Do You Put Your Car in Park or Neutral in a Car Wash?

Written by

Bruce Sonnier


Marcus Dutton

do you put your car in park or neutral in a car wash

An automatic car wash is the easiest, quickest means of car cleaning with no effort, except for some preparatory steps before getting in the bay or tunnel. One of which is setting your car into the correct gear.

But because some still don’t know whether to apply neutral or park, a common question is, “Do you put your car in park or neutral in a car wash?” In an in-bay car wash, you should use park. While in a tunnel, use neutral.  

When going for an automatic car wash, there are some preparatory steps you need to do first before your vehicle gets washed.

  • Making sure all your windows are closed
  • Properly positioning your car in the bay of an in-bay car wash or on the conveyor belt if it’s a tunnel car wash
  • Setting the car into the correct gear
  • Turning your engine off.

When it comes to the gear, it depends on the type of automatic car wash you’re using, whether it’s in-bay or tunnel.

But in some cases, it can be tricky, particularly for the more modern automatic transmission cars when using the automatic tunnel car wash.

Modern automatic cars require an additional step to ensure that they are in the correct gear during car wash to avoid causing damage to your car and even to the car wash and other vehicles.

Even any modern car of any type of transmission with more technologically advanced features requires more preparatory steps to avoid damage in any car wash type.

So pay close attention to the explanation of the correct gear to be applied and the other necessary steps required when getting a car wash provided in this article.

When Using an Automatic In-Bay Car Wash


In some car washes, a car would have to be stationary, as the car wash equipment would clean around it. This is the most common type you find at gas station car wash, which is the automatic in-bay car wash.

In this case, the car would have to be set into park gear.

When Using an Automatic Tunnel Car Wash

There is a modern feature in an automatic car called the automatic parking brake.

The automatic parking brake is a feature that automatically locks the tires once you turn your engine off. You can usually tell that the automatic parking brake has been activated when the “P” symbol is illuminated in the cockpit.

What happens with this feature is a modern automatic car’s tires will be locked and cause it to jump off the conveyor belt and may even end up blocking the whole tunnel and subsequently causing collisions with the vehicles behind it.

It can cause expensive damage to the vehicle, itself, the car wash tunnel, and other vehicles.

  • The only way to prevent the automatic break from activating while in an automatic tunnel car wash is to turn the ignition back on.
  • Keep it on as you go through a car wash to avoid causing problems in the conveyor belt.

What Are Other Tips for Avoiding Damages in a Car Wash for Modern Cars

1. Turn off the Automatic Hold


There is also the risk of the automatic hold resisting the conveyor belt. So it’s advisable to turn it off.

2. Turn off the Automatic Start-Stop


The automatic start-stop usually only works when the brake is applied, but it may also sometimes activate when a car is in neutral gear. So generally, it still must be avoided in an automatic tunnel car wash.

3. Turn off the Pre-Collision Braking


Some modern automatic cars are equipped with a safety feature called pre-collision braking, which stops them from advancing when they detect a physical presence in front of them to prevent collisions. So they could stop as they are met by car wash equipment. To prevent this from happening, turn off the pre-collision braking.

4. Turn off the Automatic Wipers


Automatic wipers can activate during a car wash, which not only isn’t necessary but can also cause them to get damaged by car wash equipment.

5. Protect Vulnerable Protruding Parts of the Car


Here’re some precautionary measures to protect them the protruding parts:

  • Close the side mirrors.
  • Remove the antenna.
  • Safeguard the rear window wipers using some plastic covers.


Now that you’ve got the answer to the question, “Do you put your car in park or neutral in a car wash?”, keep in mind to use park for an in-bay car wash and neutral for a tunnel car wash.

And remember to do the other necessary preparatory steps before getting in a car wash bay or tunnel.

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