Definitive Guide to Pressure Washing Your Car


In this article you will learn:

  • How to safely integrate a pressure washer into your car wash routine

  • Which car wash soap and accessories to use with your pressure washer

  • The best way to pressure wash your wheels to remove brake dust and soils

If you’re used to washing your car with soap, a bucket of water and a garden hose, the idea of using a pressure washer might seem a little intimidating. But pressure washing your car is actually a lot simpler than you may think.

A pressure washer takes the place of your garden hose to do a more thorough job of removing dirt, stains and brake dust from the surface of your car. Not only does this car washing method provide you with a deeper clean, it’s also much quicker and easier than only hand washing your vehicle.

Once you understand how pressure washers work, these powerful tools become a lot less daunting and a lot more convenient. In this guide, we’ll unpack everything you need to know about pressure washers, including the differences between a gas and electric pressure washer, which type of car wash soap to use with your machine, and how to pressure wash your wheels and painted surfaces!

Gas vs. Electric

There are two different types of pressure washers: gas and electric. A gas pressure washer is much more powerful than an electric pressure washer, with maximum pressures of up to 2500 psi. They’re also equipped with a wider spray pattern, making them perfect for tackling larger jobs like power washing a parking lot or a concrete driveway.

But, if you’re looking to pressure wash your vehicle, a gas-powered pressure washer would be considered overkill. Instead, you should opt for an electric power washer, which has a lower maximum pressure and a much more precise spray pattern for rinsing away dirt and soils. Your car's paint finish is much less durable than a concrete driveway, so you should never exceed pressures of 1500 psi when pressure washing your vehicle.


It's also important to make sure you have the appropriate nozzle sizes for pressure washing your vehicle. You should never use a nozzle below a 10-degree spray pattern on any surface of your vehicle, including your wheels. It’s best to use a 40-degree spray pattern on your exterior panels and auto glass, and a 10-degree spray pattern on your wheels and tires. If your pressure washer didn’t come with these nozzle sizes, check with the manufacturer to see if your machine is compatible with aftermarket tips.

Pressure washing your car

Pressure washing your car is just like performing a regular car wash, except instead of using a hose, you’re using your pressure washer to rinse off dirt and soils. We’ll walk you through it, so if this is your first time using a pressure washer, don’t worry; we’ve got your back.

pressure washer

Start with your wheels

When washing your car, it’s always best to start with the wheels. Our wheels often go neglected, but they’re one of the dirtiest areas of our cars. By pressure washing your wheels and tires first, you’re getting rid of all those soils and brake dust that could otherwise transfer to other parts of your vehicle.

Make sure you’ve attached your 10-degree nozzle to your electric pressure washer. Then, holding your pressure washer at least 6 inches away, spray down your wheels, tires and sidewalls, one wheel at a time, to remove as much loose dirt as you can. Make sure to get every surface of your rims, rotors and calipers.

Spray a wheel and tire cleaner like Turtle Wax All Wheel & Tire Cleaner in an even layer on every surface of your wheels and tires, as well as the more intricate areas of the rim. Use a gentle, microfiber towel or a soft cleaning brush, like our flexible Wheel Woolie to scrub and agitate the wheel cleaner and remove as much dirt and brake dust as you can. Be sure to reach deep in the spokes and underneath your brake components.

Next, use your pressure washer to rinse away excess product and soils from your wheels and tires, one wheel at a time. Start by following the tire sidewall all the way around, moving your stream of water from side to side. Then, rinse your wheel faces, the barrel and the rims. Once you’ve covered every area with your pressure washer, give your wheels and tires one, final rinse and hand dry your wheels with a fresh, microfiber towel.

Finally, finish the job by applying Wet N’ Black Ultra Wet Tire Shine to your tires to restore the jet-black look of your rubber sidewalls and give them an extra pop of gloss.

turtle wax all wheel & tire cleaner

Washing the rest of your car

After washing your wheels, switch from your 10-degree nozzle to your 40-degree nozzle and hold your pressure washer at least 6 inches away from the paint, and 12 inches away from your trim. Start by performing an initial rinse to remove any loose dirt and soils from the surface of your car. Spray the roof of your car first, and work your way down to the hood, trunk and other horizontal surfaces, moving your nozzle from side-to-side. Then follow this same technique to rinse off the vertical surfaces of your car, including your windows, door panels and rockers. Finish the prerinse by spraying your front and rear bumpers.

If you have a foam cannon, we recommend using it to apply a generous layer of an extreme foaming car wash, such as our Cherry Snow Foam, onto the surface of your car. This lubricating car wash encapsulates dirt and grime to prevent abrasive contaminants from interacting directly with your paint finish, especially as you rinse these tough soils away with your pressure washer. Use a sponge or wash mitt to massage the foam into the surface of your vehicle to loosen any stubborn stains.

Once you’ve lifted all the dirt and stains from your finish, rinse your vehicle with your pressure washer, starting again at the top and working your way down. Continue to use the same, sweeping motion until you don’t see any more soap bubbles on the surface of your car or your rinse water. Be sure to rinse your grill and headlights thoroughly to make sure you remove any bugs or debris that may have collected there.

Finally, give your vehicle one last rinse with your garden hose to remove the excess water from your pressure washer, then hand dry your car exterior with a fresh, microfiber towel. Your car will be smooth and sparkling clean, making it easier to identify the need for any paint correction before topping it all off with a fresh layer of wax.

car with snow foam


Subscribe for your newsletter and the rewards will be in your inbox before you even get there


News, events and insights from Turtle Wax® worldwide


Exclusive offers and discounts on Turtle Wax® products


Regular treats and surprises for all subscribers

Thanks! You should receive a confirmation email shortly.