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

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 a carwash with not only a roof rack but also any type of rack.”- said the expert.


What could go wrong if you go through a 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

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to remove dirt and paint debris rather than embedding it at the end of the brush and causing some scratches like old, outdated polyethylene brushes.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 the 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.


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

But, should you go through a carwash with roof rack? No, definitely not. Select an hour and a half, and handwash your car.

Don’t be lazy, reduce the risk of damaging your precious roof rack, and save your money. Plus, it’s very satisfying to see you’ve done a great job and your car looks shiny and new.

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