Is a Pressure Washer Worth it for Cars? (Explained) 1

Is a Pressure Washer Worth it for Cars? (Explained)

Power Washers cost money.  Are they worth the investment when it comes to washing and detailing cars?

Is it worth investing in a pressure washer to wash your own car at home?

What if you are a professional detailer?  Is a pressure washer worth the expense?

Let’s find out.  These are the pros and cons of using a pressure washer to wash a car.

Quick Answer

A pressure washer is worth it for cars because it removes a lot of dirt without causing scratches.  Pre-washing your car with a pressure washer before you wash it with the two-bucket method will help your car look new and shiny for longer. 

Advantages of Washing Your Car With a Pressure Washer

  1. Reduce the risk of creating swirls and scratches.
  2. Get most of the dirt off without touching your car.
  3. You can get awkward parts such as wheels cleaned quickly.
  4. Use it to create thick snow foam to dissolve grease and dirt.
  5. Use it to clean floor mats.
  6. Use it to clean trunk mats.
  7. It uses less water than a hose.
  8. Fantastic for mud.
  9. Fantastic for wheel wells.
  10. Use the pressure washer for other jobs around your home.

Disadvantages of Washing Your Car with a Pressure Washer

  1. You need access to a hose.
  2. You need access to power (unless it’s gas-powered).
  3. You might need to move the pressure washer as you go around your car.
  4. You may need to turn your car around if the hose isn’t long enough.
  5. The hose can scratch your car.
  6. A pressure washer won’t take all of the dirt off.
  7. A pressure washer won’t remove tar or rubber marks on the paint.
  8. Using a narrow-angle tip can damage paint or plastic trim.
  9. Too much power can damage paint or plastic trim.
  10. Not enough power and it won’t clean very well.
  11. It can take longer to wash your car.
  12. The foam looks really cool.

How a Pressure Washer can Actually Prevent Scratches!

Whenever you touch your car paint you scratch it slightly.  Especially if you use brushes or sponges.

These scratches are invisible at first.  But over time you’ll end up with faded paint or swirl marks.  You’ll need to polish your car to make it look good again.

Using the two-bucket method along with microfiber wash mitts will help a lot.

But dragging a filthy wash mitt along your paint will cause swirls and scratches.

Some dirt could require you to scrub your paint.  This will definitely cause scratches and should be avoided as much as possible.

This is where a pre-rinse with a pressure washer makes a huge difference.

A Pressure Washer will remove most of the dirt that would otherwise scratch your car.

The dirt left behind after the pressure washer pre-wash stage needs to be loosened up with a microfibre wash mitt.  But this dirt is likely to be a very fine film of dirt because your pressure washer has removed any larger particles.

That is the main advantage of using a pressure washer.

Will a Pressure Washer Save me Time When Washing my Car?

A pressure washer will save you time if your car is very dirty and muddy.  Mud can be hard to clean off properly with a microfiber wash mitt.

If you have a lot of brake dust on your wheels you get rid of most of it with a pressure washer.  But if the brake dust is bonded to your wheels you’ll need to use a wheel cleaner to dissolve it first.

When rinsing off your car after your hand wash a pressure washer can get it done faster than using just a hose.

Adding a pre-rinse stage to your regular car wash routine will obviously add time to the task.  But maybe you’re saving time in the long run because you’re protecting your shine so you don’t need to polish your car as often.

How to Pre-Wash Your Car with a Pressure Washer and Foam Cannon.

Pre-Washing is one of the main advantages of using a pressure washer.  Here are some tips I picked up over the years.

Snow Foam breaks down grease and that oily film that sticks grit and other junk to your paint.  That fine grit could scratch your car when doing a hand wash.

  1. Use a dedicated snow foam shampoo for thick foam.
  2. Use a quality foam cannon – many don’t work very well.
  3. Park in the shade and let your paint cool.
  4. Spray your wheels with a wheel cleaner to dissolve brake dust.
  5. Foam your whole car from top to bottom.
  6. Get foam into the wheels and wheel wells.
  7. Let the foam do its thing for a few minutes.
  8. Rinse it off with a wide-angle nozzle on your pressure washer.
  9. Start doing the two-bucket method straight away to prevent the water from causing water spots.

How Clean Will my Car Get with a Pressure Washer?

Obviously, power washer manufacturers won’t tell you this but one of the downsides of using a pressure washer to wash your car is that it won’t take all of the dirt off.

It will get a lot of it off, especially if you use a foam cannon, but not all.

There are some snow foam shampoos out there that claim to get all of the dirt off but I haven’t tried them yet.

Bilt Hamber Auto Foam is probably the best pre-wash foam shampoo I have used but you will still need to hand wash your car with the two-bucket method after.

How Much Should I Spend on a Pressure Washer?

You don’t need to buy an expensive gas-pressure washer for washing cars.

Modern electric pressure washers have plenty of power.

But some really cheap options don’t have enough power.  And there are reports of online resellers overstating the PSI and GSM numbers.

Sun Joe Pressure Washer seems to be really good.  I have noticed that a number of pro detailers use them.  Including a  guy detailing a new Porsche.  Check out my review here.

I have been using a Karcher K5 Full Control recently.  It costs more but I like the power output and the fact that the pressure can be adjusted.  This German brand has a good reputation and feels very well made.

The 25-foot hose on the K5 means you don’t have to drag the pressure washer around the car with you.

It’s also great for cleaning my driveway.

Final Words

For me, a pressure washer is definitely worth it.  I like to keep my car looking amazing.

If you want to keep scratches to a minimum and keep your car looking good you should definitely consider using a pressure washer and a foam cannon attachment.

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