Can you go through a carwash with a roof box?

Fitting a roof box to the roof of your car has been made easier with modern roof boxes but it’s still not a two-minute job. So, the thought of having to take it off whenever you get your car washed is a little bit worrying for me. 

So, I asked some experts the question: Can you go through a carwash with a roof box?

These experts ranged from roof box manufacturers and automatic carwash companies and their responses surprised me. 

Let’s start by answering the initial question:

Can you go through a carwash with a roof box?

Most, if not all roof boxes manufacturers recommend removing your roof top box before going through an automatic carwash. Although roof boxes are designed to protect the contents against the elements they will not protect them again water entering them under such pressure. 

If you have a roof box fitted with no contents inside when you enter an automatic carwash, then the risk of water entering your box isn’t too much of an issue. However, there’s still a big risk of your lovely new and expensive roof box getting damaged. 

Automatic carwashes have improved dramatically over the past few years. 

All car washes have the chance of snagging onto your roof box and pulling it off your roof whilst in the middle of the wash. This could not only damage and ruin your roof box but could also damage your car.

Possible risks:

  • Snagging
  • Rusting and damage to fittings
  • Filling with water
  • Pulled off the roof by the car wash
  • Falling off and damaging your car
  • Damaging the automatic washer
  • Voiding the manufacturer’s warranty

Our advice if you want to use an automatic car wash without removing your roof top cargo box is to use a “Touchless carwash“. These very modern systems use water only with no brushes to snag on your box.  These powerful touchless car washes are an automated set of pressurized hoses that use detergents, chemicals, and water pressure instead of brushes and sponges.

With less physical contact with your roof box there’s less chance of damaging. I would still have some concerns of the pressure of these washers still damaging your box. 

How can you wash your car with a roof box fitted?

If you’re lazy like me then we suggest using a hand wash service. These offer great value without any of the risks. Yes, you could jet wash your car whilst you have a roof box fitted but these often miss the hard to reach places under the roof box and around the fittings.

Hand car wash service have grown in popularity in recent years and we can see why. The risk of damaging your car is dramatically reduced and it’s easy to use. Simply pull in, sit and wait in your car until someone washes your pride and joy. Easy!

Even a jet wash at your local fuel station poses a risk. Most jet washers have a brush that you can use. These often have grit and dirt from the forecourt trapped inside which will – and did in my case – scratch your car.

Are automatic car washers insured for damages to your roof box?

No, most companies have clear signs and information that will protect them against any legal claim for damages. You will see that most companies will ask you to remove any part of your vehicle that could be damaged or cause damage to their carwash. 

In fact, I have heard cases where people have gone through with roof bars on which has caused damage to the soft brushes on the carwash. Only to find after a few days a letter arriving at your door from some legal firm claiming for repair costs. They have been known to report it to the police as “Criminal Damage” and trace you back from your vehicle registration plate. 

You will see plenty of signs wavering responsibility at most automatic car washes. 

Can you go through a carwash with a roof box fitted?

Yes, of course you can but you run the risk of not only damaging your car roof box but also being issued with a charge of criminal damage. So, although it is possible to go through an automatic carwash with a roof box fitted it is highly recommended you don’t.

There are other services you can use to wash your car or you could…. Wash it yourself!

Like many things in life, just because something is possible doesn’t mean you should do it. If you think that there’s a risk to either your roof box and car or even the car wash machine itself then simply do not risk it. 

When in doubt

Before taking your car through any carwash with a roof box or roof bar we suggest you speak to the staff and ask them if it’s suitable and safe to use. If they say yes, then ask them what assurances they offer and if the machine is insured against damages.

If they say ‘yes it’s fine’ and you take your car through the automatic carwash with a roof box on top only to find it comes out damaged then make sure you collect evidence of the damage.

Take photo of the scene and especially any signage that says it’s safe to use with a roof box or roof rack. Speak to any witnesses nearby or people waiting to use the carwash and ask for their details. 

This may be needed if the carwash company denies all claims for damages. Speak to the colleague or staff member and ask them to record the incident somewhere in their records. Take a note of the time they do this and get their name.

Conclusion: Can you go through a carwash with a roof box?

I’m going to give my opinion now on this matter… NO

Just don’t do it. Take the 30-45 minutes extra and hand wash your car yourself. Don’t be lazy, save money and reduce the risk of damaging your lovely roof box by handwashing your car. Plus, it’s very satisfying to see you’ve done a great job and your car looks shiny and new.

Final point: Ensure you dry all brackets and hinges to make sure they don’t corrode or rust. You can even apply a protective coating to help increase the lifespan of your roof box. We use ProtectaClear which can be purchased from Amazon.

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