Every car owner, at some point, has a random thought go into their head when entering a car wash. “What happens if my car gets messed up?” This question may only come to your mind once, probably when you enter a car wash for the very first time.
After a hundred washes, you may not really worry about your car. However, there could be a moment when your car does get damaged when you put it through a car wash. What happens then? Does your car insurance cover the damage? In this blog post, we provide a comprehensive overview of the potential risks associated with car washing and dive into how car insurance for car wash damage works.
Should You Even Wash Your Car?
Car washes, whether automatic or manual, can occasionally lead to damage. Yet, before we even discuss what might happen if you take your car to a bad car wash, let’s start off by talking about if you even need your car cleaned in the first place.
How often should you wash your car?
The frequency of car washing largely depends on the environment and usage. If you live in a dusty area or your car is exposed to bird droppings or tree sap, more frequent washing may be necessary. However, be cautious not to over-wash as it could lead to unwanted damage to your car's paint or mechanical parts. Typically, washing your car every two weeks is a good standard to maintain.
Risks of not washing your car
Conversely, not washing your car regularly can also lead to problems. Dirt and chemicals can eat into the paint, while salts used for de-icing roads can cause corrosion to the car's underbody. Regular washing helps preserve your car's aesthetic appeal and overall value, and can also prevent more costly repairs down the line.
What to Watch Out For Before Taking Your Car to a Car Wash
Being aware of potential risks helps to avoid mishaps. Here are some things to consider before your next car wash visit.
Is taking your car through a car wash a bad idea?
While most car washes are generally safe, damage can happen under certain circumstances. High-pressure water jets, harsh chemicals, or improper handling can cause scratches, dents, or damage to car accessories. Still, many car owners find the convenience of a professional car wash well worth the small amount of risk. However, it's always wise to use a well-known service provider and check reviews before you go.
How does car wash damage happen?
Car wash damage can happen in several ways, including mechanical malfunctions, employee negligence, or failure to prepare your car correctly before the wash. Sometimes, pre-existing damage may get worse during the car wash. It's important to be aware of your vehicle's condition before washing and address any pre-existing damage.
Is there a waiver or sign posted that you can read before bringing your car in?
Always look for a waiver or sign detailing the car wash's policy on potential damages. This can give you an idea of their liability in case of mishaps. Not only can this give you peace of mind, but it also provides a basis for any potential future disputes or claims regarding car wash damage.
Look for a “damage policy”
If a car wash has a damage policy, it means they assume some responsibility for any damage caused during the washing process. A clear and transparent damage policy is often a good sign of a reputable car wash company.
Do automatic car washes damage paint?
Automatic car washes have been known to cause scratches or 'swirl marks' on the paintwork. This typically happens if the washing brushes are not properly cleaned and maintained. While these marks might be minor, they can build up over time and degrade your car's appearance. Hence, opting for touchless car washes or hand washes can be a safer bet.
What happens if I don't put my car in neutral in a car wash?
If you don't put your car in neutral during an automatic car wash, you risk causing mechanical damage to your vehicle or the car wash equipment. This could potentially lead to costly repairs. Always follow the car wash attendant's instructions or posted guidelines to ensure a safe and effective car wash.
Who’s Responsible for Car Wash Damages?
Figuring out who's at fault can be confusing. Let's clarify who might be responsible in the case of car wash damages.
Responsibility for damage can depend on factors like the type of car wash and whether the damage was due to mechanical issues or human error. If it's proven that the car wash company or their employees were at fault, they would likely be held accountable for the damage.
Is the car wash company owner responsible?
Car wash company owners may be held responsible if the damage was due to faulty equipment or employee negligence. However, if the damage occurred due to factors outside their control, such as customer negligence, they may not be held accountable.
Steps to Take If Your Car Gets Damaged at a Car Wash
If your car gets damaged during a wash, there are certain steps you can take.
What to do if a car wash damages your car?
First, document the damage with photos. Next, report the damage to the car wash owner or manager. If they don't take responsibility, you may need to contact your insurance company or a lawyer. Keep a calm and composed attitude throughout the process as it can lead to better communication and resolution.
How to get the car wash company to pay for any damages
Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to negotiate with the car wash company or take them to a small claims court for compensation. Always consult with a legal professional or your insurance provider before taking this step to understand the possible implications and outcomes.
Give your car a thorough inspection before you leave the car wash
Before leaving the car wash, it's important to give your vehicle a comprehensive inspection to identify any potential damage immediately. Here's a detailed checklist to help you:
- Check the paintwork: Look over the entire body of your car. Make sure there are no new scratches, dents, or swirl marks in the paint. Also, look for any discoloration, fading, or chipping paint.
- Inspect the windows and mirrors: Ensure that all windows, mirrors, and frames are intact without any chips, cracks, or scratches.
- Examine the wheels and tires: Check the tires for any signs of damage, such as scratches on the rims or tears in the rubber.
- Look at the undercarriage: If possible, take a peek underneath your car. Car wash mechanisms can sometimes cause damage to lower parts of your vehicle that are not immediately visible.
- Check the lights: Make sure that all headlights, taillights, and signal lights are functioning correctly and that their covers are intact.
- Inspect the windshield wipers: Make sure your windshield wipers are functioning properly and haven’t been damaged by the car wash mechanisms.
- Look at the sunroof: If your car has a sunroof, double-check that it hasn’t been damaged or has any leaks.
- Open and close doors, trunk, and hood: Open and close all doors, the trunk, and the hood to see if they haven't been misaligned during the wash.
- Check the interiors: Quickly glance over the interiors from outside to see if water or cleaning solution has entered the car.
Taking a few minutes for this inspection can help you identify any damage, which can be vital for insurance or damage claims.
Car Insurance Coverage and Car Wash Damages
Understanding your insurance policy can help you know what to expect if your car gets damaged at a car wash.
What specific car insurance coverage will cover car wash damages?
Typically, damages from car washes may be covered under a comprehensive insurance policy. However, every policy differs, so it's important to confirm with your insurance provider. In some cases, the deductible may be higher than the cost of repair, so consider all aspects before filing a claim.
Can I still file a claim if I signed a waiver before getting my car cleaned?
Waivers may limit the car wash's liability, but they don't necessarily exempt them from all responsibility. If your car was damaged due to the negligence or error of the car wash, you might still be able to file a claim. However, legal advice would be beneficial in such cases to understand your options better.
What happens if both my car and the car wash were damaged?
In such a case, determining liability can be complex. It could depend on who was at fault, the extent of the damage, and the terms of the car wash's damage policy. You may need to involve your insurance provider and potentially legal professionals to navigate the situation.
The Most Important Thing to Remember is That This Rarely Happens
Going to a car wash can be a time-saving way to keep your vehicle clean and in good shape. However, it's important to be aware of potential risks and know your rights and responsibilities. Always check the car wash's policies, maintain a good understanding of your own car insurance coverage, and take immediate action if you notice any damage.