How To Pressure Wash Your Car Or Truck (Quicker Than You Ever Thought Possible)

Updated: How To Library 4 min read

Jamey

Now that you own a pressure washer you can clean your car or truck with little effort.

Most people think pressure washing is too powerful and will damage the car paint. But there is a safe working procedure that won’t.

This particular method will prevent streaks, prevent damage to fragile bits and yet ensure problem areas like the grill and wheel wells get properly washed.

How to pressure wash your car or truck

By following the pressure washing tips in the video, you will ensure you leave your car or truck squeaky clean in a fraction of the time it would take with a sponge and bucket of soapy water.

Do you know How To Pressure Wash Your Car’s Engine Bay? Check our article.

Watch the step-by-step video how to pressure clean your car or truck:

Here’s 3 Steps To Pressure Wash Your Car Or Truck

If you prefer to just read how to pressure wash your car then here you go. I’ve condensed the video into 3 simple steps.

1. Apply Detergent Bottom Up To Prevent Streaking

  • Use the 40 degree nozzle to ensure a delicate spray pattern while applying the detergent and removing dirt.
  • After attaching the garden hose to your pressure washer and filling the detergent tank with car wash detergent you’re good to start up the pressure washer.
  • Start by holding the spray wand 3 feet from the car moving closer as you need to (this prevents damage) when rinsing the tougher stuck-on bugs and mud or dirt. You’ll probably need to get within 6 inches of the wheel wells as they tend to be the dirtiest, especially in winter and fall.
  • If required you can use a scrub brush attachment to really grind off the insects from your grill after a long road trip.
  • Be sure to wear wear protection because debris could get into your eye, especially while blasting in the wheel wells.
  • Overall, ensure a bottom up approach to prevent the soap from streaking on your car or truck.

2. Leave Detergent For 5 Minutes

  • Now you’ve done the once over and removed most of the dirt and grime. It’s time to allow the detergent to really clean deep into the surface. Let the suds sit for a few minutes, while intermittently spraying it to keep it wet.

3. Detach Detergent From Flow And Rinse Detergent Top Down To Ensure Best Clean

  • Ensure you disconnect the detergent because now we’re going to rinse it all away.
  • Once detached, pull the trigger while pointing away from car or truck to flush it out of the system.
  • Now using the delicate 40 degree nozzle again spray your car or truck TOP DOWN keeping the lance about 3-4 feet from the car or truck.
  • Be mindful of fragile parts of your car like the mirrors and any light covers. Just back away a foot further over those parts.
  • Another tip, if you stickers attached to your car, to prevent peeling them off spray them front on instead of at any angle.

Do you know How To Pressure Wash A House To Clean Siding and Gutters?

What About Truck Beds/Tray?

  • To clean your truck tray use a stronger spray nozzle. Depending on how dirty it is you can use either the jet nozzle (0 degree nozzle) or the 15 degree nozzle.

Best Pressure Washer for Cars & Trucks

Choosing the right pressure washer is a very important piece to the job.

A medium-duty pressure washer is recommended. It can be either gas or electric pressure washer – up to you. If you’re occasionally cleaning your car our recommendation is to use an electric over gas pressure washer, because they typically produce a lower water pressure which is less likely to damage your car’s paint.

Our pick today is the AR Blue Clean (AR383). It’s one of the top rated units (in general), and at 1,900 PSI & 1.5 GPM (gallons per minute) it is strong enough to clean away dirt, but delicate enough to not harm your car.

Best Pressure Washers for Cleaning Your Vehicles

AR Blue Clean 383 Electric Pressure Washer
Our Favorite

Annovi Reverberi Blue Clean (AR383)

  • 1900 PSI
  • 1.5 GPM
  • Perfect for Small Jobs
  • Environmentally Friendly
Sun Joe SPX3000 Best Electric Pressure Washer Pic
Runner Up

Sun Joe SPX3000

  • More Powerful Than AR Blue Clean
  • 2030 PSI
  • 1.76 GPM
  • Automatic Pump Shut off

A runner up is the Sun Joe SPX3000. Slightly higher PSI than the AR Blue Clean, and also a slight increase in GPM at 1.76. Both come in at a similar price point and are fantastic for washing cars. See the price on Amazon.

Professionals at a car wash or detailers will likely be using a gas model with multiple detergent options for higher cleaning power. DIY cleaners and homeowners won’t need this level of output for an occasional car cleaning.

Will Washing My Car with a Heavy-Duty Power Washer Damage It?

1. Use a 25-degree nozzle.

  • If you keep the end of the pressure washer wand/lance about 1 meter (3 feet and 3 inches) from your car the effective pressure on the car will only be 3x that of a garden hose when compared to the garden hose spray being really close to the car.
  • That be the right combination of cleaning power and damage avoidance when washing your car.
Safe to pressure wash car with heavy duty

2. Be extra careful around fragile parts of the car like the mirrors.

  • Use your instinct and back away even further if you feel you may damage bumper sticker or the mirror or other fragile parts of your car.

Do I know How much pressure do I need my pressure washer to have?

3. Learn the double distance half pressure rule

  • Let’s say you’re using the 25-degree nozzle from 1-foot away with a 3000 PSI pressure washer. The surface that is 1-foot away feels 564 lbs because the 3,000 lbs/in is now spread over a larger area.
  • If you move 2-feet away that becomes 282 lbs, double the distance half the force.
  • Keep this in mind when pressure washing in the future!
Jamey

Jamey has been testing and reviewing top pressure washers for 7 years. He worked as a commercial pressure washer at a rendering plant for 3 years and all up has been using commercial and residential pressure washers for 15+ years. He is also a mechanical engineer and while working in the mining industry designed several turn-key light industrial vehicle wash pads.