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Can You Wash Your Car In The Sun? Can Damage Occur?

Can You Wash Your Car In The Sun?

After all these years of detailing I’ve seen this subject come up often. Can you wash your car in the sun and if so, why should you versus shouldn’t you? 

You should avoid washing your car in the sun as much as possible. It’s best to wait for a more cloudy and cool day to properly wash your car. If you have to wash your car, consider using a self serve touchless car wash in your area. Otherwise, make sure your vehicle has a protective coating like wax and wash in small sections if you must wash in sunlight. You may notice water spots if you wash in direct sunlight.

That being said, let’s look at all the reasons why you shouldn’t as well the options available if you have no other choice. If you need a quick solution, the following car washes work best if you need to wash on a hot sunny day:

Meguiars Gold Class Soap
Chemical Guys Mr. Pink
best car wash soap for hard water adams

Can You Wash Your Car In The Sun? You Shouldn’t…

You should avoid a car wash in the sun for numerous reasons. The majority of the reasons why you shouldn’t detail in the sun are:

  • Water spots
  • Water evaporates quicker in heat
  • Products can bake into the paint becoming difficult to remove
  • Discoloration can occur if not careful

Never Wash Your Car In Direct Sunlight

Water Spots And Evaporation

As stated above, you should avoid washing or cleaning your car in direct sunlight. Detailers for years now have accepted this as a staple and I see it here often. Always wash your car in the shade.

Water when hot evaporates at a much quicker rate. When you wash your car in the sun this causes these spots to dry out and leave those nasty water drop spots on the surface. The goal is to have a clean vehicle, not make it look worse. 

Difficult To Remove Products

On top of that, if you’ve ever tried to wax your car in direct sunlight, you’ll know it almost “bakes” instantly into the paint and becomes such a pain to remove. 

It’s not just the sunlight you are trying to beat. In almost every single post I put up on here, I always say to pull your vehicle into the shade. Working in the sun is much harder when you’re washing your car not just because of sunlight, but because of how hot each panel will become.

On a hot day, if you need to clean your car in the heat or hot sun, it’s best to either turn the car around and go somewhere shaded, or just wait it out. 

Work in the shade and make sure the surface of your car is cool to the touch. Washing a car in direct sunlight is only going to make matters worse including the possible discoloration of your panels. 

Discoloration Of Panels

can you wash your can in the sun red

Detailing products are designed to make our rides look good right? The method usually always stays the same. Grab a wash mitt and hose, rinse your car down and then give it a wash. Afterwards you normally dry it off using a drying aid, towel, or microfiber towel.

It’s the part after that becomes tough, scratch removal, polishing, and waxing. Over my many years of detailing I’ve seen many rookies make the mistake and get too confident while detailing their car in direct sunlight. 

When this happens, they try to beat the heat but they’ve already lost. The cleaning or detailing product will probably dry on your paint (if a shop is doing it for you). The panel itself is already too hot so as soon as you apply some product, it just instant melts or bakes.

This can cause some of the paint to discolor as it might have adverse reactions. Stick to shade detailers.

If You Have To Wash Your Car In The Sun

Now if you absolutely need to wash your car in the sunshine this is the section for you so you don’t do damage to your car. It is actually possible to wash your car in the middle of a sunny summer day. 

If you’re going to to perform your car detailing in the sun, here’s what you more or less need to know.

Be Early

Regardless of the weather, it’s usually almost always cooler in the morning. Wash your car as early as possible in the morning and focus on smaller sections at a time. The sun isn’t nearly as intense in the morning so the rule of thumb is be early enough and washing in the direct sun is possible. 

So remember, work one panel at a time and try to beat the early sun! It’s all about finding that perfect time in the morning to make sure no product can dry on the car. 

Position The Car To Make Shade

wash car in sun white car

If you have no choice but to wash in the direct sunlight and hot weather, car owners should make sure they follow the best practice and position the vehicle in a way to where one side has shade. 

That way you can do one side at a time to make you have the proper time to wash. It will also help if your entire car is wet, we can deal with the water spots later. We use water to help keep the panels cool, trust me when were at the end, we’ll follow back up and remove any extra residue or moisture.

Use The Right Soaps

It’s kind of a wild thought but a great way to avoid water spots and prevent damage is to use the right soap. Ph neutral soaps wont cause discoloration or nearly as much water spots. Ph neutral car shampoo or soap is readily available and is highly recommended if you have to wash in the sun. Ph neutral soaps won’t cause damage to your paint if it gets too hot. 

If you have to wash a car in direct sunlight or wash your car in hot weather, try opting into a high quality soap made to beat the heat. Some of these products even say on the bottle “can be used in direct sunlight”. 

Wash A Car Properly

Obviously this entire post is about washing your car in direct sun shine. But that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the proper wash method because you can’t wash your car in the shade. If you want a clean car, I have some tips for washing your car in the sun using my traditional method.

Adjust your technique when working:

On a hot and sunny day, you need to move a little quicker when washing your car in the sun. Instead of working on a larger full panel at a time, you might need to work on half a large panel instead. 

Detailing manufacturers want to avoid having their product bashed, most companies are going recommend you just wait to wash your car on a cooler and more shaded day.

Don’t use automatic car wash facilities.

It may seem like a good idea, but in this post, I actually go over how bad it is for your car to go through an automated car wash. The goal is to keep your freshly washed car clean and scratch free.

Car wash facilities have a lot of cars that go through them. Small stones and pebbles tend to get trapped in the fibers of the cleaning pads which scratches your vehicle. 

Sunshine And Hot Weather Combo

wash car in sun bad weather

When you have days where you have the bright beautiful sun and over 90 degree weather with a ton of humidity, I’m going to be honest with you, just wait it out. 

It’s not worth the risk, or all the effort that you will need to go through in order to wash a car in the sun. If you want to get a head start though, that’s fine, work on small areas like the wheels first. 

Wash your wheels first, then move to the appropriate area and wash and dry your car.

Dry Hot Weather Calls For Shade

As a final note: If you live in an area where no matter what you cannot find a shaded area. Then start shopping around for the right products and start adjusting your detailing strategy.

On the other hand, you can also buy a portable inflatable paint booth that works in a pinch too. These aren’t the most cost effective, but are easy to setup and this will allow you to detail and set yourself up with some shade.

Long story short, should you wash your car in the sun, you can, but should you, no. There is a very talented youtuber actually that is very successful with sunlight detailing, you can watch that video below. Otherwise, let’s finish up with some frequently asked questions.

Check him out here or play the video below:


Why can’t I wash my car in direct sunlight?

You can, but you shouldn’t. Detailing products can dry or burn into the paint surface. Always wash your vehicle in the shade.

Can you wash a black car in the sun?

Regardless of color, you shouldn’t wash any vehicle in direct sunlight.

Can you wash your car in the shade?

You’re actually suppose to wash your car in a cool shaded area. 

Is it bad to wash car in direct sunlight?

It’s not actually “bad” it’s significantly more difficult as you have time and the elements against you. Always wash your car in the shade.

Can you let the sun dry your car?

You should dry your car with a car towel to ensure no water spots form on your car.

Can you wash your car on a hot sunny day?

Pull your car into a cool shaded area. Detailing on hot sunny days is fine as long as you do it in the right area appropriately. 

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