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A cleaner way to drive

Can you put an electric car through an automated car wash?


Wash me on windshieldWith summer around the corner, it’s time to get rid of the gathered pollen on the car (and perhaps those not so subtle “wash me” hints too!)



For those of us who drive an electric car, here is an interesting question:

Can you put an electric car through an automated car wash?

The short answer is “Yes”.

Read this myth buster from Green Car Report.


How about converted electric cars?

For the converted car like my electric MR2, however, the answer is maybe. It depends on how much “water proofing” has been done to the car. I started a poll at, and at the time of this writing, the results suggest that most conversion owners do not feel comfortable putting their conversions through automated car washes, including myself.


My main reason for not willing to do so is that the rear hood is still made up of a painted 1/4″ plywood. Making a replacement out of fiberglass has been on my “Todo” list for a year now (one of these days I will and I promise to share the details).

Temporary plywood rear hood.

Temporary plywood rear hood.


As an aside, I did not want to use the stock rear hood because there wasn’t enough space for hood to latch close with the addition of the motor and batteries.

No space to use original rear hood.

No space to use original rear hood.


Also, the stock rear hood has drain holes and that won’t do for the batteries.

Original rear hood

Original rear hood


Waterproofing the electric MR2

That said, for the electric MR2, I have done many things to “water proof” the car mainly for driving in the rain. Here’s a list:

  • Use stainless steel bolts and washers whenever possible.
  • Protect any interface between aluminum and steel against galvanic corrosionby using plastic washers between the aluminum rack and stainless steel bolts and/or spray the connection with anti-rust spray paint where possible
  • Installed a plastic splash guard on the front grill of the car where the car charger sits.

    splash guard for charger.

    splash guard for charger

  • Installed stainless steel splash guard on the bottom of the car where six of my lithium batteries are located. I added stainless steel in addition to the plastic splash guard because I also wanted to prevent road debris from potentially damaging my batteries. ¬†Stainless steel will not rust.

    splash guard for bottom batteris.

    Splash guard for bottom batteries.

  • Installed stainless steel splash guard on the bottom of the car where the electric motor and the control board sits.

    Splash guard for control board.

    Splash guard for control board.

  • Make sure that the controller is protected from moisture while providing adequate ventilation. My controller is mounted at the air intake on the passenger side of the car. I also have a fan that is connected on the back of the controller board to help dissipate heat generated by the controller during high amp draws.

    Back side of the controller.

    Back side of the controller board


Video tour of the undercarriage of the MR2

Some automated car washes have undercarriage sprays, and that might cause moisture to get into certain electrical components. Take a tour of the bottom of the electric MR2¬†to see the precautions that I’ve taken to prevent rain splashes into these components.





Staying with manual car washes for now

In the meantime, I think I’ll stick to manual car washes. Perhaps that is not such a bad thing.

Manual car wash

Manual car wash anyone?



Posted in Fiberglass, MR2EV, Waterproof

2 Responses to “Can you put an electric car through an automated car wash?”

  • Doug Coleman says:

    My rule of thumb is if you won’t drive it in the rain then hand washing only and it’s not just electric cars but if you have a classic or kit car (like my 1980 Lotus conversion) the answer is no. If however you have a manufactured vehicle like my LEAF then bring it on .

    • Ken Chiang says:

      Hi Doug,

      Nice to see you on my blog. Did you sell the electric MR2? Good point about manufactured vehicle vs. converted vehicle. One key difference between a manufactured EV like the leaf and a converted EV is the motor. Typically, conversions use series wound DC motors that have are not water proof vs a sealed AC motor in a manufactured car.

      The other point made by many responses to my post is that it depends on the car wash, if I can drive in the rain, then a simple automated car wash should be fine.

      Finally, automated car washes are harsh on the paint and could damage even a manufactured car. Manual car washing is better for the car finish. Thanks for the comment Doug and for all those that took the time to email responses!

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