Five Ways an Ordinary Car Wash Can Turn Costly to Car Owners

File photo of different car models at a car wash being cleaned
A photo of a man working at a local car wash
extreme clean

A car wash is among the normal undertakings that every car owner engages in to keep the cars in good condition including the interior, exterior, and engine of the vehicle.

However, a simple trip to the carwash can end up costing a motorist damages running into thousands of shillings which at most times, they are forced to shoulder on their own. spoke to a motor vehicle expert Miller Kyalo to explain some of the expenses car owners may incur from the simple service.

Car wash
File image of a car at a car wash

Kyalo pointed out that the engine wash can raise the bill of a motorist from Ksh350 to hundreds of thousands and insisted that all car owners should seek service from experienced personnel.

Engine damage

He explained the high-pressure water used may cause droplets to sneak past the rubber seals and cause damage to the engine. This depends on the vehicle's year of manufacture.

"For older models, 2012 and below, motorists need to worry about water accessing the throttle pathway. This is where the fuel injectors push fuel into the air above the throttle plates.

"When water gets into the air spaces, it may either sip into the spark plugs resulting in wear and tear and eventual damage," Kyalo explained.

He added that newer vehicles are fitted with multiple electronic censors. If washed by an inexperienced attendant, the water may lead to short-circuiting of the censors.

"Once the censors are damaged, there is a high likelihood that the car will not start. This is why I advise motorists to keep the engine running during the washes; to quickly dry up any water that sips in," he noted.

Body Damage

Car washes can easily lead to damage to the paintwork on vehicles. Kyalo pointed out that car patches are often a result of high saline content in water used in car washes.

"Most vehicles use borehole water which has high mineral content. With time, the minerals sip into the paintwork and slowly corrode the paint upon exposure to ultraviolet rays," Kyalo stated.

He added that some of the detergents used in carwashes contain chemicals that break down the paint composition and end up wearing out the paint over time.

However, not all car washes can afford the required soap. In addition, attendants who wash cars from the bottom-up risk damaging the paintwork using the debris if the rags are poorly wrung.

Damage to Interior

The greatest damage incurred in the interior of the vehicle is the short-circuiting of the speakers attached to the vehicle's doors.

A car sound dealership explained that each speaker costs roughly Ksh2,500 but pointed out that they must be replaced in pairs.

Consistent slippage of water through the door and window nobs may sip into the motor and short-circuit it. This may cause damage to the window winders and car locks.

This is why in some vehicles, the driver is unable to unlock other windows from the window switch, indicating that the central lock, which is mostly electronic has been damaged.

Reckless Car Wash attendants

Notably, not all expenses can be tagged to the water. Several car owners have counted losses in hundreds of thousands after car wash attendants crashed their vehicles.

In most car washes, motorists hand car keys to attendants who coordinate the flow of vehicles into and out of the washing bays. However, a number tend to overstep the temporary control they have.

With most of them learning how to drive on the job, at the car-wash location, or at a petrol station, a number end up causing accidents that at times lead to the loss of lives.

In October 2022, a car owner counted losses after an attendant crashed his brand-new vehicle along Langata road.

A man cleans a car at a temporary roadside car wash center
A man cleans a car at a temporary roadside car wash center

Fined for Washing  car at home

Unknown to many Nairobi residents, city by-laws prohibit residents from washing cars in their homes, especially if the drainage is poor.

"If you own a car, make sure you take it to a licensed car wash because it is illegal to wash a vehicle in a residential area or do a repair that requires dismantling it except in emergency cases,” City Lawyer Cliff Ombeta stated in a past interview. 

Breaking this law attracts a fine of Ksh2,000 which is paid to the county government.

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