"In many cases you're sitting on a forty thousand dollar ride," says Jim Chapman, owner of Independent Wash Services, a car wash service and maintenance contractor. "It's easier to keep a clean car clean -- if you wash your car every week, you can go to the three dollar car wash and it'll come out clean as a shiny penny."
The three washes most commonly available to Canadian drivers are the self-service car wash, touchless automated washes and touchless tunnel washes.
Self service car wash
Most of us are well acquainted with these -- the coin operated, drive in and drive out washes. Their major advantage -- or disadvantage perhaps -- is that you can spend as much time on your car as you have coin in your pocket.
"The quality of the wash is directly proportional to the time and work you want to put into it," says Chapman. "It's one nick up from doing it in your driveway which is, of course, illegal in most Canadian cities."
It's a Saturday morning type of job, though, because you're likely to get a bit wet and dirty yourself as you wash your vehicle.
Touchless automated equipment
Touchless automated washes replace the friction washes that were once so hard on paint jobs. In a touchless wash, the equipment washes over your vehicle in a series of cycles.
The quality of wash, according to Chapman, is decent and the primary advantage is that you don't even need to get out of your car.
The disadvantage? The lineup to the wash is often much longer than the actual wash.
Touchless tunnel type
Touchless tunnel washes pull your car through the wash tunnel
Expect to see more of these in the future.
"Spring time is the most difficult time to wash your car," says Chapman. "The temperature is changing and the salt has drawn some of the oils out of the asphalt -- it ends up on the surface of your car."
To get that sticky gunk off your car, you will need some type of friction -- try the foam brush at the self-service bay.
"Run-off from car washes actually goes to sewage drainage rather than to storm," says Chapman. "Most car washes -- in order to pass local codes -- have to have a separator system to separate solids from water. It's little more caustic or corrosive than what you flush from your toilet."
All three types of washes pose roughly the same environmental concerns, but it's a good idea to find out what kinds of local bylaws control the car washes in your city.