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How to Clean Your Car Using a Pressure Washer

By: Allen Lyle
Man using a pressure washer to clean a black sports car in driveway.

Cleaning a car using a Generac OneWash pressure washer.

Using a pressure washer, like the OneWash from Generac, can be a great way to clean your car, as long as you’re careful not to damage the finish.

Pressure Washer Car Cleaning Tips:

  • Set the pressure washer on the delicate setting (about 2,000 PSI).
  • Use a nozzle with a wide spray pattern (usually the green nozzle tip) to avoid damaging the paint.
  • Wash the car on a hard (concrete or asphalt) surface.
  • Never spray inside the engine.
  • Keep the nozzle further away when cleaning windows, lights, and other fragile parts of the car.

Cleaning a Car with a Pressure Washer:

  1. Start by using the pressure washer to rinse the car with plain water.
  2. Use the pressure washer to apply detergent to the car (usually the black nozzle tip).
  3. Let the detergent remain on the car for 3-5 minutes.
  4. Use a car brush to remove any dirt or grime.
  5. Use the green pressure washer nozzle to rinse off the detergent, working from top to bottom.

Watch this video to find out more.

Sponsored by:
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Print   Video Transcript

Allen Lyle: Now that the weather is warming up, it’s time to get your car cleaned up and ready for the season, and a pressure washer makes that an easy task. It’s a lot faster than washing by hand and uses less water than just a garden hose.

However, not all washers are right for the job. You don’t want to use one with too much pressure because you could easily damage the paint. For best results, choose a washer with variable PSI settings, that way you know you’re using the right pressure.

Make sure your washer has various nozzles, so that you can use the right spray for soaping, washing, and rinsing. And you never want to use the most pointed nozzle—usually it’s the red one—for cleaning your car, because it can easily damage the paint.

Choose a washer with wheels, which makes it a lot easier to move around the car. And make sure you have a long hose, which also helps move around the car while washing.

It’s best to wash the car on a hard surface. If you wash over gravel, small stones could fly up and hit the paint. If you wash over dirt, well, you could end up splattering dirt all over your newly cleaned car.

Never spray the engine bay. There are too many parts in there that can be damaged and lots of places you just don’t want to get water on.

Alright, once you get everything connected, you first want rinse all the grit and grime off the car with just plain water. 2,000 PSI is perfect for washing cars, and this washer makes it easy to find that right setting—just look for the symbol of the car.

Use the green wash nozzle to spray the car. It’s a good idea to step back and use a wider spray and less power for the windows, lights, and other fragile areas.

Now it’s time to add the detergent. Make sure you choose one that’s formulated for pressure washers; and, of course, dilute it according to directions. You want to make sure your setting is on the lowest setting there is, and then we’ll use the black soap nozzle to apply the detergent.

Apply with broad, overlapping strokes, working from the bottom to the top. Let the cleaner soak for about three to five minutes, but don’t let it dry all the way.

Next, you want to take a car brush and get any problem dirt areas. Use a soft brush, work on the painted surfaces first, then go to your wheels—or just use separate brush. The thing is, you just don’t want to pick up any dirt, pebbles, sand that could scratch the paint job if you did it in reverse order.

Switch back to the green wash nozzle to rinse off the detergent; and work from the top to the bottom, making sure to remove all of the soap. Use the washer’s wand to help you wash hard-to-reach areas, like wheel arches and running boards. Be sure to drain the soap tank when you’re done.

And there you go, an easy way to wash your car, just in time for the warm weather. I’m ready for a drive.



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  • Faylinn Says:
    July 11th, 2016 at 7:55 am

    I have never washed my car with a pressure washer before, because I am afraid of the damage that it may cause. However, I am glad to learn that there are settings delicate enough to make cleaning with it possible without ruining my car’s paint. Now that I realize this, I am going to try applying detergent and washing it with the pressure washer at some point this week.


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