Can I use a car wash with a roof box

Can I Use A Car Wash With A Roof Box In Place?: Not a Good Idea!


While it is technically possible to take your car through an automatic car wash with your roof box still attached it is probably ill-advised. There are many potential problems that you may cause if you try which may result in expensive damage to the car wash, your vehicle or your roof box.

You are likely to save yourself a lot of trouble either by removing the box first or by getting the car washed by hand.

Risks of Using a Car Wash With a Roof Box Attached

Many years ago I was told by someone who worked at a car dealership to never take a car through a car wash if you valued the paintwork. I’m pretty sure they would advise against taking a car through an automatic car wash with a roof box or even a cargo bag still attached!

Here are a few of the more obvious reasons why it’s not worth the risk:

Damage to the Car Wash

The mechanism that performs the wash might get entangled with your roof box or the fixings that attach it to your roof. This could end up damaging the car wash resulting in you having to pay for it to be repaired.

Damage to Your Cargo Box

Your cargo box may not be able to withstand the force of the brushes and get damaged. Given the price of many cargo boxes should probably not be cheap to fix.

Voiding the Roof Box Warranty

There’s a good chance that you will be voiding the manufacturer warranty should you take your rooftop box through an automatic car wash.

Water Ingress Into the Roof Box

Most rooftop cargo boxes are designed to be weather resistant. They may not be unable to withstand the water pressure used in an automatic car wash, however. If water should enter the roof box then it may cause damage to both the interior of the box and any contents that you left in there.

Damage to Your Vehicle if the Car Roof Box is Dislodged

There is a possibility that your cargo box may get dislodged from your roof during the wash cycle. This is highly likely to damage your car even if the roof box was empty.

How do I Clean My Car With A Roof Box Attached?

Hopefully, you’ve now decided that taking your car through a car wash with a roof cargo box still attached is not such a good idea. It may have left you wondering how you can get your car clean without removing the box.

Touchless Automatic

Touchless automatic car washes dispense with brushes and rollers. They use high-pressure jets and different chemicals in an attempt to clean the car. This means the chances of snagging on equipment are massively reduced. Unfortunately, there is still a chance of water ingress. This is due to the water in a touchless system being at a higher pressure than in an old-fashioned carwash at your local gas station.

The pressure and chemicals used by these systems are still more likely to damage your paintwork in the long run though.

2 Bucket hand wash method
2 Bucket hand wash method

Hand Wash

This is the only safe way of washing your car with the roof box still attached. Of course, one problem with trying to get your car clean with the roof box attached is you will have difficulty cleaning the roof of the vehicle. There is unlikely to be much room for you to reach in to clean it.

These days many people use hand car wash services that have popped up all over the place. While they should be okay in terms of not damaging your roof box you may still find your paintwork gets damaged if they don’t do a professional job.

I’ve been using the two bucket method since I got a new car and so far my paintwork is still looking pretty good. Here is some advice on cleaning your roof box.

Can I Use A Car Wash With A Roof Box In Place: Conclusion

Just because you can take your car through a carwash with a roof box on, I don’t believe that it is a very clever thing to do! In fact, if you value your paintwork you should avoid automatic car washes anyway.

If you do want to use an automatic washer then the best thing to do is spend 10 minutes removing your roof box.

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ]

Should I use a car wash with my roof rack in place?

I would advise against going through a car wash if you have your roof rack fitted. There is a risk that the rollers will pull the rack away from the roof and damage your car or possible even the car wash.

Can I go through a car wash with a Thule bike rack?

It is not advisable to take your car through a car wash with a Thule bike rack attached. There is a risk when using any automatic carwash that the the brushes might dislodge the bike rack and damage the car wash potentially leaving you liable for repairs. You may also find your car gets damaged.

Should I use a touchless car wash with my cargo box installed?

While using a touchless carwash is a better option if you don’t want to remove the roof box on top of your vehicle it will still mean that the roof of your car is probably not going to get clean.

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