Can and Should you go through a carwash with a Roof Rack? (Explained)

When it comes to maintaining the cleanliness of your vehicle, car washes can be a convenient and efficient option. However, if you have a roof rack installed on your car, you may wonder if it’s safe to go through a carwash without causing any damage.

Roof racks are popular accessories for carrying items such as bikes, skis, luggage, or kayaks, but their presence can complicate the car wash process.


Roof racks are being upgraded bay by day. Now they are lightweight, mobile, and easily removable. But it still takes 10 to 15 minutes to remove an average roof rack and it’s irritating when you are going to an automatic carwash.

So, most roof rack owners worry, about what they should do about it. Therefore, we asked an expert from a manufacturer this question.

Can you go through a carwash with a Roof Rack? “No, you are not recommended by any manufacturer to go through any automatic carwash with not only a roof rack but also any type of rack.”- said the expert.

Let’s dive into the question of whether you can go to a carwash with a roof rack and explore some important considerations.

Types of Carwash

The first factor to consider is the type of carwash you plan to visit. There are various types available, such as automatic carwashes, touchless carwashes, or hand wash facilities. Each type has its own advantages and potential risks for a car with a roof rack.

  1. Automatic carwashes: Automatic carwashes use mechanical brushes or cloth strips to clean your vehicle. While these carwashes are quick and convenient, they can pose a risk to your roof rack. The brushes or cloth strips may snag on the roof rack, potentially causing damage to both the rack and the car. Moreover, the brushes can dislodge or misalign any items attached to the rack, leading to further damage.
  2. Touchless Carwashes: Touchless carwashes employ high-pressure water jets and cleaning chemicals to remove dirt and grime. They are considered a safer option for vehicles with roof racks since there are no physical components that could come into contact with the rack. However, the high-pressure water jets might create a forceful stream that can loosen or dislodge any loosely attached items on the rack. It’s important to ensure that everything is securely fastened before entering a touchless carwash.
  3. Hand Wash Facilities: If you’re concerned about potential damage to your roof rack, hand wash facilities can be an excellent alternative. These establishments usually employ skilled professionals who carefully clean your vehicle by hand. Since the cleaning process is manual, there is minimal risk of damage to the roof rack. However, it’s crucial to communicate with the staff about the presence of the roof rack and any attached items to ensure they exercise caution while washing your car.

What could go wrong if you go through an automatic carwash with an installed Roof Rack?

Your roof rack may be strong and sturdy but going through an automatic carwash can damage not only your roof rack but also your car.

Most carwashes use brushes that have the chance of snagging onto your roof rack and pulling it off your roof whilst in the middle of the wash. This could not only destroy and ruin your roof rack but could also damage your car.

Possible risks of going through a carwash with a roof rack-

  • Snagging the rack
  • Rusting of metal parts
  • Canceling the manufacturer’s warranty
  • Damaging the automatic washer
  • Damaging the car

What Precautions to take to go through a carwash with roof rack?

Regardless of the type of carwash you choose, there are a few precautions you should take when considering cleaning your vehicle with a roof rack:

  • Remove Loose Items: Before heading to the carwash, remove any loose items from the roof rack. This includes bike attachments, ski racks, or any other removable accessories. It helps to prevent damage and avoids the risk of losing or misplacing these items during the cleaning process.
  • Check for Security: Ensure that the roof rack is securely fastened to your vehicle. Double-check the bolts, straps, or mounting system to confirm everything is tight and properly adjusted. This step is essential for preventing any unwanted movement or potential damage.
  • Communication: Inform the carwash attendants about the presence of the roof rack. This allows them to exercise extra caution while cleaning your vehicle and ensures they are aware of any potential vulnerabilities that may require special attention.

How can carwash damage your roof rack?

There are different types of carwash systems, but the worst of them is the Brush-type.

This is where you drive your car onto an assembly line-type belt, and the brushes rub your car with soap and water. Then the blower dries your car.

Modern automatic cleaning brushes are made of a material called Carlite.

It is a soft foam material that does not absorb water and is designed to remove dirt and paint debris rather than embedding it at the end of the brush and causing some scratches like old, outdated polyethylene brushes.

If you go through this carwashing system with your roof rack, the brush fibers may get stuck, and it will be a massive disaster for you and the machine.

And there is the touchless carwash system. It uses high-pressure water and liquid chemical to wash your car. As it is called, in a touchless system, the machine doesn’t touch your car except for chemicals.

You can go through a touchless carwash with a roof rack. But make sure to check for water spots under the roof rack.

Are automatic car washers protected for damages to your roof rack?

Yes, most carwashes are protected. They have clear signs and information that will protect them against any legal claim for damages.

You will see that most companies will ask you to remove any part of your vehicle that could be damaged or cause damage to their carwash.

Not only that but you also will have to provide them with repair costs if your roof rack damages their carwash.

They will report it to the police as “Criminal Damage” and trace you back from your vehicle registration plate. So, it’s not worth it to go through a carwash with a roof rack.

When should you go through a carwash with a roof rack?

Before going through the carwash, you should ask the staff if it’s necessary to remove the rack. If he says, “It’s ok”, only then you can go through the carwash.

And if your rack comes out damaged, you should collect evidence of the damage. Take photos of the scene and especially any sign that says it’s safe to use with a roof rack.

Speak to any witnesses nearby or people waiting to use the carwash and ask for their details. 

This may be needed if the carwash company denies all claims for damages. Speak to the colleague or staff member and ask them to record the incident somewhere in their records. Take a note of the time they do this and get their name.

How can you wash your car with a roof rack installed?

Of course, the answer is Handwashing. But we all know handwashing your car in winter or under the summer heat is unbearable. But handwashing is the best for your car and your rack system.

And if you are lazy like me or unable to Handwash, you can go to professional handwashing services. It may cost a little bit more than other techniques, but it is worth the money.


In conclusion, while it is generally possible to go to a carwash with a roof rack, it’s important to consider the type of carwash and take necessary precautions to avoid damage. Automatic carwashes can pose a higher risk of damage due to the physical brushes or cloth strips, while touchless carwashes and hand wash facilities are generally safer options. By removing loose items, ensuring the rack’s security, and communicating with the carwash staff, you can help protect your roof rack and enjoy a clean vehicle without unnecessary worry.

So, can you go through a carwash with roof rack? Yes, you can, there are some options.

Visit our kayak rack section for more car-specific rack guides.