What to Do When Your Car is Too Big for a Drive-Thru Wash

Automatic car washes are designed to handle a variety of vehicle makes, models, and sizes, but that doesn’t mean every single car is going to fit. Large suburbans and trucks, recreational vehicles, and cars with specialty aftermarket upgrades (like oversized tires, spoilers, or even large antennas) are often unable to attach to the automated system.

If you’re used to a quick and easy wash, this can be a disappointment. Fortunately, there are ways to enjoy a fast and professional car wash even if you don’t fit in the traditional drive-thru. 

  • DIY Car Wash: Some people decide to skip the professional car wash to achieve the same great results at home. There are countless products and car washing videos out there that can help you get a thorough wash done on your own. However, things like the undercarriage and other hard-to-reach places might not get as thorough of a clean, so you’ll still want to fit the occasional professional wash in from time to time.
  • Self-Service Washing: If your car is too large for a drive-thru, it may still fit in a self-service wash booth. These areas are designed to accommodate oversized and long vehicles, which means you can pull in and get to work using all the tools already available. Long-handled brushes and high-powered water pressure will go a long way in achieving a professional-level finish, even if you’re doing the work yourself.
  • Professional Wash/Detail: Another great option is to take your oversized vehicle in to a car wash that also offers detailing and professional handwashing. You get a level of focus and care that you can’t find at an automatic car wash, and since the work is being done by hand (and usually in an open-air area or covered lot), the size of your vehicle won’t be a concern.

If your car is unable to fit in a drive-thru wash because of aftermarket additions, you also have the option of removing these before you head to the car wash. Changing tires and removing spoilers isn’t always easy, but many antennas and side view mirrors are designed to fold down so that vehicles can go through a wash.

And if regular car washes are really important to you, you might want to ask what the specifications are for tire width, vehicle height/weight, and other issues related to size before you purchase an oversized vehicle. This way, you can keep the dimensions in mind while you shop.