How to Pressure Wash a Car? – Super Easy to Follow Steps

Written by

Bruce Sonnier


Marcus Dutton

how to pressure wash a car

With its high water pressure and the ease of pouring water and detergent it allows, it’s obvious that a pressure washer can make car cleaning easier, quicker, and less time-consuming and also works with less water consumption than garden hoses. But how to pressure wash a car?

It can be done with a few simple steps: rinsing with a 25-degree nozzle to remove dirt and debris, applying detergent with a soap nozzle, scrubbing off stubborn dirt and grease with a brush attachment, and rinsing with a 40-degree nozzle. But you have to do it cautiously to avoid causing damage to your vehicle.


What You Will Need to Follow this Tutorial


In order to efficiently pressure wash your car without inflicting damage to it, you would need to make sure that you have the right pressure washer with the appropriate features for washing a vehicle. But apart from the right pressure washer, you would also need a couple of other things when you’re going to wash a car with a pressure washer.

Pressure Washer With Appropriate Features

There are a couple of features to look for when choosing a pressure washer for your car:

  • Electric Pressure Washer

You must avoid using a gas pressure washer when pressure washing a car. A gas pressure washer would be too powerful for light cleaning tasks like washing cars and trucks.

An electric pressure washer would be the best option for washing cars. Compared to gas pressure washers, electric pressure washers have lower pressure but just the right cleaning power without causing damages. Make sure that your electric washer has the appropriate PSI.

  • Appropriate PSI (Pounds per Square Inch)

PSI refers to the power of the pressure washer. A higher PSI would mean a greater force of the water coming out from the pressure washer.

You should use a pressure washer with a 1200 to 1900 PSI setting. It’s the safe PSI for car wash, which won’t damage the paint on your car’s surface.

  • Appropriate GPM (Gallons per Minute)

GPM refers to the water flow of the pressure washer. A higher GPM would mean a greater amount of water would be released from the pressure washer. According to experts, the recommended GPM for washing your car would be 1.4 to 1.6 GPM.

  • Cleaning Units

Cleaning units refer to the force and amounts of water that a pressure washer is capable of producing. It can be determined by multiplying the PSI to the GPM, e.g., 1200PSI x 2GPM = 2400 cleaning units. The required cleaning units for pressure washing a car are around 1900 to 2800 cleaning units.

25-Degree and 40-Degree Spray Nozzles

The use of the appropriate nozzle allows effective and damage-free cleaning. There are a variety of nozzle tips. Each of them has a different nozzle size and can do different specific cleaning tasks.

The best nozzle sizes to go with when doing a pressure car wash would either be the green 25-degree or white 40-degree nozzle. Compared to the 0 and 15 degrees nozzles, they have less pressure that won’t damage paint but have just enough cleaning power to do an effective and efficient car wash.

Soap Nozzle

Apart from the nozzle tip for water output, a soap nozzle for releasing car wash soap or detergent, which is black, may also be needed. In most pressure washers, detergent can’t be released without the use of a soap nozzle. You will have to replace your water output nozzle tip with the soap nozzle when you’re going to apply detergent.

Detergent for Pressure Washer Use

Pressure washers would often have a detergent tank for storing car wash soap or detergent. This feature allows the convenience of applying car wash soap or detergents in a much easier way. You should only use a car wash soap or detergent that is suitable for pressure washer use and your car.

Pressure washer cleaning solutions are concentrated. They have to be diluted before application. You would need about one quart of detergent.

Foam Cannon

If your pressure washer doesn’t have a detergent tank, you could attach a foam cannon to your pressure washer. Foam cannons are capable of mixing the right amount of detergent, water, and air for generating soap suds that can coat a thick layer on the entire surface area of your car.


Since pressure washer detergents are concentrated, they have to be diluted before pouring them into the detergent tank or the foam cannon. To do so, you would need a bucket for diluting the detergent with water.

Wash Mitt, Scrub Brush, or Pressure Washer Brush Attachment

These are the options for scrubbing off stubborn dirt and grease on your car. A wash mitt or scrub brush can be used for hand washing your car. But a brush attachment would make the job quicker and easier.

Soft Cloth or Towel

You would need either a soft cloth or towel for drying your car after you’re done pressure washing.

Step by Step Instructions


Cleaning your car through a high pressure car wash can be done in a few simple steps. But you have to do pressure washing with caution. Below you can find the proper way of doing it.

Step 1: Park Your Car in a Spot Good For Car Washing

When using a high pressure hose, you must have your car parked in an open area, like a large driveway. You must distance your car from other cars or objects that you wouldn’t want to accidentally get wet or damaged by the water.

You should also make sure to be close to an outlet for plugging in your pressure washer, especially since some electric pressure washers can’t be used with an extension cord.

Step 2: Give Your Car a Rinse

Rinse your car to get rid of mud, dirt, bugs, or other debris on your car’s exterior. The safe nozzles to use to prevent paint damage would either be the green, 25-degree or white, 40-degree nozzle.

Spray water on the ground first as a test spray to ensure that the pressurized water isn’t too powerful. You should start by pressure washing at about four to five feet away, eventually moving closer at about at least one foot. Spray the water on your car in a downward direction to prevent the risk of damaging your car’s paint.

When dealing with fragile parts like windows, side mirrors, headlights, and brake lights, you would have to move away a bit. But when it comes to wheels that tend to be extra dirty, you may move a bit closer when cleaning them to get them totally cleaned with more pressure.

Step 3: Apply the Detergent on Your Car

A car cleaning pressure washer would usually be equipped with a detergent tank. They also have a setting for spraying detergent that you have to switch to when applying detergent on your car. If your electric washer doesn’t have those features, you may attach a good foam cannon to it.

Before you load the car wash soap or detergent in the tank or foam cannon, you would first have to dilute it with water in a bucket. Follow the instructions for dilution on the product’s label. Once it has been diluted, you may load it in the tank or foam cannon also as per the instructions in the manual provided for the electric pressure washer.

When you apply detergent with a high pressure hose, you’d usually need to switch the nozzle tip with a soap nozzle that’s black in color for applying detergent. You should spray detergent around two to three feet away from your car, starting from the bottom part going up.

You may gradually get closer if necessary to remove tough dirt. Especially in the wheels, which tend to be the dirtiest and accumulate stubborn brake dust, you would need to get as close as six inches.

Let the soap sit on your car’s surface for a few minutes. Be sure to not leave it for more than five minutes and allow it to dry out or it will leave marks on your car.

Step 4: Scrub off Dirt and Grease

If there is stubborn dirt and grease on your car, you may use a wash mitt or scrub brush to get rid of them. Using a brush attachment would be the best option if you want it done quicker and easier than doing a hand wash.

If you’re using the same cleaning material for the vehicle’s body, wheels, wheel arches, and wheel wells, clean the wheels, wheel arches, and wheel wells last. That’s because your cleaning material can pick up grit and small stones from the wheels and wheel arches that may get rubbed against your car’s paint.

Don’t forget to rinse your cleaning material thoroughly after using it, so that it will be clean for the next use.

Step 5: Rinse off the Detergent From Your Car & Dry It

First, you’d have to remove the soap nozzle from the electric pressure washer and replace it with the white, 40-degree nozzle. Then you’d switch the setting from detergent output to water output. You’d also have to spray some water out on the ground to flush out the remaining soap from the pressure washer.

You should rinse detergent three to four feet away from your car, starting from the top, going down. And you must hold the pressure washer at a 45-degree angle and do the rinsing. But if your car has bumper stickers on it, you should spray them in a front-on manner to prevent them from peeling.

After you rinse detergent, you may use a soft cloth or towel to dry your car.


Did you enjoy this tutorial on how to pressure wash a car? Washing your car with a high pressure hose allows you to do a more thorough job in a much easier way than washing with a garden hose. But in order to enjoy satisfactory results from car washing with a pressure washer without any damage, you need to observe the proper way of doing it with caution.

Feel free to share any thoughts you have in the comments section. You may also share this article to help other car owners if you wish.

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