Do You Have to Hand Wash a Tesla?

We all love Teslas, regardless of their models, for their chic, sleek look with all those futuristic features and technologies. However, one big question is bothering some Tesla lovers, and that’s how they should wash an EV with so many electric parts. Should you hand wash your Tesla like a regular car?

You don’t have to hand wash a Tesla, but it’s usually the best way. Car wash or other methods can damage the car’s paint and leave scratches on it. However, if you can’t hand wash your Tesla, make sure the chemicals aren’t harmful to your car paint and plastic parts. Remember to use a touchless car wash.

If you’re confused and don’t know how to wash your Tesla, this article is for you. We will cover different methods for washing Tesla cars and help you choose the best one to have a super clean and shiny car. Read on to learn more about Tesla car wash methods.

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The Best Way to Wash a Tesla

Since Tesla cars are different from regular gas-engined vehicles, they may require different washing methods. In its owner’s manuals for models such as Model 3 and Model Y, Tesla points out that you shouldn’t take your Tesla car to a typical automatic car wash. If you do, only use the touchless car washes as they don’t use giant brushes that come in contact with the car’s surface.

It also cautions the Tesla owners not to use a pressure washer and advises them to keep a distance if they’ve got to use it. According to Tesla, you should stay away for at least 12 inches (or 30 cm) from the car when using a pressure washer.

Additionally, Tesla warns you against using hot water when washing your car and advises you to stay away from detergents or shampoos that contain highly alkaline or caustic chemicals. 

Considering what Tesla advises, going with a hand wash seems to be the wisest choice. However, hand washing a Tesla also requires careful attention and following some steps. 

Hand Washing a Tesla

Do You Have to Hand Wash a Tesla

To hand-wash your Tesla, you should use high-quality products that aren’t very alkaline or don’t have caustic ingredients. After providing the right cleaning products, you should wash your Tesla according to the following steps:

1. Rinse and Dry the Car

First of all, wash down your car using a typical garden hose (not a pressure washer). This step helps remove some of the dirt and debris from its surface and also softens the more stubborn stains and grimes.

Now, use the two-buckets method – a bucket of car wash soap solution and a rinsing bucket. Fill each bucket with at least two gallons of water and add some soap to one of them.

Divide the car into different sections to wash them one after another. Then dip a microfiber wash mitt into the soap solution bucket and gently clean up each section of your Tesla. Once your mitt gets dirty and saturated, dunk it in the water bucket to rinse it off. 

Then dip it again in the soap solution and repeat the same process for the whole car surface. Once you’re done, take the garden hose and wash down your Tesla again to remove the remaining soap or dirt. Then dry off your Tesla using an absorbent microfiber towel. 

2. Clay the Car

If you still find dirty spots on your Tesla, claying your car can be very helpful. To do so, you should use a high-quality clay lube and spray a generous amount of it on a section of your car. Now, using a clay pad, gently scrub its surface to remove dirt or grimes. 

Once you’re done with claying a section, wash the lube and dirt with water and get to the next section. After claying and rinsing the whole car, dry it off again. 

3. Give It a Ceramic Coat

Ceramic coating helps protect your car’s paint from scratches or chemical damages and makes it shine. To give your Tesla a ceramic coatings, you should first get an excellent ceramic product. 

After making sure that your car surface is completely dry, shake the ceramic coat bottle and spray some onto a section of the car’s body. Now, grab a microfiber towel and, using up-down motions, buff the product onto the car’s paint. 

Don’t do this step on a hot day or in direct sun. Find a cool shady place for applying the coating. Otherwise, the ceramic coating evaporates quickly and doesn’t adhere to the car’s surface. You should let the coating stay for 48 hours to harden and make sure it doesn’t get wet during that time.  

Other Washing Methods for Washing a Tesla

Waterless Car Wash

This method is straightforward and quick. As the name suggests, it uses no or very little water. The only thing you need is a waterless car wash product and a few microfiber towels.

For example, Chemical Guys WAC_202, available on Amazon, is a great, quick-wipe waterless car wash product that leaves no stain and provides UV protection. 

Divide your car’s surface into different sections like the previous method. Then spray a generous amount of the product onto a section and let it sit on your car surface for a few minutes to dissolve the dirt and grimes. Then gently wipe off the product and dirt from your car.

Move to another section of your car and repeat the same process until you’ve washed the whole car. Remember to avoid too much pressure and use gentle strokes in one direction – not in circles. Besides, don’t use the same microfiber towel for wiping all sections.

Touchless Car Wash

Touchless car washes don’t use giant brushes or rollers that contact your Tesla and scratch its surface. However, they usually use harsh products to remove dirt from your car.

While this method isn’t optimal, it’s highly preferred over regular contact car washes. Most automatic car washes have conveyors that drag cars through, so all of their wheels should be able to rotate. That’s why you should put your car in neutral in a touchless car wash.

Unlike combustion cars, you can’t switch a Tesla to neutral by flicking the gear selector. It goes to park after 20 seconds if you aren’t in the car. Don’t forget to fold the car’s mirrors and turn off the windshield wipers.

Interestingly, Tesla has provided the “car wash mode” for Model Y and Model 3 that can ease up your car wash experience – automatically closing windows, locking charge port, disabling windshield wipers, etc. 

Note that if there’s a vinyl wrap or ceramic coating on your Tesla, harsh ingredients can damage them. Before heading to a car wash, check with your vinyl company. 

Tesla and Regular Car Wash

As mentioned before, Tesla strongly warns against using automatic car washes, especially the contact ones that use big brushes. Hundreds of cars use such car washes each day; so, their brushes get dirty, and a lot of debris gets stuck in them, which can scratch your car’s surface. 

You may have to repaint your car because a regular car wash strips its wax and coating, which may make cracking or color fade. 

If you have to do so, you should accept the risk and be ready for anything – Tesla doesn’t cover such damages in its warranty.

Tips for Washing a Tesla

Read the following tips and remember them the next time you want to wash your Tesla, so you’ll do it in the best way. 

1. Avoid Direct Sunlight

You should always avoid washing your Tesla in direct sun because its heat can evaporate the detergent products before they can soften and dislodge dirt or grimes off your car. The evaporation can also leave water spots on your Tesla. If you don’t have a private garage, do it in a cool shady place outside or in the evening. 

2. Don’t Allow Soap To Dry

Don’t let your soap get dried on your car’s surface because its detergent ingredients only act effectively when mixed with enough water. Otherwise, it can’t lift the dirt from the surface and can leave soap marks and spots behind, forcing you to use a lot of water again for removal. 

The solution is to wash your car section by section and move to another part just after you’ve washed and rinsed the previous one. 

3. Clean Tesla’s Seat in the Right Way

Some Teslas feature white leather trims and seats. They usually get stained easily by food, cloth dye, drink spillage, and other factors. The sooner you wipe them off, the cleaner they’ll get. And baby wipes can be optimally helpful. 

You should also use a high-quality leather cleaner and conditioner after wiping the dirt and debris in more severe cases. 

4. Don’t Use Circular Motions

This final tip is so simple but a game-changer. You may have noticed swirl marks on the surface of some cars even when they’re just recently washed. These marks appear when tiny dirt bits get trapped in your microfiber towel while wiping off your car’s surface.

To avoid this issue, don’t wipe your car in circular motions and try to apply horizontal strokes in one direction that will probably leave unnoticeable straight streaks.

Bottom Line

Washing a Tesla is not rocket science, but you need to know some tips. Based on what Tesla says, you should avoid automatic car wash, especially the contact ones. Do a touchless car wash if you have to. Otherwise, the best option is to do a hand wash, either the two-bucket method or the waterless car wash.

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