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Does Having Overland Equipment On A Car Prevent You From Entering a Car Wash?

Once you have your roof racks installed, maintaining them becomes crucial. Part of the maintenance is keeping them clean. While it may be tempting to take the easy route and run your vehicle through a car wash, first consider if it’s the best option for your Overlanding equipment. 

The most important question to ask is, can a car with roof racks go through a carwash?

And not only roof racks but any overland equipment. You need to consider how a car wash will affect your roof box, racks, and roof rails. Here, we take a look at whether having overland equipment on a car would prevent you from entering a car wash. So let's dive in.

Car Washes - Are There Different Types?

Understanding the different car washes available and how they clean your car is important. It allows us to decide whether to use them for overland vehicles and cars carrying overland tools. 

  • Soft Touch 

A standard soft-touch or car wash with brushes is the most popular. When we think of a car wash, it is this one that usually comes to mind. These washes combine a tunnel and conveyor belt. The belt transports your car through a series of large brushes and long strips of cloth or sponge. Soap and water spray onto your car as it passes through the washing tunnel. Suspended brushes and cloths attend to the dirt. 

  • Touchless

A spray-only or touchless car wash does not use cloth or brush applicators to clean your vehicle. Instead, they make use of high-pressure water jets to remove the dirt and debris. The car travels through a tunnel, much like a regular car wash. As it moves along it experiences jets of water and detergent that clean it off. 

  • Hand Wash at Home

The good old do-it-yourself car wash. This system sees you at home with a hose, a bucket of suds, and a cloth or foam sponge. While this is easily everyone's least favorite form of a car wash, it can be the best option. 

How do these car washes affect my vehicle and equipment?

You may think to yourself, why not take my overland vehicle or car with roof racks through a car wash? It’s simple, and won’t take up a lot of your time. While you could take your overland Tools through a car wash, we advise against it. This is why:

While it may seem to be the obvious option, a soft touch wash is possibly the most destructive. Yes, the brushes and cloths may do a good job cleaning off the grime, and they get into all the hard to reach places. But that is where the problem lies. These brush or cloth applicators can become tangled in your roof rack system. This spells disaster. As your car travels along the conveyor belt, the entangled cloths can rip the roof rack from your vehicle. Not only will this damage your roof racks and Overlanding gear, but it can cause severe damage to your car. 

The applicators used may cause scuffing and damage to your car's paintwork, roof boxes, and roof rack systems. The scuffing of paint or powder coatings on Overlanding gear can lead to rust and corrosion. 

Touchless car washes have cons of their own. The lack of brushes and cloths means you need to attack tough dirt on the vehicle somehow. High-pressure water jets help, but even they need a little help. This is where strong chemical-based detergents come in. These detergents can strip protective layers off both your car and roof rack systems, leaving them exposed to water and UV damage. 

UV damage will cause your roof rack systems to fade, leaving them looking dated and dull. With time, water corrodes and rusts your gear. If not caught in time, you may end up having to replace your entire roof rack system. The high-pressure water system may not be the best solution for roof rack systems installed through drilling. Although sealed with silicone, the points can still experience water damage. 

Hand Washing offers little to no risk, although it can be tedious. 

Why We Recommend Hand Washing Your Car At Home

Washing your vehicle at home is far more beneficial. Especially if you have Overlanding equipment attached to your car. 

  1. By cleaning your car yourself, you can reach each corner and cranny, so you know it's done correctly. It is easy-going on the body of your vehicle and on your Overlanding equipment. 
  2. Being able to select which detergent and waxes you use is also a bonus. You need not worry about corrosion or damage to your paintwork. 
  3. Washing your car by hand provides the perfect opportunity to inspect your equipment. Checking your apparatus is advised to ensure it stays in tip-top condition.
  4.  A roof rack car wash of your own allows you to clean your equipment without having to uninstall it. This saves you time and hassle. You can uninstall a roof rack with ease if it uses a clamp system. But, a system that requires bolting the roof racks to the car takes a lot more effort. This makes it a hassle to remove them each time you wash your vehicle.

 Say you go Overlanding every fortnight. Having to remove your roof rack system every two weeks to clean your car is a nightmare. Some roof rack systems bolted to the vehicle's body are permanently fixed. Here, there is only one solution, and that is giving your car and equipment a DIY wash at home. 

Can My Overland Tools Even Be Washed In A Car Wash?

Most manufacturers and manuals will tell against running them through a car wash. The ideal way to keep them clean is to wash them at home with warm, soapy water. 

For rooftop cargo boxes, the sentiment is the same. Remove it before your vehicle goes through a car wash. These boxes attach to roof rack systems that can become snagged. Another thought is that the boxes may fill with water. While unlikely, it still is something no one wants to experience.  Harsh detergents and rough brushes may also lead to external damage to the cargo box.

Also, consider how your Overlanding equipment might affect the car wash. If your gadgets become hooked, they could damage the car wash too. The harm caused could lead to you having to cover the costs of damage claims from the car wash business. 

An awning such as the Rhino Rack Batwing Compact Awning is another item people claim to take through a car wash. Our advice? Don't. Instead, take the time to give your Rhino Roof Rack a car wash by hand. You have zero risks of the rack system or awning becoming damaged. And, you can give it a good once over to make sure it is still in good shape. 

In Conclusion

So, in answering the question we started with. Does having overland equipment on a car prevent you from using a car wash? In a word, Yes. If you want to keep it in one piece, that is. 

Instead, give your car and equipment a good hand wash. It may seem tedious and time-consuming, but, it will cost you less than having to replace damaged gear and vehicles. Not to mention the financial cost it will save you. Stay at home and spend some time giving your Overlanding equipment a little TLC. And while you are at it, look at some of the latest roof racks we have available.

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