Can You Go Through a Car Wash With a Roof Rack?

Keeping your car clean is important, but it’s not the easiest thing to do with a busy lifestyle. In our hectic and fast-paced world, we look for convenience whenever possible. 

A trip to the car wash seems innocent enough, but what if you have a roof rack on your vehicle? Can you still drive your car through the car wash? 

People use roof racks to carry items that won’t fit in their car, and many drivers wonder if they can leave their roof rack on or need to remove it before driving through a car wash. 

So, can you go through a car wash with a roof rack?

A few factors determine if you can drive your vehicle through a car wash with a roof rack, including the car wash you are using and the roof rack on your car, truck, or SUV. Finally, the height of your vehicle and roof rack can also play a role. Of course make sure you take any gear, like bikes, kayaks, or other stuff off the roof rack before you head to the car wash.

Type of Car Wash

There are several types of car washes, each with a unique cleaning method. First, we’ll discuss some popular ways to clean your car. 

Automatic Car Wash

Automatic car washes are a convenient and efficient way to clean your vehicle. Most only take a few minutes, and your car is sparkling clean. 

Automatic car washes have a conveyor system that moves the car through the wash tunnel. Different cleaning stages occur as the car moves through the tunnel, such as pre-soaking, washing, rinsing, and drying. Meanwhile, you sit tight, watch all the action, and never lift a finger or get wet. 

However, some automatic car washes may not be suitable for vehicles with a roof rack. If the car wash has large brushes, there is a risk the brushes can get tangled in the roof rack and potentially pull the rack off of the car. 

Brushless or No-Touch Car Wash

Brushless car washes, also known as touchless car washes, are an excellent option for those who want a thorough car wash without damaging the roof rack. Unlike traditional car washes that use brushes to scrub the car’s exterior, brushless car washes use high-pressure water jets and cleaning agents to clean the car’s surface. 

This makes them an ideal option for vehicles with roof racks. In fact, A roof rack can be challenging to clean since it has many nooks and crannies that can trap dirt and grime. However, brushless car washes can quickly blast away any dirt and debris on the roof rack without the risk of damaging it.

Manual Car Wash

If your car looks like it’s been through a dust storm and needs a serious cleaning, but you are concerned about the roof rack on top, roll your sleeves up and get wet. Some car washes have self-service bays with a high-pressure hose, and you can wash the car yourself without removing the roof rack.

Hand Car Wash

Finally, if you can find a hand car wash in your area, this might be the best option if you have a roof rack. A team of skilled car-washing wizards gently hand-washing every inch of your car. The hand-washing pros ensure no speck of dirt is left behind. So, treat your ride to the ultimate spa day.

Car Wash Policy

Knowing the car wash operator’s policy on roof racks is important. While brushless car washes are generally safe for roof racks, it’s best to check. For instance, most automatic car washes have a policy about truck beds. Truck beds can’t have loose “stuff” that could fly out of the truck bed during the wash.

Some car washes may ask you to remove the roof rack before entering the wash tunnel, while others may be able to clean them without any issues.

If the car wash operator allows you to keep the roof rack on during the wash, make sure it’s properly secured. Items, such as bike racks or cargo carriers, can come loose during the wash cycle and cause damage to your vehicle or other vehicles in the wash tunnel.

In addition to asking about the car wash operator’s policy on roof racks, inspect your vehicle before and after the wash. Ensure the roof rack is adequately secured, and there is no damage to the vehicle’s exterior.

Type of Roof Rack

There are two main types of roof racks: factory-installed and aftermarket.

Factory-installed roof racks are installed by the vehicle manufacturer and are designed specifically for that make and model. They are usually made from high-quality materials and are designed to fit seamlessly with the vehicle’s design. Factory racks can be removed, but unscrewing the rack from the car’s roof takes a lot of work. Not a practice you really want to get in the habit of. Plus, factory roof racks are usually low profile and won’t be an issue with a car wash. 

On the other hand, aftermarket roof racks fit a wide range of vehicles. In addition, they are available in various styles, including roof rails and crossbars. 

Aftermarket roof racks are often made from aluminum, steel, or plastic and are designed to be durable and long-lasting. In addition, aftermarket racks are often pretty easy to remove. For instance, if your car has a naked roof, Yakima base towers and crossbars can be removed in a few minutes. 

You have to be careful with aftermarket roof racks like some Yakima products, as the crossbars extend beyond the width of the towers and, in some cases, the car’s width, which can cause issues with car wash brushes.

How Do You Clean A Roof Rack?

If your roof rack is dirty, and you can remove it, then take it off and clean it in your yard or driveway. 

Can You Remove Your Roof Rack?

Taking your roof rack off your car without much hassle is a good idea for peace of mind. Then you can take the car to an automatic car wash with no worries.

Can a Car Wash Damage Your Roof Rack?

While a car wash can damage your roof rack, most people don’t have an issue. Following this article’s guidelines, you can have a clean car without worrying about your roof rack. 

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About the author
Steve Morrow
Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.