Journal: Is Washing Your Own Car a Waste of Time or Point of Pride?

Is Washing Your Own Car a Waste of Time or Point of Pride?

By Jonathan WC Mills
January 30, 2014

Photography by David Marvier for Petrolicious

I have discovered a sense of satisfaction in washing and waxing my own car. I will admit this is a fairly recent development. Living in Los Angeles means I have many detailing options at my fingertips. Services that will come to your office, mall parking lots where they detail while you’re at the movies, standard drive-through car washes with ‘hand drying’, and full detailing spas for your car… Many of these services do a decent job, yet many more do not. In fact I am slightly uncomfortable with the notion of dirty hands, sandy rags and…strangers, buffing, polishing, and otherwise touching my car. It’s not that they don’t do a great job, they often do, but they aren’t me.

As a result, I have come to the conclusion that having a car you love means you should take care of it. I could continue to provide a living to strangers to clean my car but having purchased the equipment (buckets, soap, wax, clay bars, chamois’, and various assorted sprays and applicators…), I have come to believe that there is enormous value in doing the job yourself. Why? Due to the fact that you are making an investment in your car that pays dividends in pride. Sure, you’ll get admiring glances regardless of who did the work, but those same glances become a form of real validation when you do it yourself.

What about you? Do you spend the hours doing the work or is your time more valuable?

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Alex Deutschle
Alex Deutschle(@mr-vantage)
7 years ago

And you can be sure who did the last scratch to the car recently!

John Dingivan
John Dingivan(@dingj003)
7 years ago

There is no better way to spend a Sunday morning detailing your car. A cup of coffee, some classic rock on the radio. Than a nice long drive.

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange(@365daytonafan)
7 years ago

I love to wash my car, it is part of the ritual of ownership. Having said that once a year I like to get it [url=””]professionally[/url] detailed, it helps keep everything in good order, and clean parts of the car I don’t have the equipment to clean myself.

Gary Groce
Gary Groce(@groceg)
7 years ago

Frankly, I would NEVER let anyone touch my cars to wash or wax them. It’s bad enough having to turn one over to a mechanic when I’m unable to do the work myself.

Joshua Pidek
Joshua Pidek(@fb_675671455)
7 years ago

Washing my own car is both therapeutic and a point of pride; I love my car, and I enjoy cleaning it up whenever I can.

Walter R. Moore
Walter R. Moore(@moorewr)
7 years ago

Pride in your car, yes, and prudence, too. Touch-less washes and the like are OK, but if you do the work you know care was taken not to scratch the clearcoat, the wheels got a proper cleaning beyond the fronts, and so on. A proper detail is expensive, any way, so why cheap out on your car, conversely why spend all that money when you can DIY?

7 years ago

Washing your car yourself is part of ownership and I would not let anyone else touch my pride and joy. It’s like letting someone else bathe your girl. No chance.

Darin Spyderdog
Darin Spyderdog(@darinspyderdog)
7 years ago

NEVER let anybody else wash you vintage car, EVER. I made the mistake of ignoring this once, and the result was a cracked/broken logo, a 10 inch long scratch, and the end of the mint condition original paint on my 72 corvette. The detailer was supposedly a vintage specialist, and has a history here in the area a mile long.

JanMichael Franklin
JanMichael Franklin(@jmfranklin)
7 years ago

I just believe that nobody else cares about my cars as much as I do, and the little details aren’t going to get done by someone else. Also, there is a sense of accomplishment when the ride looks good by your own hand. It’s not unlike when you make that repair or modification yourself rather than taking it for someone else to do.

Gonzalo (@lalorto)
7 years ago

Washing your car (classic or not) it’s the first step to know and love it!


Louie crossfield
Louie crossfield(@toomanyms)
7 years ago

Pride of ownership that’s what comes down too . I absolutely love the process even my daily driver gets the same attention . I take pide in being able to do a complete detail from stem to stern leaving behind the scratch free protection that protect my pride and joys . Drive and protect

Louie crossfield
Louie crossfield(@toomanyms)
7 years ago

Clean car is a happy car

Todd Cox
Todd Cox(@mc70)
7 years ago

While I occasionally will run my car through a touchless wash (rinse), it doesn’t get the car nearly as clean as hand washing. And while I do get great satisfaction out of washing my car simply because it is truly clean, it is also a bonding time for the car. Being in the aviation industry, I understand the value of frequent inspection and corrosion prevention. My paint is OEM, and is now 18 years old. It looks nearly showroom shiny, though has a few scuffs and scratches (proof of authenticity). I’m intimate with the one or two little imperfections in the body and I catch areas that are collecting grime and ripe for corrosion early. I see if there’s a leak somewhere that needs attention, and bolts that might need replacing or rubber bits that have finally succumbed to time and use.

I truly believe that when you hand wash your car and detail it, it is a way to connect with a very mechanical device. It isn’t like bonding with a living thing, exactly, but there’s an element of closeness and familiarity that is enhanced. And sometimes, it starts a nasty headache of maintenance, but that’s just the nature of owning an older car.

Matt C
Matt C (@longdx)
7 years ago

I love detailing my cars (although none would be considered Petrolicious material minus a half finished ’73 Super Beetle). There is a tangible satisfaction in applying correct detailing techniques to reinvigorate the exterior and interior surfaces of your car. As James May said on TG, ” clean your car, clear your mind”.

The Obtainer
The Obtainer(@theobtainer)
7 years ago

We clean our cars because it’s a way to momentarily escape the busy rush of society.
Washing, rinsing, drying, polishing, waxing, detailing – the procedure is calming, and then afterwards ‘just going for a drive’, there’s nothing quite like it! A grin from ear to ear!

Erwan Brillot
Erwan Brillot(@starskeye)
7 years ago

I might be different, but I also do enjoy when the car is dirty, meaning “I drive it like I stoled it”.

And then, when I wash it, I can really see the difference 🙂

David P
David P(@secablue)
7 years ago

Washing it yourself is part of the joy of ownership.

Apart from that, it gives me a few choice hours to myself where I don’t have to ‘put this in the loft’ or ‘look at the kettle please, it’s stopped working’ etc.

I don’t think I could be bothered if I didn’t have a garage to put it in after though.

Ben Lamboeuf
Ben Lamboeuf(@ducbeak)
7 years ago

I like to detail my car and my motorcycle after each drive. It’s not that time-consuming because the car doesn’t get dirty if you stay on top of things. I don’t keep my car clean to impress anyone. I see it as basically essential as wearing clean clothes when you leave your house. It’s a matter of good taste.

Jimmy Arata
Jimmy Arata(@aratapuss)
7 years ago

I have found absolute enjoyment caring for the exterior of my cars. I love to experiment with different products, and enjoy the time spent unwinding mentally while bringing out the best possible shine. More than a few people think I am punishing myself doing this, but at the same time, wish I was working on their cars.

I have had to enlist the pros a few times when I had a condition or two I did not want to risk undertaking, but 95\% of the time I will do things myself. I have a nice building, and usually take parts of 2 or 3 days for a total job. It is much cheaper than a psychiatrist I am told.

Dustin Rittle
Dustin Rittle(@mosler)
7 years ago

Im personally not against someone touching my classic car if i owned one but thats just me. I personally believe cars are a multi sensory experience from seeing them,touching them,hearing them(engine,exhaust) also hearing the stories from the owner. Now i would never leave my car unattended unless i had someone i trusted to stay near it. I most likely would wash my car as much as possible to keep that baby shining for all to see. Honestly tho if someone wants to touch it by all means you may never get the chance again depending on the car