Washing and Detailing Your MS!

Washing and Detailing Your MS!

I gave my MS it's first full wash and detail the other day. Overall, nothing really different than washing any other type of car, however, I did notice that a great deal areas of the car trap excess water.
Thus, for a proper detail, I suggest having some type of compressed air, or maybe a leaf-blower, to force out trapped water around the door seals, hatch seals, frunk seals, side mirror seals, tail-light seals, and especially around the front light seals. Also a clean wet high-quality shami or sham-wow, to collect the water as it runs out the seals. Finally a good quality clean microfiber cloth, and some commercial detailing spray (I use Mothers), to remove any water spots, etc. I also use a high-quality cleaner / polish / wax for any minor scratches, etc.

Being the wheels are also painted, they can be treated the same way.

Being a life-long Southern California resident, knowing how to wash and detail your ride can be a very rewarding experience. Otherwise, I suggest hiring a professional detailing service, if you really want to maintain the paint, and quality look of your MS!

Otherwise, if you trust your local car-wash... well, as the saying goes... Caveat emptor.

joepruitt | December 5, 2012

Thanks TikiMan, great tips. I've hand-washed mine twice now and will not be taking it through a car wash. I read on a thread that someone took theirs through a touch-free thinking that was safe, but the car was too wide for the tire-wells in the wash and trashed two of his rims. Not worth it...


BYT | December 5, 2012

I would love to keep my Model S looking new forever, I however am not good at detailing and frankly might scratch her up. I have collected a good number of mobile detail outfit coupons on Groupon but will observe them washing my wife's Rav4 before I schedule them to work on my Model S.

Jon Wray | December 5, 2012

I was at a Tesla service center today and they told me where they send their cars to be hand washed. I live nearby so I think I'll take mine there.

Is it worth getting a cover to protect the car from dust in a garage?

BYT | December 5, 2012

I don't trust car covers, bad experiences with them, dirt can accumulate in area's and then scratch the surface when you remove it, then the trouble of covering and uncovering it in the first place. Unless you clean and dry and the cover is also clean and you will store it for a while, I wouldn't bother personally.

Thanks for the tip about asking the Tesla Service guys about where they take the car's in for a detail job, I'm not far from one myself.

dahtye | December 5, 2012

I've washed my MS 3 times so far. If it wasn't raining so hard the last few days I would have washed it again.

I did us a leaf blower to blow off the excess water and get into the little nooks and crannies. It works great! And in the winter cold (it really doesn't get that cold around here, only about 50 degress F in the winter daytime), it save me from having to wring out the chamois several times.

The one thing I noticed immediately the first time washing the MS - it's a BIG car! It took me quite a while to fully wash and detail it the first time around (not having used the leaf blower yet). The wheels also get quite dirty and needs a good soft sponge to get into the acute creases.

Even with the leaf blower, I still need to take a soft towel to the door, trunk, and frunk jambs.

BYT | December 5, 2012

It is a big car, I pulled into a ChargePoint parking spot today and tried to pull the cable over to trickle charge my Model S, had it pulled all the way up where the front bumper was over the curb, the ChargePoint station was on the driver side of the car and even with full extension, I couldn't reach the charge port on my Model S. Note to self in the future to back into the EV spot instead.

Jon Wray | December 5, 2012

My office has several ChargePoint parking spots but all in compact spaces. I'm not risking that, the leafs can have 'em.

walla2 | December 5, 2012

I've handwashed my Chevy about 1 time in the last 2 years. Not a big handwashing fan especially in 30-40 degree weather. So I chanced my dirty Model S with a touchless. Very careful with the pull in. The place I used was more than wide enough to avoid scratching the wheels. Did a good job overall, although I had one tiny leak (3 drops) on the rear passenger window where water got jetted past a seal from the high pressure sprayer. Will watch that area to see what happens when it just rains to make sure its not a problem.

Brian H | December 6, 2012

In case you missed it:
Junkman's 2-bucket Wash System

jfeldman72 | December 6, 2012

Does the car come with a wax from the factory? Should I have the car waxed as soon as i get it? Expecting mine in the next 45 days.

Baltimore Tesla | December 6, 2012

Here's a note to all those thinking that a leaf blower is a good way to dry your Model S. Go ahead and use it, but slow it down to the lowest speed necessary to push water out of the crevices. Your blower has no filter so anything in the air or any residual dirt in the blower itself will be propelled at up to 100mph at your car. This would be a great way to "sandblast" your new car.

If you don't think so, consider the pounding the front end of your car gets at highway speeds of just 60-70mph.

Michael23 | December 6, 2012

I'm doing opticoat! Highly recommend it. Also aquapell

cerjor | December 6, 2012

Griot's Garage ( is a specialty place that has their line of car car products and specialize in caring for show cars. You can make an appointment to take your car in and they will teach you how to make it look its best. If you near Tacoma WA ...

eric | December 6, 2012

Hi, this is my first post. I am a nut for cleaning and have always used terry towels to dry the car. No swirls in my paint.

Newest method is blower WITH filter. Google Metro Vac. I have a 4+4HP blower called the Master Blaster. Their products are first class.

TikiMan | December 6, 2012

IMHO... Unless you are drying your car in a really dusty / dirty area (with a lot of fine debris around), your garden-blower shouldn't ever sand-blast your car's paint. Sure there are tiny microscopic dust particles always flying around in the air at all given time, however, these dust particles are far less likely obtrusive to your paint, than the particles that are in your tap water, which you are also shooting at your car at a 100+ MPH velocity when rinsing.

IF there is a lot of large abrasive sand, etc in the air when you are washing, I would suggest not washing your car at that time anyway. Also, if you are very concerned about possible 'sand-blasting' your MS, I suggest never driving your car in windy weather, or heavy rain, as they are FAR more likely to scratch your car, over that of a garden-blower in optimal conditions.

MB3 | December 6, 2012

If you hand wash your car the greatest danger is probably from your wash mitt. It can little bits of debris in it (at least mine has) and you can see the damage happen. The two bucket method helps, but you must be careful.
I always want my car clean and very shiny to show off the great paint, but I wonder if permanent damage will happen if you do nothing. I have a 1999 Altima that was hardly ever washed it clear coat is mostly scratch free. Same for a 2005 Prius. So, my question is. Does washing (without extreme caution) do more permanent damage than doing nothing?

TikiMan | December 6, 2012

MB3, fine clear-coat scratches are easy to buff out using a high quality cleaner-polish and then wax. Also, using a 'clay-bar' once a season (or so), to remove old wax, and road grime that builds up over time.

Again, it all comes down to preference. Not everyone has to be a slave to a shiny ride ;-)

JimBl | December 7, 2012

I will second CERJOR's comments on Griot's Garage products. They also have a lot of great videos on car care.

RZitrin1 | December 9, 2012

Hey, folks, what's the effect of the protective coating on all this? Are we waxing voting? Also, is the coating easier or harder to scratch?

Had car a month now, one hand job and one touch less. Touch less was fine EXCEPT worried about surface scratches - buff able but still - based on their drying cloths probably.


MB3 | December 9, 2012

rzitrin| I would be worried too. I had my car detailed only one time, and they left soooo many scratches. I agree with the Junkman (see link by Brian H above), that you should try to minimize contact with the paint. Junkman is pretty fun to watch too.

mikeadams | February 3, 2013

Since I am paying quite a bit more than I did for my last car, I really want to keep my new model S looking new for as long as possible. I watched the Junkman's two bucket video for washing and will be looking to use this method. But I am also curious what products people are looking to use on the interior as well for the leather, plastics and wood (i.e. if you have the obeche matte finish can you use Pledge to keep it looking nice?)

mbcaffe | February 3, 2013

I have not used it on the MS yet, but I plan to use Lexol leather conditioner, Maquairs NXT tch protectant on plastics and vinyl. I suppose any wood polish or wax would be fine.

mbcaffe | February 3, 2013

btw. I used the junkman two bucket system for the first time today using the gilmour foamaster 2. It worked well although the car was not that dirty.

MandL | February 4, 2013

I take mine to Canton Car Wash in Baltimore. Signed up for the unlimited washes for $40/mo plan and have been using it quite a bit with all these micro snow days. It's a full service wash, but you ride the car through the wash and then get out after the automated wash while they dry, vac, clean windows, etc.

They do an awesome job and I highly recommend stopping by if you're in the neighborhood. they're just a few yards from I895/I95 north of the tunnels.

bradslee | February 4, 2013

Can any Model S owners recommend a good car wash place in South Bay Area (Palo Alto-Sunnyvale-San Jose area) for Model S car wash?

BYT | February 4, 2013, I am going to a touchless place in Redwood City across from the Lotus / Ferrari dealer. My cousin who drives a 7-Series recommended the place to me.

tommy-tesla | February 4, 2013

@BYT Thanks - could you be more specific please?
The Lotus dealership I know of is next to the Boardwalk and
the Ferrari dealership is on El Camino Real. Google maps doesn't
show anything obvious around either.

Of course, an alternative further south would be even better.

kesh23 | February 4, 2013

I am also looking for a good car wash place in the bay area.

In the meantime, I thought I would share my journey to the car-wash-obsession land. Partly to share the information I gathered and partly as my therapy :)

Apologies in advance for the length of the post.

I have been taking my cars to Auto Pride and Ducky's in Burlingame for years, and didn't think a whole lot about it. About six months back, I purchased a rather expensive, dark colored car (that would be more prone to showing scratches). That prompted me to research the topic of "safe" car washing. And the more I learned, more paranoid I got. To the point that now I can't find a single car wash/detail place in bay area that would meet my exacting standards. My worries about how I would wash the car, along with other similar concerns about car care (will there be a big enough parking space where I am going so I don't get door dings, will the valet be careful with my car, should I drive the car when its raining etc.) are a significant hurdle in me driving and enjoying the aforementioned car. Now, I am waiting for my Model S, and worry that I would repeat the same obsessive pattern with that car.

With that off my chest :), let me share what I learned:

* my criteria for what constitutes a "good" car wash/detail place quickly changed from how well they clean the car to whether they wash without causing damage to the paint of the car. That's the only thing that matters to me. Quality of their cleaning is very very secondary :)

* the biggest danger to the paint is the dirt that accumulates on the car. If not handled properly, this dirt gets rubbed into your paint during the car wash, causing "swirls" and micro-scratches. Other dangers are dirty or harsh brushes, incorrect buffing/polishing technique, high intensity power washers etc. but those are somewhat obvious and you can stay away from the car wash/detail places that use them.

* the ONLY way to safely wash your car is to use the 2 bucket method. A good introduction to this process is in the Junkman videos on youtube mentioned earlier in the thread. Additionally, you have to make sure that the wash mitts are always clean, separate mitts are used for the top half and the bottom half of the car etc. Drying the car safely, without actually touching the car, is also an art.

* almost all the people who obsess about washing their cars end up doing it themselves. I also bought the equipment and supplies, but quickly gave up because I found that I didn't have the required skills, discipline, and patience to do this on a regular basis. Plus, I didn't want to learn on my new car.

* I am yet to find a car wash place in the bay area that washes using the 2 bucket method (and obsesses about keeping the mitts clean and dries the car safely). If you know of any such places, do let me know.

* I called the local dealers of several high-end cars to get their recommendations on good car wash places in the area. Some of their recommendations were quite scary actually. One said that they took their cars to the neighboring automatic car wash place. It seems odd to say this, but at this point, I would be wary of asking the dealer to wash your high-end car when you drop it off for a service. The guy at the Tesla showroom in Menlo park said that they use "Eco green auto clean" in Redwood City (if I understood him right) across from the Ferrari dealership. Now, I have been to that place before and they clean your car by rubbing some special cleaning chemical on your car with towels. It definitely seems eco friendly since it doesn't use any water. But, I would imagine if there was dirt on your car (or in the towel), their method would have the same swirl problem.

* One of the dealers recommended a mobile car wash guy who comes to your place to wash. That seemed to be a good bet since he uses the 2 bucket method and seemed to care about cars. I haven't used him yet. Working with him requires some planning and co-ordination. It'd be ideal to have a place that you could just drive to when you have time.

* If you do end up getting swirls and micro scratches, there are paint-correction specialists who can fix them. They are rather pricey (I have heard around $1K), but you could get it done periodically, may be once every one or 2 years, if it was important enough for you. I haven't used it myself, so can't comment.

Hills | February 4, 2013

What are you going to do? I probably don't live far from you. Love to know if you find a good solution.

DouglasR | February 4, 2013

"But, I would imagine if there was dirt on your car (or in the towel), their method would have the same swirl problem."

The obvious solution is don't wash your car if there is dirt on it.

nickjhowe | February 4, 2013

+1 @DouglasR LOL

Pbfoot | February 4, 2013

I remember when I got my Infiniti G35 several years ago, it was my first nice car. For first few months, did exclusively hand washing with microfiber towels, very light force and plenty of water. Still got some mild scratches despite all that. Have decided that some scratches are unavoidable and a fact of life, although you will definitely get worse ones going through car washes where 5 guys swarm your car when it comes out and quick dry it with towels. What I don't understand is the value of buffed waxes, since you are basically putting more friction onto the paint surface in the process of buffing the wax (?).

Brian H | February 4, 2013

I think the idea and purpose of the wax is to insulate the paint from friction, and contact of any kind.

kback | February 5, 2013

Still waiting for mine. Can't wait to own a Tesla, but I am getting a bit nervous about this washing issue. I live in the Northeast and there is no way I'll be handwashing this car in January when it gets salt from the roads all over it. My hoses are all shut off that time of year so the pipes don't freeze. Are people saying even touchless car washes are a risk? It sounds like water gets into all sorts of bad places - behind tail lights, crevices in doors, leaking around window seals, etc. How can I own a car in this part of the country if I can't get a car wash in the winter? Any feedback on this? I want my Model S!

Carefree | February 5, 2013

I would not worry about it. A lot of people in this board are a little paranoid when it comes to washing their new Model S:-) It is no different than taking a BMW or Mercedes to a car wash. Is it better to wash the car by hand? Of course but many of us won't have that luxury - so off to the car wash it goes.

kback | February 5, 2013


Thanks. That's the kind of answer I was looking for. I've always brought my cars to the local car wash. Yeah, there may be some swirls and fine scratches, but I'm driving my car, not showing it in competitions. As long as it's safe to do the same with my Tesla, I'm all in. I can't wait to get the car!

nickjhowe | February 5, 2013

To be clear - I'm hand washing my car because it is my new baby, and because I'd prefer not to swirl the paint just yet. I have no concerns about the water seal integrity of the car. Would be happy to run it through a car wash if I didn't care about my $100k purchase being damaged by hulking great machinery that isn't necessarily maintained that well.

BYT | February 5, 2013

I'll confirm the name of the place, I was referring to the Ferrari Dealer on El Camino in Redwood City, I haven't gone yet but my Pearl White Model S is begging for a wash!!!

tommy-tesla | February 5, 2013

@BYT, the place is called "Eco Green Auto Clean". I just went
there. They have free Wifi and coffee, but the waiting area
is halfway open to the outside and pretty cold.

I'm undecided. While it was 100% by hand (unlike pretty much
everywhere else) and the car got clean, the windshield wasn't
spotless and there were plenty of (probably old) dried water
spots I would have expected to be gone.

I'll try them again later when I have time for a more complete

I paid $30.

nickjhowe | February 5, 2013

Those places tend to reuse cloths constantly and definitely don't do a 'two bucket wash'. Nice to get a hand wash, but watch out for scratches on paint and streaks on windows.

bradslee | February 5, 2013

@BYT and @Tommy-Tesla
Thank you both for providing the detailed info on the car wash in Redwood City. It is very helpful to those Model S owners who want to make sure to treat their beautiful Model S right. Thank you!

BYT | February 6, 2013

I just heard that is the place TM in Menlo Park takes the cars to get detailed... More information and I myself haven't tried it but Yelp reviews seem good.

Eco Green Auto Clean
Auto Detailing, Car Wash
Hours today: 8:30 am - 5 pm
2801 El Camino Real, Redwood City, CA 94061

kback | February 6, 2013

What is the consensus on the "touchless" car washes that use high pressure water jets to clean the car? I had read somewhere that some of the seals leak. Should I expect water to be dripping on me if I drive my Tesla into one of these? It would seem to be the best automatic car wash option, because no contact with pads, brushes, etc that can scratch the finish. They never get the car quite as clean, but during winter in the Northeast, I need an alternative to hand washing.

hsadler | February 6, 2013


'What is the consensus on the "touchless" car washes that use high pressure water jets to clean the car?'

Only complaint I've heard is that the water is recycled through the system.

DouglasR | February 6, 2013

The guy who did my paint armor wrap said that the touchless car washes use chemicals that are not good for the wrap or paint (I don't know which). I have no idea whether he is right.

Desai | February 6, 2013

@TikiMan - great write up! Thank you.

rloehler | February 10, 2013

I've been a habitual drive-through car wash user. But when talked with my DS about car care and their recommendation to hand wash, I decided to kick the habit and try the junkman's two bucket car wash technique. I got my foam gun, grit guards, auto soap , and microfiber wash mitts from amazon, and gave my new beauty its first wash on Saturday. Keep in mind, I'm in Florida, so temps were in the 70's.

As "the junkman" advertised, no swirl marks. If you're looking for a good auto soap to use (I'm pretty sure it's the one he used in his youtube video), try Chemical Guys Extreme Maxi Suds II. It worked well for me in the soap bucket and in the foam gun. After the wash, I drove the car about three miles to dry it off, and then blew it dry with a leaf blower.

I have a Black Model S, and so I finished off the afternoon with Carnauba enriched Turtle Wax spray-on Black Wax product. I've usually applied paste or liquid waxes to my cars in the past, but this stuff really seemed to go on and come off easy.

I used a regular hose attachment sprayer for rinsing the car, and I observed very little water in the door seals, frunk, and rear liftgate. Not sure if this has been improved over the earlier cars (My VIN is around 4000), but water leakage wasn't a problem. I think most owners should not have much of a problem unless you spray high pressure water into the car crevices directly.

The results: Fantastic! Car looks like new again! (of course, I just got it last week.)

Here's the Junkman's Youtube video:

Brian H | February 10, 2013

It would be interesting to invite the Junkman to do a demo video on an S!

bbmertz | February 10, 2013

Can anyone recommend any mobile detailing services in the Ventura County or North LA County area?

nickjhowe | February 10, 2013

@bbmertz - check with your DS or the local service center. TM here in S FL use the same guy for all the pre-delivery prep. They probably use someone there too.