How to Avoid Car Wash Scratches With a Pressure Washer?

By Power Tools

February 15, 2021

How do you clean your car?

A study suggests that almost 64% of US adults drive cars every day. Cars can get dirty with everyday use. Washing your car with the right tools becomes very important.

If the old soap, shampoo, wax, and wash routine is no longer cutting it for you, you might think about using a pressure washer.

Pressure washers use water at high pressure to help clean challenging stains. But the same pressure can scratch the car’s paint if you don’t use it smartly. It is vital to use the right pressure and car cleaning compounds with a pressure washer.

Avoid Car Wash Scratches

Let’s see how you can use the pressure washer properly to get rid of stains, dirt, and grimes without affecting the car’s surface.

Understanding Pressure Washer Metrics

There are three units of measure that you need to understand if you want to use a pressure washer correctly:

  • Pounds Per Square Inch (PSI): PSI is a measure of the force with which water is being pushed through the nozzle. For tougher stains, you should use higher PSI.
  • Gallons Per Minute (GPM): GPM is the amount of water hitting your car per minute. The higher the GPM, the faster is the cleaning.
  • Cleaning Power Units (CPU): The CPU is a composite measure; it is just the PSI multiplied by the GPM. A higher CPU usually implies better and faster cleaning.

Do’s and Don’ts of Pressure Washer Car Cleaning


  • Right CPU: You should choose a pressure washer with 1900-2800 CPUs. Using a higher CPU may seem better because it will generate more force. But the extra force can also put scratches on the car’s surface.
  • Right PSI: Choose a pressure washer with a 1200-1900 PSI pressure setting, a safe range for washing cars.
  • Right GPM: You should select a pressure washer with a GPM between 1.4 and 1.6
  • Nozzle Size: You should choose a nozzle tip of 40 degrees (the green one) for the car’s body. You can use a tip with 25 degrees (the green colored one) for the tires and truck bed. A lower tip means higher water pressure, which is why you should never use a lower degree tip for washing the car’s body.


  • Keep the nozzle at a distance: While using the pressure washer, the nozzle should be away from the car. If it remains very close to the car, it might cause scratches.
  • Short bursts: Don’t hold the nozzle at a spot for too long. It may chip off the paint or cause scratches.
  • Use in a clean area: Avoid pressure washing cars near pebbles and gravel surfaces. Due to extra water pressure, they may bounce off the car’s surface and cause scratches.
  • Choose settings carefully: Don’t use any setting of PSI, CPM, GPU, or Nozzle tip apart from what we have shared above. It may end up scratching paint from the car’s surface.

If you follow the above, do’s and don’ts religiously, you can get a scratch-free and clean car.

Besides using a pressure washer, there are many other reasons why your car can get scratches. These tips will help you get rid of them:

Tips to Remove Scratches from your Cars

Many things can cause scratches on your car. Using a hard or abrasive brush, the wrong kind of soap, or leaving the car dirty for a long time can all lead to scratches. Below are some tips to remove scratches:

  • Choose a good quality, pH balanced soap for your car cleaning. Then, you can use a soft sponge or brush meant for washing cars.
  • You must buy scratch-removal products that include scratch-removal solutions. A microfiber towel is a good choice to use for scratch-removal solution.

How To Remove Car Scratches

Car scratches can look nasty on the car’s surface. Below are some ways in which you can remove them:

  • To remove deep car scratches, you can use sandpaper or polishing pads. After this, apply a fresh coat of paint.
  • For light scratches, you can also rub them with toothpaste in a slow circular motion.
  • Rinse with water and clean it properly without putting too much pressure on your car’s surface.

How To Remove Car Scratches

If your car scratches do not go away by using these methods, here are a few products you can use to get rid of those marks.

Products That Can Help in Removing Scratches

Meguiar’s G17216 Ultimate Compound – Safe to Use

Meguiars G17216 is one of the best car scratch removers. The product is good for removing oxidation, scratches, water spots, and blemishes without scratching.

Its micro-abrasive technology leaves a new finish on the surface of your car. Moreover, the clear coat safe formula reduces your efforts while cleaning your car.

[amazon box =”B001O7PNNM”]

Turtle Wax T-234KT Premium Grade Scratch Repair Kit – High Performance

The Turtle Wax scratch repair kit is an all-in-one solution to dirt and scratch removal. It features varying grit sanding pads for deeper scratches and a clear coat pen for lighter scratches.

This kit includes color-coded restoration pads, spray lubricant, 4oz. Paint clarifying compound and a 3oz. Clear-coat finish pen.

[amazon box =”B0036VQUOA”]

QUIXX 00070-US Paint Scratch Remover Kit – For Value

The QUIXX remover kit is good at permanently removing scratches and marks. Its 2 step process will make scratch removal a breeze.

The kit is suitable for all gloss paints and colors, including metallic. It includes Grit sandpaper, polishing cloth, repair polish, and finishing polish.

[amazon box =”B000UVUAFO”]

TriNova Scratch Swirl remover – best abrasive compound car paint

This solution uses an advanced formula that works with a dual action polisher. The rubbing compound will remove unwanted swirls, scuffs, paint transfers, water sports, and oxidation. Moreover, it helps to restore your paint’s original shine.

[amazon box =”B074G2MRLL”]

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it bad to wash a car with a pressure washer?

A high-pressure car wash can be bad for the paint of your car. If you exert too high a pressure, it can cause tiny scratches on your car’s surface. These scratches may allow water to accumulate, causing the car to rust.

When you use a pressure washer frequently, you should be careful to use the right settings. We have listed above the right PSI, CPU, GPM settings, and nozzle tip degree for washing a car.

What common problems do people face while washing cars?

  • Water Pressure: the high pressure of water can damage your car’s paint. If your car already has a chip in the paint, the pressure can spread it more. You should use the right pressure setting while using a pressure washer.
  • Chemicals: Some car washing soaps contain acids that can harm a car’s surface. Acid can damage the paint or metal or harm the exterior of your car. You should always use pH neutral soaps and car washes.
  • Water Spots: Water spots can occur when you don’t dry your car properly. These spots may harm the interior and exterior of your car and can cause scratches. You should always dry your car completely using a microfiber cloth after a wash.

Can hand washing your car damage the paint?

Yes, hand washing can also damage the paint of your car. When you apply harsh chemicals in excess, it can damage the surface. Using an abrasive brush is another way in which you can harm your car’s paint.

Are pressure washers better than washing by hand?

Pressure washing a car is better than a hand wash. High-pressure car cleaning avoids direct contact with the paint.

The water at high pressure is much more effective in removing dirt than a hand wash. You can also use a car soap with a pressure washer to remove dirt.

You can also use a foam cannon to help remove stubborn dirt. A foam cannon sprays a thick layer of soap onto the vehicle to break the dirt.

As long as you use pressure washers with the right setting, they are much better at cleaning your car instead of doing it by hand.


Related Articles:

We may also enjoy our review of the best car pressure washer.