How Safe are Automatic Car Washes for Your Lexus?

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Some people warn about the dangers of automatic car washes. But one Lexus RX owner found out about them the hard way.

By now, you’ve probably heard the warnings over and over again. “Don’t go to the automatic car wash!” they say. “It’ll scratch your paint. Or even worse, it could damage your car!” But oftentimes, we ignore these pleas, opting for convenience over what sounds like inconceivable conspiracy theories. Besides, thousands of people drive through these things every day without any problem, right? Well, that’s exactly what Club Lexus member and Lexus RX owner makaRX350 was thinking…until it happened to him.

“Well, today I was running my Lexus RX through a wash before dropping it off to get some wrap work done. I paid for the wash, entered, and folded the mirrors like I was advised to do. As I was sitting there, I thought to myself, ‘Man, I hope this thing doesn’t rip my….’ And then, BOOOM! There goes my driver side mirror. So pissed right now!!!”

Of course, many members chimed in with the old “told you so!” In a nice way, of course.

“Dang, that sucks,” said dchan865“Sorry to hear what happened. I’ve never been a fan of car washes, always out of the fear of getting my paint scratched up. I’ve always hand washed my cars over the last 20 years or so. Good luck.”

“Sorry to hear that man,” added aznkorboi. “Hopefully they’ll repair it for you. Just for future reference, never take your car to an automatic car wash. Even at the dealer. Especially with dark colored cars. If you put your car in the sun at an angle you will see tons of swirl marks. It uses the dirt on your car to scratch your paint even more. So stay away. Also, there is a chance something breaks. If you can’t wash it at home with the 2 bucket method, go for a touchless car wash.”

Many others wonder just how, in fact, this happened. After all, the OP followed the instructions as he should have.

“Not sure I understand what ripped off the mirror. And what difference did it make having it folded?” asks ravenuer“Otherwise, if you followed their instructions, then I’d say they should be responsible, no?”

Others have their theories as to what might have caused this Lexus RX to lose its mirror.

“One strand of the whirl brush probably got caught in the joint we’re the mirror pivots and yanked it out,” theorizes lexnewbi. “I had a car wash yank out my rear wiper when a strand got caught in the wiper.”

“Maybe the whirling brush and mirror got tangled up?” adds Htony“In this case, folded or not, it won’t make a difference, IMO. I think something is wrong with the car wash I never fold mirrors when I wash cars. But then I mostly go to touchless car washes. The owner of the wash should pay for the damage. Especially since this is almost a brand new car here. It sucks!”

Thankfully, it does appear that this Lexus RX horror story has a happy ending, at least.

“The owner of the car wash contacted me a few hours later. He was very nice and took complete responsibility. Didn’t hesitate to order a new mirror and take care of the little scratches it made when it busted and dangled around as I drove out in a hurry. He does have cameras, but he was willing before even viewing them. The lesson to be learned from all of this…never take your car to a car wash.”

So there you have it. Maybe all those folks had it right to begin with. Regardless, we’re curious to know – do you use car washes? Have you every suffered any sort of damage to your Lexus as a result? Head over here and tell us about it!

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Brett Foote has been covering the automotive industry for over five years and is a longtime contributor to Internet Brands’ Auto Group sites, including Chevrolet Forum, Rennlist, and Ford Truck Enthusiasts, among other popular sites.

He has been an automotive enthusiast since the day he came into this world and rode home from the hospital in a first-gen Mustang, and he's been wrenching on them nearly as long.

In addition to his expertise writing about cars, trucks, motorcycles, and every other type of automobile, Brett had spent several years running parts for local auto dealerships.

You can follow along with his builds and various automotive shenanigans on Instagram: @bfoote.

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