How Long Do I Wait to Wash My Car After Body Work?

Car Wash

If your vehicle has had some body work done or received a new paint job, you are probably wondering how long you should wait until washing it. There are several different opinions about the proper length of time to wait for a car wash following body work. Some are adamant that vehicle owners should wait several months while others believe the vehicle can be washed right away without a problem.

The Risks of Washing Your Vehicle too Early Following Body Work

Washing a car too quickly following a new paint job will likely dull the paint. The paint needs time to cure so solvent popping doesn’t occur. Fresh paint is extremely soft and the solvents are evaporating. These solvents need some time to properly “outgas”. The last thing you want is for your newly repaired or painted vehicle to have defects in its paint. The bottom line is the vehicle’s paint coat needs time to fully cure. It is in somewhat of a weak state and prone to damage. This is why plenty of people advise waiting a while before washing.

The Waiting Game

Some gearheads recommend waiting upwards of 90 days to wash a vehicle following body work or a new paint job. Others believe waiting a couple of months will suffice. There are even some who are adamant that one can wait as few as two or three weeks before washing a vehicle that has body work done. It is best to be on the safe side and wait at least a few months before washing your vehicle after body work.

Washing Advice

When the time finally comes to wash your car after a new paint job or body work, don’t use a detergent like you use to clean your dishes. Such dish detergents have acid that will harm your vehicle. In fact, this style of detergent has the potential to cut right through a layer of fresh paint and attack the chemical ingredient referred to as the “hardener”. The ultimate result of such an improper wash is that the clear coat is stopped from fully curing. Furthermore, using such an inferior detergent could also cause objects like pollen, leaves and stray debris to stick to the vehicle. Use a true car wash detergent. These legitimate detergents are lighter and will not impact the paint job.

Is Hand Washing Acceptable?

In general, warnings about washing a vehicle following body work are caveats against traditional automated car washes and using inferior detergents. Many argue that it is acceptable to hand wash such a vehicle with plain water. After all, it is the chemicals in the detergents that pose the greatest threat to the vehicle. If your car is dirty following body work and you are absolutely insistent that it needs to be cleaned, wipe down the soiled sections with a wet sponge. Only use water. Do not press the sponge down with considerable force.

When in Doubt, do Nothing

In the end, if your body work professional has advised you to avoid a wash for a certain period of time, abide by his recommendation. Wait exactly as long as he has advised so you don’t void the warranty and/or damage your vehicle.