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How to Use a Pressure Washer to Clean Your Car

Pressure washer spraying the back of a car

When it comes to your boat or even your back deck, nothing cleans quite like a pressure washer. These engine-powered machines spray high-pressure water and cleaner through a wand nozzle and can blast off even the most difficult dirt, grime and stains. Using your pressure washer can also be a great way to clean your car, but there are a few things you should know before you get started.

Too Much Pressure

In order to protect your car’s paint from being damaged, lower the pressure on your washer. Most pressure washers have a delicate setting that is about 2,000 psi — sometimes the machine even shows a symbol of a car to help you find the right setting. If your washer doesn’t have variable pressure, then don’t use it on your car. It could take the paint right off.

Tip Selection

Most washers include a few different tips for the wand. For washing cars, you’ll want to select the broad-spraying wash tip. This tip will spray wide, which is good for covering a lot of space in a single pass. Never use the fine-pointed blast tip, or you could damage the paint by putting too much pressure on too small of an area.

Washing Surface

The last thing to consider before you start washing is the surface your car is parked on. Never pressure wash your car while it’s parked on gravel or dirt, where debris can be sprayed onto the car and potentially damage it. A clean area of asphalt is the best place to pressure wash your car.

Rinse and Washpressure washing car

Now that you’ve set your washer and wand, you’re ready to go. Start by soaking the car with clean water and be sure to take extra care around lights, windows and other parts of the body that are more delicate. Next, standing a few feet back, spray the car with soap in overlapping strokes. Only use soap that’s meant for pressure washers. Allow a few minutes for it to soak in, but don’t let it dry. Finally, rinse off the soap with your broad tip again.

Outside Only

Pressure washers do a great job on the body of your car but should never be sprayed inside the engine bay. Not only is it not good to get water in the engine, but the high-pressure water can also damage engine components, hoses, wires and other things under the hood.

Using a pressure washer to clean your car is a great idea. It can clean better than your average hose and can wash your entire car much faster than you could by hand. There are, however, a few things that you should consider before hitting your car’s paint with a pressure washer. If you follow the above notes, though, your car will be safely cleaned in no time.

Check out all the tools & equipment available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on pressure washers, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Image courtesy of Flickr.


Erich Reichert View All

Erich Reichert has been an editor and on-air personality in the radio control car hobby for 12 years. A certified car nut since birth, he has written for internationally published titles such as RC Car Action, RC Driver and Xtreme RC Cars, as well as Stuff Magazine, Road and Track and Super Street. He's covered everything from product reviews and tech articles to high-profile lifestyle pieces and celebrity interviews. Erich found his passion for writing after a successful career as an art director, working with brands such as Pepsico, NASCAR, MTV, Nintendo, WWE, Cannondale Bicycles and HBO. He's also a father, an avid hockey fan and an FIA race license holder who enjoys hiking, playing drums and movies.

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