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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.

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.


Comments

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5 Comments on “How to Clean Your Car Using a Pressure Washer”

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  • Brain-freeze Says:
    April 23rd, 2019 at 6:28 pm

    Two steps specified in this article are the opposite my pressure washer’s manual states: 1) do not rinse before sudsing; 2) sash from bottom to top, not top to bottom. I don’t know the best method as I’ve never done this. The rinsing step makes sense to me, but I think I’m going to try the manufacturers method first (no rinse as a 1st step).I have no fear my 2000PSI pressure washer will be too powerful for the car’s paint because all I have to do is BACK UP and apply the water at a distance to lessen its force. “Car brush?” “No, thank you. If I need to start scrubbing stuff it eliminates my goal of quick/easy car wash.



  • Adam Says:
    January 11th, 2019 at 3:22 pm

    The initial how to on the pressure washer was great; however, the cleaning technique made me cringe and proof of that was the holograms from the paint on the hood and bumper.
    1: Never ever ever use a brush as done in this demo..EVER! That will scratch and mar the paint terribly.
    2: Unless the soap is PH neutral, do NOT let it sit in the sun for any period of time. Especially if you have hard water. You will absolutely get water spots.
    3.: He is right about not doing it on gravel, that would just be silly to do with a pressure washer, but whet he was saying about doing the body then the wheels is a no no. Always do wheels/tyres first. Otherwise, when you clean the body then the wheels, your clean body will get all the brake particulates, tar, grime, and dirt. Then you have to go back and re-clean all those parts again.

    With all that said, the pressure washer guide is quite useful. 🙂



  • Janet K Pate Says:
    December 19th, 2017 at 12:26 pm

    I just ordered a pressure washer for myself.
    As a Christmas present. My honey has always told me. Get what you want. I can’t wait to get it. I won’t get it till December 26,2017. But that’s okay. I really enjoyed the video.



  • Jim Jones Says:
    December 15th, 2017 at 7:18 am

    I thought about this since I have a pressure washer but I really dont see the difference in using it vs the garden hose.



  • 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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How to Clean Your Car Using a Pressure Washer