Can You Take A Tesla Through A Car Wash?

Taking your car for a wash might seem like a mundane activity, and perhaps an odd thing to be concerned about, but once you start to think about it, there are a few things you might be concerned about when it comes to washing a Tesla. Sure, vehicles need to have some sort of water resistance to be able to drive on the road in various weather conditions, but that doesn't necessarily mean that same weatherproof treatment on the electrical components is meant to protect against high-pressure jets of water.

Tesla vehicles, and most other EVs, present interesting problems — not only because of the touch-enabled outer surfaces, but also due to things like automatic windscreen wipers and parking brakes. Both manual and automatic car washes can be problematic when it comes to Tesla vehicles, as this poster on Tesla Motors Club found out in 2021 when washing his Tesla Model 3 caused the charging port to open unexpectedly.

Somewhat amusingly, mere days after that post on Tesla Motors Club, Tesla issued a software update that implemented "Car Wash Mode," which allows you to safely wash your car without having to worry about water triggering any door or charging port handles.

Tesla recommends washing by hand, but enable Car Wash Mode

If you're a Tesla owner, it's highly advised that you read at least the "Maintenance" section of the owner's manual so that you know how to properly clean the vehicle and handle it in an emergency situation. Under the "Maintenance" section, Tesla describes the procedure for cleaning.

The first thing you need to know about washing your Tesla is that you need to enable "Car Wash Mode" before you begin. This will close the windows, lock the charge port and the doors, and disable the windshield wipers. Car Wash Mode can be found under "Service" in the "Controls" menu.

Primarily, Tesla recommends a gentle hand wash with cold or lukewarm, soapy water, with a rinse afterwards. The reasoning behind this wash strategy is that it is, generally, more gentle on the paint, and you're bound to be more careful compared to something like an automatic car wash.

If hand washing your Tesla isn't a possibility, Car Wash Mode can be used in conjunction with "Enable Free Roll," which is accessible via the main display while Car Wash Mode is enabled and the brake pedal is depressed. Enable Free Roll lets the vehicle roll, as if it's in neutral like a gas-powered car, for use in an automatic car wash. 

Tesla also cautions against using automatic car washes that make use of brushes and very caustic detergents. Instead, use a touchless automatic car wash to avoid scratching paint and discoloring trim.