces. It’s recommended to use a specialized cleaner that is safe for use on the materials used in Tesla interiors.

It’s also important to avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials when cleaning the interior, as these can damage the surfaces or cause discoloration.

Cleaning and Maintaining Tesla Sensors

Tesla vehicles have various sensors that are important for the car’s safety features and functionality. These sensors can easily be damaged by dust, dirt, and debris. It’s important to regularly clean and maintain these sensors to ensure that they are working properly.

Washing the Sensors

The best way to clean the sensors is to wash them with a foam cannon and a wash mitt. Use a circular motion to gently scrub the sensors, being careful not to apply too much pressure. Avoid using automatic car washes or waterless car washes as they can damage the sensors.

The Two-Bucket Method

Another effective way to clean the sensors is to use the two-bucket method. This method involves using two buckets, one for soapy water and the other for clean water. Use a wash mitt to scrub the sensors with soapy water, then rinse the sensors with clean water. This method helps to prevent scratches and swirl marks on the sensors.

Removing Debris and Stains

If the sensors are covered in debris or stains, such as bird droppings or road salt, it’s important to remove them as soon as possible. The best method is to use a waterless wash, a spray bottle, and a microfiber towel. The waterless wash will dissolve the debris, and the microfiber towel will remove it without scratching the sensors.

Regular Maintenance

It’s important to regularly check the sensors and clean them on a regular basis. This will ensure that the sensors are working properly and will not be damaged by dirt, dust, and debris. It’s also a good idea to check the Tesla forums for any specific recommendations on cleaning and maintaining the sensors for your Tesla model.

It’s important to note that when washing the sensors, it’s best to use a low-pressure spray and avoid using abrasive materials. It’s also a good idea to use a clay bar, or specialized sensor cleaning products for best results.

It’s also important to be mindful when cleaning the rest of your Tesla, such as the car’s paint, to ensure that you’re not transferring dirt, dust, and debris to the sensors while cleaning other parts of the car. This is why using a grit guard and the two-bucket method is a great way to ensure that the sensors stay clean and free of debris.

It’s also important to regularly clean the car’s interior surfaces and ensure that you’re not transferring dirt, dust, and debris to the sensors. This is why using car shampoo and a clean microfiber towel is a great way to ensure that the sensors stay clean and free of debris.

Finally, it’s always a good idea to check with the Tesla forums for any specific recommendations for cleaning and maintaining the sensors for your Tesla model or check with Tesla’s official website for any guidelines before cleaning the sensors.”


Do You Have to Hand Wash a Tesla?

Handwashing your Tesla is the safest option for preserving its delicate exterior. However, touchless car washes provide a viable alternative, ensuring proper cleanliness without risking damage to the vehicle’s sensitive components.

Can Tesla Go Through a Car Wash?

Teslas can go through car washes, but opting for touchless car washes is crucial to prevent potential damage to the vehicle’s sensors and delicate paintwork. Choosing the right type of car wash ensures the Tesla’s safety during the cleaning process.

How to Put Tesla in Car Wash Mode

To prepare your Tesla for a touchless car wash, navigate to the Car Controls section, select Service, and then choose the Car Wash Mode option. This feature is designed to optimize the car for the car wash process, ensuring a smooth and safe experience for your Tesla.

What’s the Best Car Wash for Tesla Model 3?

When searching for the ideal car wash for your Tesla Model 3, prioritize touchless options that utilize gentle cleaning solutions. Ensuring the car wash uses products that are safe for the sensitive paint and components of the Tesla is essential for maintaining its pristine appearance.

How Does a Touchless Car Wash Benefit Tesla?

Opting for a touchless car wash for your Tesla ensures a thorough cleaning process without the risk of scratches or damage that might occur with traditional car wash methods. This approach helps maintain the Tesla’s exterior in top condition, preserving its sleek and polished look.

What Precautions Should I Take for Touchless Car Wash Tesla?

Before taking your Tesla through a touchless car wash, ensure it is in neutral, turn off the automatic wipers, and securely close the trunk. These precautions help prevent any potential issues during the car wash process, ensuring the safety of your Tesla.

How to Maintain Tesla Paint After a Wash

After washing your Tesla, consider applying wax or sealant every six months to protect the paint from potential damage.

Additionally, minimizing direct sunlight exposure can prevent paint fading and discoloration, preserving the vibrant and attractive look of your Tesla’s exterior.

Can Automatic Car Wash Damage a Tesla?

The brushes and rollers used in automatic car washes can potentially cause scratches and damage to the delicate paint of a Tesla. Opting for gentle touchless car washes or handwashing is advisable to maintain the vehicle’s exterior integrity.

What’s the Safest Way to Clean Tesla Sensors?

Cleaning Tesla sensors requires using a low-pressure spray and avoiding abrasive materials that could cause damage. Consulting the Tesla forums for specific tips and guidelines on sensor maintenance can help ensure the sensors remain in optimal condition for enhanced safety features.

How Often Should You Wash Your Tesla?

To keep your Tesla in prime condition, aim to wash it at least once a week, especially if you frequently drive in dusty or dirty conditions. Regular washing not only maintains the Tesla’s appearance but also contributes to its overall longevity and performance.

Check out these 20 great gift ideas for yourself or a Tesla fanboy.

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Erwin Meyer
Erwin Meyer

A renowned Tesla enthusiast, and successful entrepreneur, enlightens global audiences through his compelling EV narratives. Discover more about his electric journey on his About Me page. Venture to read Erwin's incredible story that's reshaping the future of motoring. Want to spark a conversation with Erwin? Visit his Contact page, and let’s electrify the world together.