Car Show Finder is reader-supported. When you buy via our links, we may earn a commission at no cost to you. Learn more

How to Wash a Car With a Pressure Washer? – 7 Steps

Written by Howell Crist / Fact checked by Sam Howard

Wash & Dry

how to wash a car with a pressure washer

Using a pressure washer for car cleaning has plenty of benefits, primarily of which is efficiency. Unlike a garden hose, this washer saves a lot of water.

Indeed, a powerful stream of water can quickly and easily break up tough grime caked onto your car’s surface. With the right pressure, there will be no scrubbing required! Therefore, it can lessen the risk of scratching the car’s paint without compromising its cleanliness.

Indeed, knowing how to wash a car with a pressure washer will prove to be more convenient in the long run.

Step-by-Step to Wash a Car With a Pressure Washer

power-wash-car

What to Prepare:

  1. Electric Pressure Washer – It should have the appropriate nozzles, attachments, and PSI (more on this later). The nozzles and attachment in question would be:
    • 25-degree nozzle
    • 40-degree nozzle
    • Soap nozzle
    • Foam cannon attachment or detergent tank
  2. Car Wash Detergent
  3. Microfiber Wash Mitts/Scrub Brush Attachment
  4. Microfiber Towels/Soft Chamois

Step 1: Choose a Wash Spot

If you’re using an electric pressure washer, make sure you have immediate access to an outlet. Not all pressure washers can be used with an extension cord, so plan accordingly.

Also, with a high pressure car wash, it’ll be easier to control the splash area than the splash itself. So if there are cars or objects around you that should not get wet, consider moving the car to an open space–like on the street or a large driveway.

Step 2: Prep Your Pressure Washer Nozzle & Materials

high-pressure-car-wash

Gather your supplies and prepare your pressure washer nozzles. You’ll need several different nozzles and/or attachments, depending on the brand and model of your car.

You’ll ideally be using an electric pressure washer since a gas pressure washer would be too powerful for this task.

Modern electric pressure washers will come with a 25-degree tip (usually green in color) and a 40-degree tip (typically white).

  • The 25-degree nozzle flushes debris from hard surfaces, making it ideal for a pre-wash rinse.
  • The 40 degree nozzle can easily clear large areas and is generally used for rinsing off the detergent.

You’ll need both the 25-degree and 40-degree tips.

You’ll also need a foam cannon attachment or a soap nozzle (typically colored black) to apply detergent.

Once you know the correct way to wash a car with a pressure washer, you’ll be able to tell the nozzles apart – and switch them out as needed.

Step 3: Pre-Wash Your Car

Before applying detergent or car wash soap, you must rinse your car thoroughly. This pre-wash step is meant to eliminate immediate layers of dirt, grime, and other debris that could potentially scratch your car’s paint job during soaping and scrubbing.

First, attach the 25-degree nozzle car wash attachment for pressure washer. Then stand about 4-5 feet away from your car before turning it on the washer to get a feel of the water pressure. You can move closer once you know how manageable the spray is.

Wash the entire surface of your car by spraying water over it in a downward direction. This will help minimize the risk of damaging your car’s paint.

When pressure washing a car, start from the top and work your way down, paying extra attention to the wheels and surrounding areas.

Opt for a less powerful setting for fragile areas like mirrors and windows or step back further to dilute the spray.

Step 4: Apply the cleaner

car-wash-attachment-for-pressure-washer

Now that you’ve eliminated as much dirt and debris as possible, you can move on to the main wash. Switch out the 25-degree nozzle for the soap nozzle and use pressure washer on car to cover the vehicle with detergent.

There are two ways to do this:

  • (1) If you’re using a foam cannon

You can fill the foam cannon with car wash soap and attach it to the pressure washer. Then power wash car by applying soap liberally to all areas of your car, starting from the top and working your way down.

  • (2) If your pressure washer comes equipped with a detergent tank

There is no need to purchase a foam cannon if you follow this method.

Pressure washers with this feature will typically have a built-in setting specifically for applying detergent.

Before filling the tank with detergent, you’ll need to dilute the detergent. Directions on how to do this should be clearly written on the product’s label. Follow the process as instructed to properly make car wash soap.

Once the product has been properly diluted, load up the detergent tank. Spray soap liberally over all areas of the vehicle using the washer’s pre-programmed setting.

Again, ensure you start from the top and work your way down. Allow the detergent to sit for five minutes before rinsing it off.

(Optional) Step 5: Scrub to Loosen Stubborn Dirt

If you come across stubborn dirt or grease stains, use a microfiber wash mitt or scrub brush to scrub the grit loose carefully.

Remember to avoid using circular motions, as these can cause swirl marks. Experts recommend using straight lines, following the direction of airflow over the car as the car moves forward.

Step 6: Rinse Detergent

use-pressure-washer-on-car

Swap out the soap nozzle for the 40-degree or white color nozzle to pressure wash car clean of detergent. Switch your pressure washer’s setting from detergent output to water output.

Flush the remaining soap by spraying the ground before aiming your washer at the car.

Stand 3-4 feet away from the vehicle. Flush out the remaining soap in the washer by spraying some water on the ground. Then, aim your pressure washer at your car and start rinsing. Go from the top and work your way down, holding the pressure washer at a 45-degree angle the whole time.

Step 7: Dry Car Using Microfiber Towel

pressure-washing-vehicle

Once you’re certain, there’s no soap residue left on the surface of the car, dry your car quickly with a microfiber towel or soft chamois. Avoid using circular motions and refrain from applying too much pressure.

Helpful Tips/FAQs

clean-car-with-pressure-washer

How much PSI should a pressure washer have to wash a car?

When you want to clean car with pressure washer, you need to pay attention to the PSI (pounds per square inch). This measures the force of the water as it leaves the tip of the washer. The ideal pressure washer PSI for car cleaning is 1200 to 1900 PSI.

What type of soap do you use with your pressure washer?

According to the auto detailing Reddit board, the best soap or detergent to use with a pressure washer would be “high sudsing” soaps and detergents specifically designed for foam cannons.

How often should I wash my car with a pressure washer?

How often you clean your car with a pressure washer will depend on a couple of situational factors. Those are the weather, the place you live, and how often your car is used. But generally speaking, experts recommend a thorough washing once every two weeks.

Conclusion

Is it safe to power wash under car? Can you use a pressure washer to pressure wash a car engine? Truthfully, navigating the process of pressure washing vehicles can be tricky due to the powerful water pressure.

Thorough research and careful handling must be observed, otherwise you could end up damaging your car.

But once you know how to wash a car with a pressure washer safely, you’ll find it a quicker and cheaper alternative to paying for an electric car wash or washing your car by hand!

5/5 - (2 votes)

Our chief editor is Sam Howard. The vast market of car care necessitates extensive research. He entered the market, experienced the service, and reported customer feedback in order to provide the best advice and content to car owners. We have faith in him to turn our website into a reliable resource for all car owners.