This article was published on July 13, 2022

Can I get electrocuted washing my electric car?

The controversy around EVs and the car wash


Can I get electrocuted washing my electric car?
Cate Lawrence
Story by

Cate Lawrence

Cate Lawrence is an Australian tech journo living in Berlin. She focuses on all things mobility: ebikes, autonomous vehicles, VTOL, smart ci Cate Lawrence is an Australian tech journo living in Berlin. She focuses on all things mobility: ebikes, autonomous vehicles, VTOL, smart cities, and the future of alternative energy sources like electric batteries, solar, and hydrogen.

I recently saw a question on Twitter that  piqued my curiosity: “Does anyone know if it’s safe to take a Tesla in a car wash or will I get electrocuted?”


The question raises two issues: 

  1. Can I clean an EV using a car wash?
  2. Can a car wash cause electrocution?

I decided to do some research.

Yes, EVs can be cleaned in a car wash 

Plug-in hybrids and EVs can go safely through a car wash, just like a fossil-fuel-powered car. 

 

Car washes are hugely convenient, and even better, they save water. In fact, many of them even use recycled water, which is vital if you live in a drought-prone area. They also help avoid the risk of cleaning products damaging gardens or lawns when cars are washed at home. 

The only challenge of vehicle automation

This issue came up in several electric vehicle owner forums. Many drivers shared the challenge of their car going directly into park once they got out of the vehicle. Fortunately, there are ways around it. You can make sure your EV’s on neutral, like in the video below:

In response to these issues, Tesla launched a car wash mode.

Once activated on the dashboard, the vehicle automatically raises the windows, locks the charging port, deactivates the windshield wipers, pulls in the rear-view wipers, and also locks the trunk. 

Best practices for using an automated car wash to clean your EV

While using a car wash to clean an EV is perfectly safe, there are general tips you should always follow:

  1. Always read the manufacturer’s recommendations. 
  2. Talk to other EV car owners in your area. They are most likely to recommend car washes with experience cleaning EVs. Many car owners recommend using a touch-free wash to avoid the risk of scratches on the exterior.
  3. Make sure your car is charged. No one wants your EV bricking it in the middle of the wash cycle. 
  4. Put your car in neutral with the emergency brake disabled. 
  5. Ensure the windows and doors are properly closed. 
  6. Turn the automatic wipers off. 
  7. Fold mirrors in and remove any protruding parts such as antennas. 
  8. Keep the ignition switched on while your car is cleaned.

Could I get electrocuted driving my EV through a car wash? 

No, unless there is a spectacularly unusual malfunction. EVs undergo rigorous testing before they leave the factory, including a soak test

in the car wash
Inside a car wash. Image credit: Zulfahmi Khani

Further, the electrical components are carefully sealed to prevent water penetration.

You are most likely to be injured if you get out of your vehicle while the car is moving inside the car wash tunnel. So don’t do that. 

In the future, our cars will be able to detect when they need washing and drive themselves to the car wash and get a robot to clean them. This will be achieved using methods that not only protect the paintwork but also maintain the health of the cameras and LiDAR attached to the cars. 

For now, many manufacturers recommend either hand wash for cleaning LIDAR, radar, cameras, or more high-tech solutions. But until a universal best practice is declared, cleaning needs to comply with the specific recommendations of the hardware maker. 

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