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How To Wash a Tesla: The Ultimate Guide

How To Wash a Tesla: The Ultimate Guide

Buying a new car is a great feeling, and being able to purchase one that is as nice as a Tesla is a sign of success for many people. This can make you feel like you are on top of the world. However, these nice cars do require some extra love and care to ensure that they are kept looking nice and polished whenever you take them for a drive. 

Between the weather changes, dust and dirt in the air, and long drives that cause your car to get dirtier than usual, you could need to wash and detail your car often. And, although it is pretty well known that you should not take your Tesla through an automatic car wash, we want to talk about the reasons why that is and what you can do instead. 

Hand washing is not everyone’s preferred way to clean their vehicle, but when it comes to a Tesla, you want to take the time and effort to use a DIY process to make sure that your paint and undercarriage are protected from damage that could happen in an automatic car wash!

Why Do Teslas Have To Be Hand Washed?

By definition, a car wash is meant to be able to wash cars.

So, why would a Tesla not be able to go through an automatic car wash?

According to the Tesla Model 3 owner’s manual, you can use an automatic car wash if it is touchless. This means that there are no brushes or other moving parts that touch the car.

They even go as far as to point out that:

“using any other type of car wash could cause damage that is not covered by the warranty”

If you do decide to take your Tesla through a touchless car wash, make sure that you know how to do each of the following beforehand:

  • Put the vehicle in neutral
  • Fold in your side mirrors (required by some wash stations)
  • Switch your windshield wipers from automatic to Off

With this in mind, let’s take a look at a few additional reasons why you may want to avoid these automatic car washes altogether and stick to handwashing your Tesla.

#1 Protects Your Paint 

When you drive your car through an automatic car wash, especially one that uses brushes to do the job, you are risking your paint being damaged or scratched.

The brushes are too hard for the type of paint that is used on Tesla vehicles, which is something that you want to preserve, and you could see hairline scratches from the brushes on your car after it is washed. 

#2 Undercarriage Damage 

With the design of certain Tesla models, you run a higher risk of sustaining damage to the undercarriage from driving over the rails that guide you through the car wash.

If you attempt to go through one of these automatic car washes, you could end up needing an expensive repair afterward. 

Damaging the Battery 

For the same reason, as I mentioned with regards to the damage that could occur to the undercarriage, you could also have damage done to your battery.

With certain Tesla models, the battery could be damaged when driving over the rails similar to the undercarriage. This could be a bad repair to have to deal with and something you really want to avoid.


  • Not all automatic car washes will have guide rails to worry about 
  • There are brushless automatic options that could be easier on your paint job 
  • Can be good for the winter months to remove salt deposits 


  • Car washes don’t clean all the dirt off 
  • More expensive than DIY options 
  • Could cause damage in some cases 

How To Wash Your Tesla At Home 

If you decide that an automatic car wash is not the option for you and your vehicle, then doing it yourself is the only way to get it done the right way.

But you can make small mistakes that could cause some damage if you don’t take certain precautions, so you want to take steps to ensure that your DIY wash job doesn’t cause any of the same damage as a car wash would. 

So, here are the tips that you want to take to clean your Tesla and make it looks shiny and new each time you wash it. 

1. Pick The Best Materials 

You don’t want to choose the wrong materials that will increase the chance of scratching your vehicle when you are washing your Tesla yourself.

So, you want to ensure that the towels that you use are soft and are either soft hand mitts or are microfiber towels that will be gentle on your paint job. 

Also, getting extra materials like a bucket that has a grit guard that you can place inside that attracts the dirt and keeps it at the bottom of the bucket and keeps the dirt pieces from staying in the water that you use to dip the towel into can be a great thing. 

2. Do Not Use Brushes 

In the same way that you don’t want to go through an automatic car wash that has brushes that could scratch your car, you also don’t want to use any brushes when you are cleaning your vehicle on your own.

Brushes can scratch your paint job, and if you aren’t consistent with washing your brush enough, it will collect dirt and make more scratches or swirls across the surface.

Stick to a soft sponge and car wash mitts to avoid damaging the paint.

3. Don’t Wash in a Circular Motion 

Many people think that you need to wash your car in the same way that you brush your teeth, meaning that you use a circular motion to get rid of dirt.

However, this isn’t the proper way to do it. Instead, you want to use long vertical strokes starting from the very top of your car to avoid swirls.

Swirls are a pattern that is left on your vehicle when you use a circular motion.

Longer vertical strokes will avoid this issue and ensure that the dirt that is near the bottom of your car is not pushed around creating scratches on your car. 

Step by Step Guide to Handwashing a Tesla

Step 1 – Start With a First Layer 

As you wash your car, you want to get a layer of dirt off first. This means that you want to wet the entire car and do a quick wash to start off the process.

Hose down the car starting from the top and work your way down to get the best results. You will just use water during this step. 

Step 2 – Mix Your Cleaning Solution 

Next, get your bucket and mix in the cleaning liquid that you prefer to use on your vehicle. While this can be as DIY as shampoo, you’re far better off getting a dedicated car wash soap.

Not only does a good soap last a LONG time, but it will go a long way in protecting your paint job. I personally like this one from Mr. Pink Super Suds on Amazon.

It draws rave reviews from myself (and thousands of others), and its fun colors help rope in the kids to help with the wash too!

You should keep adding liquid and stirring the mixture until you can clearly see bubbles forming from the soap. 

Step 3 – Begin Scrubbing!

Take either your hand mitt or towel and begin washing the car with the cleaning solution.

Always remember to start with the top of the vehicle and work your way down. This not only helps you to avoid missing spots but also allows the soap to drip down and work its magic as it drips down.

You also need to make sure that you are cleaning off the dirt from your mitt or towel every time you dunk it into your solution to ensure that dirt isn’t staying on it and scratching your car’s paint. 

Step 4 – Take One Section At a Time

As you wash your Tesla, you want to start with a small section of the car at a time.

This allows you to scrub the area and rinse it off without having the cleaning solution stay on the paint until it dries.

You want this process to be done quickly so there are no spots, so take it one section at a time to keep it manageable. 

Step 5 – Wash the Headlights and Bumper Last 

When you are cleaning a certain section of the car, you want to do things in an order that makes sense.

If you are washing the back and start with the bumper, you will wash the back of the car and allow dirt to seep down onto the bumper and have to wash it again.

This takes up more time!

So, start with the back of the car and end with the bumper. 

In the front of the vehicle, clean the hood and front window first, then move onto the headlights, and lastly the bumper. 

Step 6 – Use Microfiber Towels to Dry 

After you are done washing and rinsing your Tesla, use soft microfiber towels to dry the water before it leaves spots on your vehicle.

It is best to have a few towels on hand for this so you are able to dry it fast enough to not leave spots.

While it might be tempting to break out the leaf blower at this point, I can assure you that won’t give you the best results 😉

Final Tips for Washing your Tesla

This guide will help you clean your car properly, but here are some extra tips that will ensure you have the best-looking vehicle after you are done. 

You should also wash your car in a cool place where you are not in direct sunlight. This will make it harder to wash your car as the cleaning solution and water mix will dry too fast, leaving noticeable watermarks if you are not able to scrub, rinse, and dry your vehicle fast enough. 

If you have washed your car incorrectly before and have found swirls or small scratches, you can find scratch and swirl removers that help minimize the size and visibility of them and cover them completely.

It could take some time to find a good product for you, but once you do, you could get rid of the small imperfections fairly easily.

You can still get hairline scratches from driving on the freeway and taking long trips, so having something on hand to clean up the area and make them look less noticeable is a great thing to keep with you. 

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Zach Reed

Hi, I'm the founder of! Having owned a wide variety of vehicles in my life, I was astounded at how hard it can be to find answers to common automotive questions. Rather than sit idly, I decided to create this website to help others!