Safe PSI for Car Washing – Here’s What You Should Know

Written by

Bruce Sonnier


Marcus Dutton

safe psi for car washing

Pressure washers can make cleaning even the dirtiest surfaces easier. Such a trusty cleaning tool can be used for cleaning different surfaces with high efficiency. Still, every cleaning task requires a different PSI to effectively and safely clean surfaces without causing any damage.

When you use a pressure washer to wash a car, you should make sure the pressure washer has the safe PSI for car washing, which is around 1200 to 1900 PSI.


What Does PSI Mean

Pressure washers in the market have varying strengths in pressure. And the strength of their pressure is measured in PSI.

PSI is short for pounds per square inch.

By checking the pressure washer for cars PSI, whether it’s too high or just right, you’ll be able to tell if a pressure washer is suitable for washing a car or not. That’s where we have to check the right pressure washer PSI for car.

What Is the Best PSI to Use for Washing a Car


A pressure washer can help make washing a car easier, for as you spray water on the surface, the dirt, debris, and grime will also be removed. But you also have to be careful with how much PSI to wash car, as too much pressure can damage a car’s paintwork.

Some would push for a higher PSI, like around 2000 PSI or more, claiming it’s fine.

But if you ask the experts, “Is 2000 PSI safe for washing a vehicle?”, they would say it would be risky for a car’s paintwork. In fact, the best PSI for car wash that can effectively and safely clean a car is around 1200 to 1900 PSI. The max PSI for car wash you can use should be only 1900 PSI.

So to be safe, use a pressure washer with a PSI around the range of 1200 to 1900 PSI. Around that PSI range will suffice for thoroughly washing a car.

What Type of Pressure Washer Is Best to Use for Washing a Car

There are a variety of pressure washer types. But the most common types you can find in the market are the electric pressure washer and gas pressure washer. Among these two types, the electric pressure washer is more suitable for pressure washing a car.

  • An electric pressure washer would suffice for cleaning a car thoroughly and safely. It can spray water with just enough water pressure for car wash that won’t scratch a car’s paintwork.
  • On the other hand, a gas pressure washer has a very strong capacity. It can spray water with very high pressures and flow rates, which can potentially damage a car’s paintwork. So this pressure washer type must be avoided when cleaning vehicles.

But you also have to make sure that the electric pressure washer you will use has a PSI that’s appropriate for washing a car.

Another thing you need to make sure of in an electric pressure washer is the extension cord because some of them do not support an extension cord.

Hence, while selecting an electric pressure washer, make sure its cord is long enough or compatible with an extension cor. With that, you can move freely while pressure washing a car.

Additional Tip: Choose the Right Nozzle

Aside from being cautious on what PSI pressure washer for car, you must also consider the nozzles to use.

Pressure washers usually come with four different color-coded nozzles, and each has its capacity. The nozzles are also detachable, so you can switch to the appropriate nozzle in accordance with what area you will clean.

Among the four different pressure washer nozzles, only the 25-degree nozzle and the 40-degree nozzle can be used for cleaning a car.

  • 25-Degree Nozzle

The 25-degree nozzle is usually in the color green. It s is the lowest nozzle spray pattern you can use that’s safe for washing a car.

Because the lower the nozzle spray pattern, like the 15-degree and 0-degree ones, the more narrow the water is spread and the higher the pressure of the water it sprays, which can be damaging.

This nozzle is suitable for cleaning tire rims. It may also be used for a pre-rinse if a car is very dirty, as it can effectively clean off mud and soils embedded on a car’s surface.

But you should be careful in doing it by spraying from a safe distance, and never use it for washing your entire car to avoid damages.

  • 40-Degree Nozzle

The 40-degree nozzle is white-colored and can spray water over a large area with just enough pressure that’s safe to use on the surface of a car.

It will allow you to clean a car quickly without damaging the paintwork. It would also be safe for washing a car engine but must be used with much caution.

Tips on How to Properly Use a Pressure Washer on a Car


Once you’ve got the correct pressure washer with the right PSI for car washing, you’ve also got to make sure to use it properly so that you won’t cause any damage to a car’s paintwork. Below are some tips on how to use a pressure washer properly on a car.

  • Check the Pressure of the Water on the Ground

Before you spray water on the car, do a test spray on the ground first. This step will let you see if the pressure washer is spraying water at just the right pressure before spraying the car and adjust it if it’s too high or too low. If you spray directly on the car, you may risk damaging its surface.

To do a test spray on the ground, spray water at a distance of three to four feet from the ground. And then gradually move closer to it to determine how close you can safely pressure wash your car without causing damage.

  • Spray Water Using a Downward Direction

You must never spray water straight onto the car’s surface, as it can chip out the paintwork. The right way to pressure wash a car is to point its nozzle downward, not pointing at its surface directly. Spraying water in a downward direction will allow you to clean your car without any damage evenly.

  • Maintain a Safe Distance

Remember always to keep your distance when pressure washing a car. Get too close, and you can cause damage.

  • Don’t Forget to Switch Nozzles

As discussed earlier, each of the two nozzles for washing a car has different purposes, working best for different areas and dirt. Suppose you forget to replace it when moving on to another location or working on another step. In that case, you could end up damaging the paintwork.

  • Optional: Pre-Soak the Car Before Using the Higher Pressure Nozzle

It helps to pre-soak a car before using the higher pressure nozzle. This would help prevent the dirt and debris on the car from scratching its surface once the car gets sprayed with water at a higher pressure.


When you’re going to use a pressure washer in any situation, you must be careful to know what is a good PSI for a pressure washer for that cleaning task. Hopefully, you can utilize the safe PSI for car washing and the other best car pressure washing practices discussed in this article.

When you succesfully get a car squeaky clean without any paint damage, feel free to share with us in the comment below.

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