hand wash, seriously ??

hand wash, seriously ??

From the manual:
Hand wash with a soft cloth and mild soap
Hand wash Model S using a soft cloth and cold or lukewarm water
containing a mild, good quality car shampoo.

Are they for real ?
Am I supposed to feed it from a silver spoon too ?

BYT | September 21, 2012

No, the silver spoon will ruin the finish on your Model S... ;)

It's a $110k car, I don't plan on just leaving it at my local Duckies to get a shower and expect it to be pampered any more special then the other 80 cars that already blew through there that day.

sergiyz | September 21, 2012


Why not ?
None of the cars I owned and own in that price range require any special treatment or pampering.
What's so special about tesla's paint or body ?
Even cars that are twice more expensive tolerate regular car washes (with brushes and high-pressure hoses) just fine.
Good car washes still use automatic lines with brushes and high pressure hoses, the only difference is that they use clean towels with no sand on them afterwards for every car, instead of re-using it for 80 cars.
They also use clay bars to remove tree sap.
That and bird crap is something you pretty much can't avoid if you're planning to drive the car every day.
I really hope those lines in the manual is something that lawyers came up with, and normal car washes work fine for Tesla...

BYT | September 21, 2012

Last time I took my car through an automatic car wash, I had 8 new scratches on my car and it felt violent while I was in there. I wasn't too far to the left or right either.

I guess each person's experience is different, I'll take the time and enjoy doing this chore on my own, let me appreciate my investment.

sergiyz | September 22, 2012


My idea of a carwash is rain, but we don't get too much of that in CA ;)
We do have a brushless carwash close by, it's just strange they would put that in the manual.

BYT | September 22, 2012

Yeah, you are probably right that it's a lawyer approved manual. I was fuming however when my car was literally beat up at a brush-happy and slap your car silly car wash that I never will go to again.

Teoatawki | September 22, 2012

I'm a rain washes my car kind of guy, but 8 months out of a typical year, that's no big deal in Seattle. In general they would prefer you use a car wash over hand washing here. Commercial car washes here are forced to manage water well. If you insist on washing your own car in the drive or on the street, the crap washed off your car goes into storm drains which feed into salmon streams. Better to wash your car on your lawn so your soil can filter the water before it reaches streams.

Brian H | September 22, 2012

If the crap on your car wasn't on your car, where would it be? On the roads being sluiced into the storm drains. But the detergents and soaps and waxes, now ...


Sudre_ | September 22, 2012

It's lawyer speak for, "It's not Tesla's fault if you take your car to ABC free car wash with fill up and get your bumper ripped off."

I went thru one of those once when I was young and came out without a hub cap. The good ones are probably fine but how does Tesla know who is going to use good newer car washes and who is going to use the 1970s plastic bristle brush car wash?

mrspaghetti | September 22, 2012

It doesn't say the hands have to be yours.

I plan to find those charity bikini washes for my Model S :)

Schlermie | September 22, 2012

On the same page, the manual also says, "If washing in an automatic car wash, use “Touchless” car washes only. These car washes must have no parts, such as brushes, that can touch Model S. Using any other type of car wash could cause damage that is not covered by the warranty." they're okay with you bringing it to a car wash, but they want you to limit it to the touchless kind.

Robert22 | September 22, 2012

Which means you're going to have a healthy layer of road film remaining after the touchless wash until you have time to handwash it. Keep knocking down that target sales figure for the general public.

TikiMan | September 22, 2012

Last I checked, that is what it says for all cars with a standard clear-coat.

If you want to keep your paint job lookin it's best...

1) Rinse the car down in a shaded area.
2) Buy a good quality wash-mitt, that is clean from any debre.
3) Use a professional quality car-wash soap that is ph neutral, and designed for clear-coat paint jobs.
4) With a clean bucket of cool water, add a small amount of your car-wash soap, and sudd up with your clean wash mitt.
5) Apply the wash with the mitt, and be careful not to scrub too hard. Also try washing in small sections, so the car-wash soap dorsn't have time to dry, and rinse with cool water.
6) Rince entire car from all soap, using a light spray (never use a high-velocity water spray, as it could damage the paint, or rubber seals)
7) Dry the car using soft terry cloth towels, and or combined with a high-quality wet chamie (to avoid hard water streaks).
8) If you have a professional quality air -compressor, you can remove excess water by using small shots of the compressed air in door handles, and around door seals.

Also, don't forget to give your car a professional wax coat, to protect the clear-coat between washes.

Sudre_ | September 22, 2012

I like Toyota's PDF on car washing. It is worded better than Tesla's.

Toyota looks like they are recommending Touchless car washes without saying it, "Brushes used in automatic car washes may scratch the vehicle surface and harm your vehicle’s paint."

Keep wheel cleaner with you at all times, "Aluminum wheels Remove any dirt immediately by using a neutral detergent"
That sounds like a hand wash job every trip for the wheels.

MB3 | September 22, 2012

The paint is one of many remarkable features on the Tesla S. I've been paying attention lately to the paint on other premium sedans, and I have to say that some others are not nearly as smooth and lack the depth that the paint on the S has. One way to really appreciate the paint is by hand washing. I'm sure there will many car lovers that will want to pamper their car that way.

While I've been paying attention to paint, I noticed that only a few drivers bother to keep their paint looking new. Car enthusiasts will recommend washing weekly, but using a regular automatic wash at that frequency will increase the risk of tiny scratches etc. You may not even notice them unless you are paying close attention. But they will still be there and over time you may wonder how scratched up the paint got. That isn't a reflection on the quality or durability of the paint. The brushes and clothes used in automatic wash, even if soft, can pick up specks of road debris and rub that across your paint. In fact, if you aren't careful, this can and does happen with a hand wash as well. I'm not aware of any finish that is immune to that.

TikiMan | September 22, 2012

Also, if you have a darker color car, you can use the 'California Duster' to remove built-up dust that collects on the car between washes...

petero | September 22, 2012

sergiyz. Perhaps TM will soon offer a sterling silver plug adapter. Also, I wonder if Johnson’s Baby Shampoo qualifies? You know we are going to pamper our “S” probably more than our kids. None of the car washes I frequent use a clay bar, unless you opt for the $85 deluxe special.

P.S. One of the reasons I chose the solid white was for this very ‘scratchy’ reason.

Beaker | September 22, 2012

TikiMan, +1 for the duster!

olanmills | September 22, 2012

Yeah, I have the duster too. It works great for dirt that hasn't been rained on. It works especially well if you make sure to get your car waxed at least couple times a year.

I think the language in the manual is telling you how to take the best care of your car. If you don't follow it, the paint's look isn't going to last as long. So it's up to you. (Also, there's the bit about the damage liability).

Wash your car regularly and get it waxed at least twice a year. It really makes a difference.

I have a ~5 year old Chevy and I've only ever hand washed it and I get it waxed before winter starts and then I get it waxed during the spring and have sometimes gotten a wax during the summer too.

You can tell the difference. I can definitely see the difference between my car and others of the exact same model. My mom's SUV is about the same age as my car, and I can see the difference there too, and it will make a difference when you sell the car too.

Again, it's up to you. I'm not saying it's necessary. You're definitely sacrificing some time, money, and convenience, but you do get something out of it.

Robert22 | September 22, 2012

....or coat the car in paint armor. I've had my S-class 12 years and it still has 95% of the sheen it had on day #1 after using only brushless car washes. Yes, I realize the polymer can scratch too, but it looks great with a fraction of the effort for those without the time and/or access (condo owners) to a hose and drain. It also provides the luxury of never altering the clear coat and protecting the paint from UV damage.

Bill in Austin | September 23, 2012

I gotta believe that our man Elon insisted that Tesla's paint job be just as good as (or better than) a Mercedes.

Here's what the Mercedes manual recommends for their cars. (Note that Mercedes instructions don't even touch upon the issue of a commercial car wash): Lexus has just about the same recommendation.

"From dust and dirt to more grating contaminants like road grime and tree sap, maintaining the exterior of your Mercedes-Benz requires careful cleaning. We recommend using Mercedes-Benz Car Care Products, available at your local authorized Mercedes-Benz dealer, for the best results.

Vehicle Wash Tips
Remove loose contaminants that have not bonded to the paint finish by washing your Mercedes-Benz using a vehicle shampoo, such as Mercedes-Benz Car Shampoo, and water:
Mix one ounce (approx. four capfuls) of car shampoo per gallon of water
Rinse the entire vehicle with a strong spray of water
Starting at the top, wash one section of the vehicle at a time using a soft, clean sponge, towel or sheepskin wash mitt. Rinse both the vehicle and the wash mitt thoroughly before you continue to the next section
After a final overall rinse, wipe your vehicle dry with a natural chamois or 100% terry toweling (use of any type of toweling other than thick nap, clean, 100% cotton terry cloth may cause swirl marks)

Never wash the vehicle unless it is cool and in the shade, and avoid using dishwashing detergents, which may cause paint to fade and oxidize. We recommend the use of Mercedes-Benz Car Care Products, available online at the Collection or from your authorized Mercedes-Benz Dealer.

Wash Frequency
How often you should wash your vehicle depends on the conditions where you live and drive. Wash your vehicle more frequently in the winter months or if you live near the coast, where ocean salt is more prevalent.

Restore a smooth finish prior to polishing your Mercedes-Benz by using Mercedes-Benz Paint Cleaner to remove surface oxidation, stains or blemishes that did not wash off in Step One:
Apply a liberal amount of paint cleaner to a clean terry cloth or sponge applicator
Work one section at a time, rubbing the product thoroughly and evenly into the finish
When dry, wipe with a clean terry towel to restore a smooth finish prior to polishing and waxing

For exceptional protection for your Mercedes-Benz, we recommend polishing your vehicle with Mercedes-Benz Paint Care. Paint Care can help to remove light surface problems and polishes your vehicle´s finish to a brilliant high gloss, coating it with a complex layer of waxes, silicones, polymers, and resins.
Use a sponge applicator or soft cotton terry cloth to apply Paint Care evenly to the entire vehicle, one section at a time
Remove residue with another soft towel"


So for me, I'll probably start out lovingly hand-washing (caressing) my pearl white Model S.
But the novelty of that will wear off once I'm forced back to the reality of balancing my limited free time vs. having to drive around in a dirty white Tesla. In the end the Model S will (GASP!) almost surely end up joining my Mercedes through the commercial car wash.

In the end it comes down to the question of... do I own my "things"; or do I allow my "things" to own me?

jerry3 | September 23, 2012

Hand washing a car in the driveway will get you a fine from the city where I live because of the water use restrictions.

Michael23 | September 23, 2012

Opti coat for sure! Then you can easily soap up and use water to dry it. No scratches. Super quick.

Volker.Berlin | September 24, 2012

Here is another recent thread on the same topic:

olanmills | September 24, 2012

@jerry3, where I live, though we don't have that restriction, there are still plenty of places you can go to either do a hand wash yourself, or detail shops that will hand wash for you.

Mark E | September 24, 2012

@jerry3: That's why I have a 2000 litre water tank connected to the garage roof.

pdesamours | September 24, 2012

I don't have any info to base it on but I wonder if the touch less car wash requirement has to do with the extending door handles?

jerry3 | September 24, 2012


My guess is that you would get the fine anyway--even if you aren't using city water. I suppose you could fight it and win if you wanted to spend $5K on a lawyer.

cerjor | September 24, 2012

See They offer a multitude of products that are aimed, in part, at the owners of show cars. Should keep my black Model S shiny.

Mark E | September 25, 2012

@jerry3: nope. Washing your car using tank water is/was perfectly legal here in NSW during the water restrictions. With a pressure cleaner you can wash the car with about 25 litres.

You could get 'tank water in use' signs.

Not sure about our jurisdiction though.

Mark.Brisbane | September 25, 2012

Tank water +1

I use tank water on my cars too. The benefit of washing and rinsing off with tank water is I just park the cars in the garage and let them air dry (I do dry the glass). There are no residues on the paint like you get from tap water when the water dries. It's also much quicker and you remove the risk of buff marks from hand drying.

Xfrank | June 18, 2014

How I clean my car in 5 min.
with a little help from me myself and I.

bevguy | June 18, 2014

So wash your Tesla in a brushed car wash. Pro- to saves a lot of time 2) Con- the paint job won't look as good after a year or two..

Wash when you can't stand the dirt. If you aren't picky I guess you don't have to wash it at all.

Choose whichever is more important to you. For me I hand wash but probably will have to cheat some in the Winter.

johncrab | June 18, 2014

I'm a bit nuts on this issue (pause for agreement) but I have never in my life used any car wash, automated or self serve. I wash my cars with softened, filtered water and use a non-detergent soap from Griot's which won't strip the wax and I apply it with a fluffy wool mitt. I dry with English "wash leather" and never do any of this in direct sun even if that means 4:30AM on a Saturday. I have one car that is a 1985 and it looks new. That's all I need for validation. To each his own and perhaps I am truly nuts, but I enjoy this ceremony with my cars.

AmpedRealtor | June 18, 2014

I use the two bucket method myself and always hand wash. I take pleasure in washing my car and won't let anyone else do it. This is a luxury I want to enjoy.

karmamule | June 18, 2014

There's a touchless car wash that I plan to keep using every week or two. The soap and water jets do a pretty good job and no worries about scratches or swirls.

A co-worker has a detailing business on the side and I'll probably use him every two or three months for a more thorough job.

Captain_Zap | June 18, 2014

@johncrab - You and me both. I don't like what it does to car finishes.

Or maybe it has something to do with me getting trapped in an unattended car wash when I was 17...

DLebryk | June 18, 2014

@Xfrank - the best answer of them all. That picture is fantastic.

petero | June 18, 2014

I own six cars. Four go to the car wash as needed and two get a some TLC. You can tell which cars are washed commercially and which are not. Besides, I like to fondle my MS and vintage, Alfa Spider.

Brian H | June 18, 2014

Brushless may use chemicals you want to avoid.

BobN @US-CA-SoCal | June 20, 2014

Use wash/detail service at the high end airport parking service I have used for 35 years. I know them each by name. I'm too old and stiff to do it myself. They are gentle, use soft products, single-use microfiber drying. I interviewed them first and watched them work. And when I first brought Sparky home, I had Opti-Coat Pro installed after paint perfection. Looks new, no swirls, couldn't be happier. Would never let a commercial car wash touch it.

Lycanthrope P85 | June 20, 2014

I haven't put a car through a car wash for the last 15 years or so, they destroy the paint with fine scratches.

I was told by the guy who did my Opti Coat to pressure-wash it to remove the dust and grit, then wash with the Opti shampoo. This shampoo doesn't need to be rinsed-off and I then dry the car with a micro-fibre towel.

It takes 30 minutes max and looks fantastic.

I have washed it at least once per week since I got it end of March - that's more than I washed my Volvo over three years :-)

I feel ashamed to drive my Model S if it's even remotely dirty...

akikiki | June 20, 2014

AmpedRealtor +1 Exactly

PaceyWhitter | June 20, 2014

Brian H +1

Touchless also will often not filter their water creating a high pressure sandblaster aimed at your paint.

info | June 20, 2014

Has anyone found a product or method to clean the inside of the windshield? Everything I have tried requires a contortionist and still leaves streaks and smudges.

NKYTA | June 20, 2014

Windex, old newspaper. My wife does a fair job with the contortions.

AmpedRealtor | June 20, 2014

Here's a tip for cleaning your windows... use horizontal wipes for the inside glass, vertical wipes for the outside glass, or vice versa. This way, when you see a streak, you'll know instantly whether it's inside or outside.

info | June 20, 2014

Oh hell, mclary is back.

Rocky_H | June 20, 2014

Not for long.