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Myth Busting Electric Car Myths: Yes, You Can Use a Car Wash

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Will an electric car survive the car wash? We find out.

Will an electric car survive the car wash? We find out.

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We’ve talked before about how all major electric cars on the market today have to undergo just as rigorous a water testing as their gasoline counterparts

But just like the many people who ask us on a weekly basis what happens when electric cars meet water perhaps there’s a voice somewhere that says the automakers are wrong. 

After all, your science teacher told you water and electricity don’t mix, right?

So, in order to settle the debate once and for all we decided to put our own 2011 Nissan Leaf through the high-water pressure trauma that is the local drive-thru car wash. 

Rolling up to the wash on a busy Saturday afternoon, we took our place in the queue with everything from large SUVS to family hatchbacks. And we waited. 

Pulling up to the attendant and manager of the carwash the magnitude of what we were facing was reinforced by unsubstantiated yet shockingly common misconceptions about the car. 

“Is that a hybrid?” he asked, noticing the zero emissions badge on the door of the Leaf. His verdict was swift and typical. “It’s electric? Fully electric? You don’t want to bring that in here. It could blow up!”

After a short conversation with us in which we agreed to accept any liability in case of being fried alive by the powerful traction battery short-circuiting, he agreed to let us in. Given the torrent of cars waiting to enter the car-wash, we were surprised he was willing to discuss it for such a long time - but perhaps the thought of the potential insurance claim was too much to bear. 

Choosing $15 premium wash and removing the leaf’s stubby aeriel, we sat and waited for the cleaning to begin. 

All the time, the Leaf attracted more attention. People were starting to point. Some laughed. Others stood by, one finger poised to call the emergency services. 

Treated to a quartet of pre-wash attendants (such was the apparent humor and disbelief that an electric car driver was being stupid audacious enough to use the car wash) the car was attacked from all sides with a firing squad of pressure washers and the softest of brushes. 

Lining the car up with the automatic conveyor belt inside the wash we caught one last sight of the bemused faces of the attendants and vanished into a sea of triple-colored foam.

Keeping the car on but in neutral, we sat back and let the car wash do its thing. 

We should probably note at this point that the car wash we chose has a bit of a reputation. Over the past few years it has been responsible for inducing leaks in everything from a Volvo 240 station wagon to a Ford Focus. It has also claimed a fair number of smashed windows, dislodged spoilers and broken mirrors. 

Yet our journey carried on regardless. Onwards to the fast-rotating brushes, the under-body wash and the rinse, both car and occupants remained in working condition. 

By the time we reached the wax application and blow-dry stage we were home dry. No burning smells, no flashing lights and no puddles. 

Pulling out of the carwash and back onto the road there wasn’t an issue at all. 

Who’d have thought it? An electric car designed to be driven anywhere in all weathers?

Myth busted.

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Comments (10)
  1. Awesome! But why does the windscreen wiper have a plastic bag over it?
     
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  2. That's the carwash. I think they had a couple of wipers get broken, so put them in these little protective... bags.
     
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  3. I have taken my Tesla Roadster through various car washes several times and never had an iota of a problem nor even a negative comment
     
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  4. At least in Southern California, no one would even think twice at having an EV in the car wash. Europe is definitely different than California's car washes. Practically all our car washes are cleaned by hand because of the cheap labor. Only the soap application and rinsing and waxing are done by machine.
     
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  5. I’ve put my 2007 Prius through carwashes every 3-4 winter weeks, ever since I bought it over 4 years ago. The process takes off the road salt. By the way, I’ve never removed the antenna first; it’s flexible and, if disturbed, just bobbles around a little. The radio’s never had trouble.
    It too has a ~ 220 volt electric system for the traction motor; I’ve never heard those rumors against this.
    Incidentally, mine has always gotten that little plastic bag slipped over the rear wiper, too; maybe it’s just a standard policy. I’ve never been quite sure why they do that, but I’ve seen no harm from it. It’s easily slipped off afterward.
     
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  6. I've used a touch-free car wash twice since we got our LEAF, we leave the antenna on though since the connector can corrode if not dried before re-installation. No problems and beautiful washes!
     
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  7. I take my Ford Ranger EV through the car wash all the time, and it's quite clearly marked "Electric" on the windshield, the plates say "Eletruk" and on the side is big "Alternative Fuel" stickers. Not once has any car wash ever asked me if it was OK to take it through.
     
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  8. How funny...I just took my Leaf to the local car wash and they were excited to have an electric car there. The owner even came out to say hello and ask about the car. Of course, I do live near San Francisco in Marin county, so we are a bit more forward on the 'green-positive' meter.
     
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  9. I drive a converted electric MR2 and though I am not quite ready to put my car through these car washes (see my blog post about this topic: http://blog.mr2ev.com/?p=933), it is great to know that this is not a limitation of electric cars. Great myth buster!
     
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  10. I love this article. It is hilarious. I can't believe so many people have such irrational fears.
     
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