What are the best ways to wash, clean, bath, and detail your Tesla Model 3, S and X? After owning several cars with black paint including my Model S, I was able to preserve good looking paint without professional washing or detailing help and fairly on the budget over several years. My goal was always sustainable washing and cleaning schedule without braking my budget. Here are some recommendations on washing, cleaning, detailing, and cosmetic upkeep of your Tesla vehicle.
My Tesla Model S has a solid black flat paint and not the more expensive multi-coat or metallic paints. After two years and 28 thousand miles, I can say that the exterior paint quality is still fairly good. The paint does have several dings and scratches from rock chips. It also has several hairline scratches especially on the top left door frame.
Regarding wheels/rims, my Tesla Model S has 19” silver wheels which also need special care when cleaning and I will discuss this later in the blog.
My recommendations are based on years of owning different cars with black and dark blue paints in the fairly harsh winter climate such as North East. Black paint is most labor some to clean and maintain but it rewards owners with the most amazing looks.
I prefer manually washing, cleaning and detailing my Tesla Model S for several reasons:
- Cheaper to wash yourself than pay for it. You can choose what products to use for washing.
- Learn how to care for paint over long period of time
- Manual washing your Tesla good give you a good physical workout
- Save water
Washing Tesla in Automatic Car Wash
Needless to mention you should avoid washing your Tesla in the automatic car washes. In the Model 3 and S manuals, Tesla suggests to use only Touchless car washes if you decided to use an automatic car wash. The standard automatic car washes with brushes are just too harsh on your paint.
If you have Tesla with the black finish, you probably already know that it is very hard to keep black car clean. My advise is to stay away from the standard automatic car washes because there is a high chance of developing hairline scratches all over the car.
In addition, there is also a chance of damaging your undercarriage and battery especially in cases of Model 3 and S when driving over the guiding rails.
Washing Tesla in Automatic Touchless Car Wash
I have mixed experience with automatic touchless car washes when cleaning Tesla. They have positives and negatives.
- Most have no guiding rails so it is easier to drive in and out. You do not need to worry about damaging battery underneath the car
- No brushes or other parts that can scratch your paint or leave swirl marks or hairline scratches
- Great for quickly removing salt and other major dirt items especially in the winter
- One of the main negatives is that they do not remove dirt completely. I have tried a few so far and none did a great job cleaning the Tesla.
- There are some which are not cheap
- Not great for summer washing because they do not do a great job removing dirt
Hand Washing Tesla
Hand washing Tesla is the preferred method to properly and completely removing dirt from and cleaning your Tesla Model 3, S and Tesla Model X. This is especially true if you own Tesla with flat black and not a multi coat paint. Hand washing does not mean that you will not scratch your paint, it only means that you have the full control over how your Tesla is being washed: the selection of washing liquid, water, brushes or mitts and etc. If you learn how to properly manually wash, you will be able to achieve the amazing show room Tesla look.
Here are the hand washing steps that I take to wash my Tesla and products that I use. First, you would need the following items at a minimum.
Bucket with the grit guard insert. This helps to keep the dirt particles at the bottom and not rise up to the top. You should brush your mitt over the grit to remove the dirt every time you apply new layer of washing liquid on your Tesla paint.
Good quality and soft mitts. If you do not want to scratch your Tesla paint, please do not use brushes.
Good quality washing liquid with wax and balanced Ph. Note, be careful and do not use liquids with harsh chemicals which can damage your Tesla exterior paint or leave spots.
The hand washing procedure is as follows. The sequence and order of steps matter.
- In the cool place, spray the exterior with water and remove the first layer of dirt from the paint. Work from top to bottom.
- In the bucket with grit guard, mix water and your good quality washing liquid. There is no specific proportions. I mix enough to see bubbles.
- Use your good quality and non abrasive mitt and start applying generous amount of washing liquid from the bucket on the car. Again, always work from top to bottom.
- I apply the washing mixture on one side of the car first, leave it for 60 seconds for wax to start working and then wash it off with water. Do not let the washing liquid dry on your paint. Do not wash your car in the direct sun.
- Generously apply washing liquid on the other side and wash it off with water.
- Every time you are dipping your mitt into the bucket to get more washing liquid, try to rub off the dirt over the grit at the bottom of the bucket. You need to carefully apply washing liquid on the paint. There is no need to rub it hard. Also, the mitt must not contain dirt from the previous rounds.
- Now, using the same procedure, wash the back and front of the Tesla. Again, start at the top and wash the hood first and then wash the headlights and bumper.
Drying Tesla After Wash
I normally use microfiber towels to dry Tesla after washing. Wipe off the water droplets completely from the paint before they dry up. While the paint is still wet, start your detailing work described below.
This is a very important part of every Tesla wash. Lets be clear this is not a required procedure. You do not need to detail your Tesla. However, detailing is what will bring your Tesla’s paint to a rich and glossy look, especially the black paint.
My goal here is not to spend too much time. The detailing should fit into the normal washing schedule or it will be too much work to do.
For quick detailing your Tesla after every wash, you would need a good quality spray polish or spray wax.
The quick Tesla detailing procedure is simple:
- After washing is complete, dry your Tesla paint with the clean microfiber cloth. The good washing liquid with wax should not leave water suds.
- Note, do not dry the paint completely. Leave some moisture on the paint
- With slight moisture on the paint, start applying the spray wax but only as much as you can wipe off. I normally spray wax on one small section, wipe it dry, and then move to the next section.
- Let the spray wax mix in with the little of moisture left on your paint. Applying spray wax on the dry paint did not feel good to me.
After working through all of the sections, your Tesla should be dry and paint should be glossy and shiny.
The paint surface should also feel smooth and without water suds or spots. If you discover areas with left over water suds or spots, reapply spray wax and wipe it dry to remove the spots.
Daily Tesla Cleaning and Detailing
On daily basis, to quickly remove some dust and small debris or spots from Tesla paint, I use the quick detailing sprays with wax and water repelling.
I also use the waterless liquid spray mainly for cleaning the
daily small dirt spots, bird spots, rain spots, and leaves.
Washing Tesla Wheels
My Tesla Model S has the 19 inch Slipstream wheels with sliver finish. One important advise: avoid chemical based wheel or rim cleaners when washing your wheels. Some chemicals can effectively remove the brake dust but also damage the wheel finish.
How do you know if the finish of your Tesla wheels/rims is damaged? When cleaning wheels with the wheel duster, confirm that it is still possible to easily wipe off the dust from the wheels. If the brakes dust sticks to the wheels and it is hard to wipe it off, the wheel finish is most likely damaged. When it comes to this level of damage, the wheels/rims would need refinishing or you would need to purchase new wheels.
So, I would wash wheels only using household dish washer soup or mild and safe for wheels cleaners.
Removing Hairline Scratches and Swirls from your Tesla’s Paint
Unless you have White, Silver, or Asphalt Gray paint on your Tesla, you must have been noticing the fine hairline scratches and/or swirls slowly building up on your paint. These start to appear when highway debris hit your Tesla or if you regularly wash your Tesla in the automatic car wash or you do a manual wash and do not follow the steps that I have outlined above in this post. In any case, these lines are annoying and very visible when it is sunny out.
Note, these lines are less visible on the cars with the multi coat metallic paints.
There are several products that can help you to either remove these fine scratches or at least hide them so you can enjoy your beautiful Tesla paint!
Number one product that I want to recommend is Meguiar’s Swirl Remover
I have been using Meguiar’s Swirl Remover for years now and it works well on flat black paints. The results could vary depending on how deep is your hairline scratch. However, I was able to hide even some deep scratches using this paste.
If the first suggestion is not working for you, I would try the second product from the same company: Meguiar’s ScratchX Safe Scratch and Swirl Remover
I also had good results using Meguiar’s Safe Scratch and Swirl Remover on the flat black and also deep blue metallic paints. In many cases, the hairline scratches are totally removed or become so small that you need a magnifying glass to find them.
With the products above, I was able to not only remove hairline scratches but also clean the paint marks left from minor bumper hits.
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