A pressure washer is a tool which has been used for years by car cleaning enthusiasts and professionals alike. Using a pressure washer to clean your car can be a lot easier and less effort than hand washing your car, and in my opinion, it is a great way to get that ‘deep clean’ feeling as the added power of the machine can really help to move dirt and build-up out of some of those hard to reach places such as under the wheel arches, or to help clean badly contaminated alloy wheels which can be a pain in the ass to remove by hand washing alone.
If you have read any of my other posts on this blog you know that I am an advocate for safe car washing, so it is worth mentioning that using a pressure washer in your car cleaning routine is also good for your cars paintwork. Blasting dirt away is always less risky than shifting it by wiping it with a wash mitt.
For those of you who are looking to start snow foaming your car, owning a half-decent pressure washer will really set you up for success here, as most good snow foaming systems will require that you use one.
One of the most common questions I get emailed is What is The Best Pressure Washer For Car Detailing and are they actually safe to use on my cars paintwork? Let’s take a Look.
Is it safe to wash a car with a pressure washer?
99% of the time my answer to this question will be that of course, it is safe to wash your car with a pressure washer, and I recommend it. I have seen instances of people damaging their paint with pressure washers, but this is only when they have attempted to use heavy-duty industrial washers that were NEVER intended to ever go near a car’s paintwork. ( Some high powered petrol or gas pressure washers ) These are more suited for cleaning your patio than for using on your pride and joy.
However, you can buy a pressure washer with a higher power and twist the nozzle to reduce this making it safe to use on your car, if you are just intending to use it for car cleaning, then there is no need to get anything that is over 2000 PSI.
This extra power won’t give any added cleaning benefits over a lower power washer, and you will just be putting yourself at a greater risk of damaging the paint.
However, for it to cause damage, you will most likely need to apply direct pressure straight from the nozzle and onto your vehicle at a close range. It is recommended that no matter what type of pressure washer you are using and regardless of what PSI it has, you should always start at about 24 inches away from the targeted area and move in no closer than 12 inches to it.
A safety tip that I always give is that you should choose a pressure washer with a setting of 1200 – 2000 PSI. It’s safe to use for cars, so you won’t need to worry about damaging the paint on your car. These usually come in the form of Electric Powered Washers.
Will a Pressure Washer Damage a Ceramic Coating on a Car?
It is completely safe to use a pressure washer on a Ceramic Coated Car. Again, once you stay within the safe PSI limits for the paintwork, the same principle applies for the ceramic coating. In fact, for ceramic coated cars I highly recommend the use of a Foam cannon combined with a pressure washer for cleaning, as it will help get the best out of your coating.
A lot of dirt and grime can be removed from a coated car by just using a pressure washer alone, thanks to the self-cleaning effect of the coating.
What Is The Best Pressure Washer For Car Detailing?
There is so much choice on the market these days for pressure washers that it is quite easy for me to recommend a few products which won’t break the bank. in my opinion, there is no need to spend large amounts of cash on a pressure washer when there are plenty of budget-friendly options to choose from which will get the job done.
As I mentioned above it is actually more beneficial for you not to use something that is overpowered and not suitable for the job. Sure you can spend lots of money on a pressure washer for other purposes, but when it comes to cleaning your car something middle of the road will do you just fine.
When it comes down to my own choices I usually go for something with a trusted and well-known brand and which has proven reliability to last the test of time. There’s is real polarization in the pressure washer market, with loads of cheap models available for less than $100 in DIY and chain-stores. . These often appear to have all the cleaning features you might want, at a low price. But they do tend to be cheaply made and lack the power to clean.
It is important to look out for packages that come with attachments designed for use on your car(wheel brushes are common extras). Different models come with different accessories, so make sure you pick one that has useful attachments for cleaning, a wheel brush, soft brush fitment, and a foam bottle that can be added between the hose and spray gun which is ideal for snow foaming your car
Below are some of my recommendations to get you started using a pressure washer in your car cleaning routine.
Karcher is probably one of the first brands that you will think of in terms of a pressure washer and is one of the biggest names in the business. The First pressure washer I ever bought for my car was a Karcher and it did not disappoint This particular Karcher is not the most expensive washer in their range, but it is more than adequate for your car cleaning needs as it provides the sweet spot 2000 PSI of pressure which really is the most you will ever need for detailing.
-Waterflow – 500 l/h
-Pressure – 145 Bar
-Hose Length – 8m
-Motor – Water-cooled
-Watts – 2100
Full Specification and pricing available Here
Karcher is a trusted brand which will not break the bank, and they usually provide a nice warranty on their products too. The K5 is a no brainer if you are considering a middle of the road priced pressure washer for cleaning your car.
The Karcher K2 is another superb choice for those looking to clean their car with a pressure washer. The K2 is my recommended choice for those on a budget or looking to pick up a pressure washer for a bit cheaper. This particular Karcher is about half the price of the K5 listed above, but should still provide more than adequate cleaning power at about 1600PSI
-Waterflow – 360 l/h
-Pressure – 110 Bar
-Hose Length – 4m
-Motor – Air-cooled
-Watts – 1400
-Weight – 4.5KG
This is another product I recommend to those who are maybe picking up their very first pressure washer for using on their car as there is usually a nice bundle available which will come with some extra car cleaning goodies
Full Specification and pricing available Here
If you are after a nice little compact pressure washer for cleaning your car a few times a month then this is a great option. It is well priced, comes with everything you need to get going and has enough power to do a great job. If you have a bigger budget then you can spend more and get more power ( such as the K5 Above )
Sun Joe SPX3000
The Sun Joe SPX3000 is one of most popular car pressure washers on the market, in particular, if you are based in the US. Similar to the Karcher’s above this washer is hovering around the 2000PSI mark, which makes it an ideal tool for use on your cars paintwork. The SPX3000 is not short of accessories either, included are the two separate detergent tanks, 34-inch extension wand, 20-foot high-pressure hose, 35-foot power cord, garden hose adapter, 5 quick-connect spray tips and more.
-31 LBS in weight
-14.5 Amp/1800 Watt Motor
-35 Foot Power Cord
-2 Years Warranty
Full Specification and pricing available Here
Similar to the other products listed above, the sun joe is by no means the most powerful or expensive pressure washer you can buy, but it is more than enough for cleaning your car and can be picked up for a pretty cheap price. This is another ideal choice for someone looking to add to their detailing tools.
Tips for Using a Pressure Washer for Car Detailing
- Be careful and mindful of the area you are using the pressure washer on. It is much safer to have your car on a concrete surface when using a pressure washer on it. If the vehicle is on gravel then you could end up hitting the paintwork with stones, and that is the last thing you want to do!
- To avoid serious damage, never use the pressure washer to spray the engine bay or any part of the car’s interior. This seems like common sense, but you would be surprised what I have seen some people do when cleaning their car.
- Don’t Stand too close to the car when you are using a pressure washer and always work at a safe distance ( i also like to hold the nozzle at an angle to the car and not straight on – 40-degree angle should be fine )
- Think about incorporating Snow Foaming into your car cleaning routine, as it will vastly improve your results. If you have never heard of snow foaming before, its time to educate yourself – Start Here
- Once you are finished washing the car with the pressure washer, make sure you dry the car safely
If you are considering buying a pressure washer for use in your car detailing routine I would highly recommend it as there are many benefits to be gained with a small investment of money. If you buy right, the pressure washer should last you for years to come and provide you with 1000’s of hassle-free and more efficient car washes.
As I mentioned many times throughout this post there is absolutely no need to be spending large amounts of cash on a pressure washer for the sole purpose of cleaning your car. However, if you intend to buy something for you to get used around your house as well as cleaning your car, you may want to opt for something with a little more power, but from a pure car detailing perspective there is simply no need to be spending wads of cash and any of the options I have listed above will do just fine.
If you have any recommendations or questions about the products above, please feel free to leave a comment and I will do my best to answer. If you have any pressure washer tips when it comes to car cleaning I would love to hear them!
Until Next time.
About the Author – Darren O Hara
Darren is the founder of the DriveDetailed blog and is a keen detailing enthusiast living in the rainy south of Ireland. When he is not cleaning his car he is always researching ways he can improve his techniques and enjoys testing out out new products.
Darren currently drives an Audi TTRS and is a big fan of performance cars.
You can follow Darren on Instagram @darrenoharacork