For busy drivers, using an automated car wash is the easiest way to keep their vehicles clean. At most of these places, you just pay an attendant, put your car in neutral and coast on through. However, the process isn't nearly so simple for vehicles with certain advanced safety features.

And with more and more cars being equipped with advanced safety and autonomous technology, this automated car wash issue is likely to become a hassle for many drivers.

Using an Automated Car Wash with Advanced Safety Technology

Advanced Vehicle Safety Technology

It used to be the case that certain advanced safety features could only be found in luxury vehicles. But these types of systems are getting to be much more common. In fact, cutting edge safety technology is now available on cars in all price ranges.

This is a very good thing, of course. Technologies such as collision detection and auto hold braking can do a lot to help keep drivers and passengers safe. But these great features come with a trade-off. If your vehicle has them, other, previously simple, tasks might get more complicated.

For example, your advanced safety technology may not allow you to just roll right through an automated car wash. If your car is equipped with some type of collision avoidance system, it may simply stall at the entrance. Other types of safety technology may cause similar problems.

The good news is that most of these features can be temporarily disabled. However, figuring out how to do this may require heavy owner's manual research. According to, a whole list of vehicles from automakers such as Toyota, FCA, Subaru and Kia can have some version of advanced safety technologies. Even the Chevrolet Spark can be equipped with some of the latest tech features.

Finding Out if Your Car is a "Special Needs Vehicle"

Auto manufacturers have promised that all passenger vehicles will be equipped with semi-autonomous safety technologies by 2020. This means that more and more drivers will need to learn how to navigate everyday tasks with these features.

To make things a little easier right now, Eric Wulf, CEO of the International Car Wash Association, has published a guide. Titled "Special Needs Vehicles," this guide is a large PDF file that includes automated car wash instructions for dozens of vehicles. So if you own a new car, it's definitely worth your time to check the guide before heading out to the car wash.

Car wash professionals have expressed their hope that one of two things will happen in the future. First, they believe that safety technology could be more generalized. This would make it easier for car owners to figure out how to navigate automated car washes. Secondly, if vehicles could come with a "car wash" mode that would disable certain features, it could also make things simpler.

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