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Home and Health

Stay Safe in an Automated Car Wash

Illustration for article titled Stay Safe in an Automated Car Wash

When spring arrives and the temperatures linger well above freezing, automated car washes become hotspots for drivers hoping to clean away winter’s dirt and grime or the excess mud from a spring rain. While automated car washes are designed to be easy to use, drivers are still at risk of being involved in an accident. According to Donna Nesselbush, car accident attorney at Marasco & Nesselbush, LLP, a car accident, whether big or small, can have stressful results from worrying about dealing with insurance adjusters to receiving compensation for medical bills related to the accident and vehicle damage.


Although major accidents in an automated car wash may be rare, a fender bender with the car in front or behind of yours happens on occasion. Here are ways to avoid an accident the next time you drive through a car wash:

Read All the Signs

Whether you’re a frequent visitor to your neighborhood car wash or you’ve decided to try out the automated wash for the first time, it’s important that you know what to do, how they work, and to read any and all signs.


In general, automated car washes work the same, but may vary from site to site. First, you drive up to a pay station and select type of wash you want, pay for the wash, and wait for instructions to enter the car wash. In most cases, you will pay and select your wash moments before you enter the wash station, however, if it’s busy, you may have a wait a few minutes. As you wait, take notice of any signs or notifications coming from the pay station.

Many car washes have a simple green light (go) & red light (stop) system. When you’re given a green light and are alerted to drive forward, it’s your turn for a wash. If the automated wash is on a conveyor or track system, you will be instructed to drive onto the track and put your car in neutral. Never move your vehicle until you’re instructed to move forward. In some cases, you may be asked to back up if you’ve driven past the sensors that start the wash.


It’s always a good idea to jot down or take note of the car wash’s contact information, in the event that you encounter an issue while in the wash cycle. A majority of washes have attendants and/or surveillance on hand, but they may not be able to catch all or any issues.

In the Event of a Problem

If you’ve ever gone to a car wash on a slow day, you may notice that the spacing between you and other vehicles is much greater than on busier days; don’t worry this is normal. The spacing of vehicles depends greatly on the demand, as well as the length of the wash. For instance, the car in front of you may have paid for the standard wash, while you may have paid for the longer, “ultimate” wash. In general, the safe spacing between cars, particularly on a busy day, is anywhere between 3 and 6 feet. While that may be too close for comfort, pay attention to the vehicle in front of you and all of the alerts you receive. If you suspect any issues with the spacing of cars or you find yourself in a fender bender, call for help immediately, but never get out of your vehicle until all operations have been put on hold or you have been told it’s safe to leave your car.

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