Kia Optima: The car wash conundrum

  • Kia Optima suffers in the April showers
  • Automated car wash worries dispelled
  • Avoid older automated car washes, however

Right, let's talk about the weather. The expression 'April showers' well and truly applied to the month that has just passed. It seemed that every day in April, I got up in the morning, pulled back the curtains and there confronting me were grey skies and rain. And lots of it.

Now it may be good for the plants and the current drought, but for the Optima, which faces a daily 140-mile commute from Watford to Peterborough, it meant liberal coatings of dirt.

I'm fairly fastidious about keeping things clean, particularly my cars. I'm not completely obsessive compulsive disorder about it, but I do like a clean car. It's basic maintenance after all.

I simply don't have time to clean cars myself, though. Every so often I take it to the hand car wash around the corner and pay £10 to get a proper clean inside an out, but with the incessant rain visits to the Shell garage's automated car wash have been the inevitable result.

The best-value wash is the number 3. This gives you a shampoo (not for your head, by the way), a wheel wash and a dry. It takes no more than three minutes and it costs a very affordable £3.99. It is the best compromise, in my opinion.

There is, however, some debate about automated car washes and the potential damage they might cause to a car's paintwork. My colleagues are of the opinion that these machines leave tiny scratches, with Parkers news reporter Gareth Evans declaring boldly: "I'd never put my car through one of those."

Strong words indeed, and although conventional thinking suggests he is right, I would contest that he, and others with a similar view, are wrong.

First of all, I have inspected the Kia Optima, somewhat fruitlessly, after a few visits to the Shell garage automated car wash. There's no sign of damage, and I would argue that the results are somewhat superior to standard clean at a hand car wash.

Indeed, the Cash Wash Association is quick to dispel the myth that automated car washes will hurt your car in this article. It argues that this may have been the case in the early 1980s when the technology was crude, but now the automated car washes are as good as any jet wash or hand car wash.

There are mixed opinions on this, as you can see from the Yahoo Answers thread here, but there is enough information on the internet to tell you that automated car washes have moved on from the scratch-fests they once were.

Still, that's not to say you must ignore common-sense practices in order to protect your car. Our advice is to avoid older car washes because they may still use abrasive brushes (instead of cloth) that can leave small scratches in a car's finish, and if you have an older car you might want to give them a miss because they might be more susceptible to scratching.

We also would not suggest going for added extras such as undercarriage rustproofing because you'll pay more for something that doesn't work. You're throwing your money away.

Effective rustproofing is applied to brand-new metal during production in order to seal it from contact with external corrosives such as road salt, so it's a nonsense to expect the car wash to help you out here, and don't bother with spray-on wax because it doesn't protect against UV sun damage the way hand-applied wax does.

I've checked the Kia Optima each time I have run it through the car wash at the Shell filling station and also at the car wash that's a little further away at the Tesco superstore. Each time it looks pretty ship-shape.

What do you think of the Kia Optima? Get your opinions published in our Owners Reviews section here.

Current mileage: 3,781 miles

Average mpg: 50.1mpg