Can I be electrocuted when washing my electric car?

I recently saw a question on Twitter that piqued my curiosity: “Does anyone know if it is safe to put a Tesla into a car wash or will I be electrocuted?”

The question raises two problems:

  1. Can I clean an electric car with 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

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Plug-in hybrids and EVs can safely go through a car wash, just like a car that runs on fossil fuels.

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

The only challenge of vehicle automation

This issue has surfaced on several forums for electric vehicle owners. Many drivers shared the challenge of their car go straight to the park as soon as they got out of the vehicle. Fortunately, there are ways to get around it. You can make sure your EV is on neutral as shown in the video below:

In response to these problems, Tesla launched a car wash mode

Once activated on the dashboard, the vehicle will automatically raises the windows, locks the charging port, deactivates the wipers, retracts the rear 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 near you. They will likely recommend car washes with experience cleaning EVs. Many car owners recommend touch-free washing to avoid the risk of scratching the exterior.
  3. Make sure your car is charged. Nobody wants your EV will finish it in the middle of the wash cycle.
  4. Place your vehicle in neutral with the emergency brake disengaged.
  5. Make sure that the windows and doors are closed properly.
  6. Turn off the automatic windshield wipers.
  7. Fold mirrors and remove any protruding parts such as antennas.
  8. Keep the ignition on while your car is being cleaned.

Can I be electrocuted if I drive my EV through a car wash?

No, unless there is a spectacularly unusual outage. EVs undergo rigorous testing before leaving the factory, including a weekly test

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

Furthermore, the electrical components are carefully sealed to prevent the ingress of water.

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

In the future, our cars can detect when they need to be washed 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 paint, but also preserve the health of the cameras and LiDAR attached to the cars.

For now, many manufacturers recommend hand washing for: cleaning LIDARradar, cameras or more high tech solutions† But until a universal best practice is declared, cleaning should follow the hardware manufacturer’s specific recommendations.


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