Self-serve Car Wash Etiquette

When we had an unusual break in the weather in the winter, I was dying to take the car to the car wash. So did my wife. She wanted to take her car at the same time. I prefer to wash the car myself, so we decided to go the self-serve car wash. So did everyone else.  It proved to be an interesting experience. I realized that some people there have no idea about self-serve car wash etiquette. Here’s what I discovered.

Have Your Money Ready

Be sure to have your money ready, especially if there is a long line waiting to get into the bays at the self-serve car wash. The day we went, I pulled into one lane, and my wife pulled into the lane next to me. We waited and waited. I noticed one gentleman got out and went over to the change machine to get enough coins.  This was great to see. Since the wait was long, he had time to get out of his car and make sure he had enough coins. I didn’t have any coins at all. I didn’t need them. This particular self-serve car wash also accepts credit and debit cards. I really like that.

As we sat there, I noticed other people would wait until they got into the bay before checking to see if they had enough money, or if they could even pay.  This only increased the waiting time. This was slightly annoying, but not a big deal.  Not as annoying as what other people were doing.

Follow the Rules

At this establishment, there was a big sign that read, “No buckets. Do not wash by hand.” It was plain to see and posted prominently in each bay.  But there was a guy with a bucket and sponge slowly and methodically cleaning off his off-road pickup truck. When my wife saw him do that, she actually switched lanes. As it turns out, my wife was able to wash her car and left the bay before the guy with the truck and the bucket ever got close to finishing.

If the sign says not to do this or that; don’t. Especially when it is really busy. It is very selfish and inconsiderate of others.

Know How the System Works

If you have no idea how the control panel on the wall works (the one that allows you to choose from foaming soap to high-pressure rinse) and the lines are very long, be sure to ask an attendant. Don’t try to figure it out and waste time. This is very inconsiderate of others in the line.

Since there was no attendant on duty (a big mistake), I showed two teenagers how to work the control panel. No big deal. I was happy to help.

Concentrate on Washing your Vehicle

The final straw was the kid in front of me with the supped up hot rod. After starting to wash his car, he pulled out his cell phone and actually stopped washing his car. I doubt the call was all that important. It was very inconsiderate for me to have to sit and wait for him to talk on the phone and NOT wash his car. Now that is a jerk move.


It doesn’t take much to be considerate of others at a self-serve car wash. It’s especially appreciated on a busy day. Just be sure to have your money ready, follow the rules, learn the system, and concentrate on washing your vehicle.


Written by Gary Pradel