How to Use a Self Service Car Wash? Find Out All Easy Steps!

Written by

Bruce Sonnier


Marcus Dutton

how to use a self service car wash

If you like manual car wash but do not have the place to do the job or the right tools to work with, you may learn how to use a self service car wash in this article here.

Not everyone has the money for automatic car washes. So, car wash self service comes to the rescue! With them, you can take good care of your vehicle for a fairly inexpensive cost. So, it is worth giving them a try.

If you are not familiar with car wash bays or quarter car washes, then you probably do not know the best way to use a self service car wash. No worries. Below, we have a detailed but succinct article to guide you.

In short, the steps that you need to take are:

  • Park the vehicle to be cleaned
  • Remove the interior floor mats
  • Locate the sprayer wand
  • Learn the sprayer settings
  • Familiarize yourself with the payment options
  • Wash the vehicle with water to remove loose contaminants
  • Add soap and cover the vehicle in suds
  • Rinse off all the soap and suds from the vehicle
  • Scrub the vehicle thoroughly
  • Rinse again and dry

For more details, however, continue to read!


What You Will Need to Have


Aside from your car (Duh!), you will need to prepare a few coins to run the machines at the self serve car wash. If you have one or two special tools that you like to use for car care and maintenance, you can also bring that along. But remember, these services are for your convenience so there are particular types of cleaning equipment already provided.

Steps to Use Self Serve Car Wash

Step 1: Park the vehicle to be cleaned

First, enter the self serve car wash and settle in a station of your own. Usually, there will be a parking spot marked on the ground that you can follow. Otherwise, make sure that your vehicle sits in the middle of the garage-like bay. This ensures that there is enough room on all sides for you to move while cleaning.

Step 2: Remove the interior floor mats

Second, remove the rubber or plastic floor mats from your vehicle’s interior. You will clean these separately later. Just set them against a wall for now.

Step 3: Locate the sprayer wand

Third, find the sprayer or spray wand. Check if you have easy access to the station’s sprayers. The less distance you have to cover, the better. If you cannot reach your vehicle with the want, change your parking position. Then, familiarize yourself with using the spray wand. Point the tip away from yourself and hold the trigger or handle, usually above or beneath the nozzle, down to release water.

Step 4: Learn the sprayer settings

Fourth, learn the different settings on the sprayer panel. The number of settings will depend on the self-service that you are at. Most, however, will offer from 2 to 5 settings. The basic settings are “wash”, “soap”, and “rinse”. Other advanced options are pre-wash before any cleaning commences or wax to complete the cleaning procedure.

Spend time studying the panel to what settings are available and what you will need to allot time for.

  • Wash: This is where you get all the loose dust, dirt, sand, and grime off of your vehicle. Most spray wands have only one to two power levels for the pressurized stream of water. However, others may have more fancy sequences.
  • Soap: This is where solutions and cleaners come in. Your vehicle gets a deeper and more thorough clean at this stage. Salt, grease, and other stubborn debris are eliminated.
  • Rinse: This is when all the soaps are rinsed off of your vehicle. In basic settings, it will complete your cleaning procedure. You are ready to drive off!

Step 5: Familiarize yourself with the payment options

Fifth, check the payment options. Most services will charge with coins. But there are exceptions. Some will ask you to pay in bills or by credit card. There will be a board or banner displaying payment instructions. Read it carefully to insert the right type of money in the right way.

These car washes are timed, so make sure that you are ready to jump right into cleaning your car once you feed money into the machine. Usually, you will have to pay from $2 to $5. But other factors, such as the condition of your vehicle, can influence this.

Step 6: Wash the vehicle with water to remove loose contaminants

Sixth, start washing. Point the spray wand at your vehicle while holding it away from yourself. Press the trigger or handle to release the pressurized water. Make sure that you stand at least three to five feet away so the high-pressure water will not damage your vehicle. Spray down your car from top to bottom but be mindful of shooting water straight at the engine bay. One or two laps will be sufficient or until you can see that all the loose dust, dirt, sand, and grime are gone. Then, spray clean the floor mats that you have set aside earlier.

Step 7: Add soap and cover the vehicle in suds

Seventh, add soap. Set the “soap” option on the machine panel and watch soap come out of the spray wand when you do the same thing as the step above. Do another lap around your vehicle to lather up soap and clean thoroughly. Cover the vehicle in suds and pay extra attention to the filth-filled tires.

Step 8: Rinse off all the soap and suds from the vehicle

Eighth, move onto rinsing. At this step, you will switch the spray wand or a foam brush or sponge. Wash it carefully before you dive into any action. There can be remnants of debris in them, so do this carefully. You do not want to cause abrasion or scratch the surfaces of your car because you have not cleaned the rinsing equipment well. Even better if you have your own fresh brush or sponge with you.

Step 9: Scrub the vehicle thoroughly

Use it to scrub your vehicle. Be sure to reach all the nooks and crannies. Use circular motions to get rid of any accumulated contaminants. However, take quick laps to avoid letting the suds sit for too long on your vehicle. They can develop a film.

Step 10: Rinse again and dry the vehicle

Ninth, rinse and dry. Retrieve your spray wand from its holder and dial “rinse” on the panel. Take off all the soap from your vehicle by taking quick but careful laps. To make sure that no soapy residues are leftover, run the vehicle with water three to four times. Then, let it drip dry.

Voila! You now know how to wash a car at a carwash.

Other Tips to Keep in Mind


Check the order of your station

Make sure that the self-serve station that you are in is not out of order before you put any money into the machine. Better safe than sorry! If you are careless, you will risk losing your coins or bills.

Check the direction of the wind

For a mess-free cleaning session, always check the direction that the wind is blowing so you can avoid standing downwind from the spray. It is a small step but makes a whole lot of difference, trusts us.

Use provided cleaners only as directed

If you decide to avail of the extra offerings in a car wash, like the engine or tire cleaners, make sure that you use these with care. Also, follow the instructions printed on their packaging. Do not go about in your own way unless you want to damage your vehicle.

Use the entire duration of what you paid for

The spray wand will automatically shut off when the time that you have paid for runs out. So, if you still have time left, do not waste it. Use the entire duration to make sure that your vehicle leaves the bay spotless.


With that, you have reached the end of this article. Now, you should know how to use a self service car wash. It is not as difficult as you thought, right?

If you have gone to a self serve car wash after reading this, please share your experience with us in the comments. We look forward to hearing from you! Also, if you have any other follow-up questions or thoughts regarding this topic, feel free to leave a comment. We are always super excited about our readers’ insights. So, do not hesitate!

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