Can You Go Through A Carwash With A Roof Rack?

Yes, you can go through a carwash with a roof rack installed, but it’s important to ensure the rack is securely fastened and that the carwash facility can accommodate vehicles with roof racks to avoid any potential damage or complications during the wash.

Carwash and Roof Racks: Compatibility Explained

What are the needs for roof racks? We all know more or less that roof racks are the perfect product to convey various equipment, luggage, or sports gear during travel. Since there are so many high-quality roof racks available on the market, it’s easy to assume that the quality of these racks is very high.

Most high-quality roof racks are lightweight, mobile, and robust. Moreover, they can withstand various types of weather without any problem. Usually, taking off a roof rack from the car takes around 15-30 minutes. Most people find it boring and don’t want to remove the rack before the carwash.

So, the question is, can you go through a carwash with a roof rack?

The easy answer is “yes.” However, if we want to see the bigger picture, it’s not that easy. The manufacturing companies don’t recommend it. Keeping the roof rack on the car and washing the car simultaneously could damage the rack and the car. Therefore, it’s best to remove it before washing the car.

After all, car washes involve powerful jets of water and brushes that could potentially damage the rack or even cause it to detach. For this reason, car experts suggest staying away from it.

In this article, we’ll explore whether it’s safe to go through a carwash with a roof rack and what precautions you should take to protect your vehicle –

Should I Go Through a Car Wash with Installed Roof Racks?

Do you use Thule, Front Runner, Yakima, or other top-notch brands? Do you think this is enough, and you’re good to wash the car with the installed rack? Please don’t be over-optimistic! It doesn’t matter which brand you’re using; going through a carwash with a roof rack can backfire anytime.

Now, I’ll show you the potential risks of going through a car wash with a roof rack:

Partial Cleaning

It doesn’t matter how good or expensive car wash program you use; some roof rack areas could stay uncleaned. The reason is it’s impossible to clean those areas since the roof rack could get rusted due to the touch of chemicals or water.

Therefore, the car will be partially cleaned, and you may need to use your hands to clean the unclean parts.

Rusting Metal Parts

Going through a carwash with a roof rack can cause rusting of the metal parts of the rack. As a result, the durability and long-lastingness of the rack can be effectively reduced.

Damaging Car Area

Most car experts recommend not keeping the roof rack permanently mounted on the car. Whether you’re going with an automatic or soft-touch car wash, soap or other cleaning components can coalesce with the rack.

Hence, it could lead to various scratches or dents on the car parts. It can even heavily damage the car’s paint too.

Damaging Car Wash Tools

Depending on the roof rack types and the car wash tools, the roof rack may get caught in the equipment. Furthermore, the brushes or other materials can also be damaged.

Safety Measurements

If the roof rack is not secured correctly or is unstable, it could come loose during the car wash. As a result, it can create a safety problem for other vehicles or pedestrians.

Canceling the Manufacturer’s Warranty

If you continue to wash the car with a roof rack, it could cancel the manufacturer’s warranty regarding the rack if something has been damaged. So, the whole thing will be onto you, and you’ll be responsible for any hazard of the rack.

Types of Car Wash that Can Damage the Roof Rack

Choosing Rhino Rack or Thule for Adventure

Who doesn’t want to keep their car fresh and sophisticated? We all do. Many people wonder what the best way to wash a car is. Washing the car by hand is still the best way, and I would recommend it. Consequently, most car experts would also recommend hand washing.

The problem is that most car owners find it old-school and boring. Since a car wash can cause colossal damage to the car’s roof rack, removing the rack before starting the task is suggested. To understand the type of damage that any car wash can cause to your rack, I will show you each type of car wash.

Here we go –

Touchless Car Wash

Touchless car washes use high-pressure water and detergents to clean the vehicle. Hence, water can surely clean the car and is safer for its surface. But high-pressure water can significantly damage the roof rack. For this reason, you should securely attach the rack to the vehicle to avoid damage.

Automatic Car Wash

Automatic car washes use brushes and other mechanical components to clean the vehicle’s surface. Besides, the brushes can hit and damage the rack if the rack is not correctly positioned.

Even if the roof rack is correctly positioned, the brushes can still scratch or damage the rack if they are too stiff or abrasive.

This system is considered the most problematic option for the vehicle.

Brushless Wash

Although it’s not an utterly errorless option, it’s still a better choice, I must say. In this system, you drive your vehicle onto a conveyor belt that resembles an assembly line. As your car moves through the tunnel, large strips of cloth apply soap and water onto the vehicle.


Handwashing the vehicle can be an effective way to clean the surface without causing damage. However, if the person washing the vehicle is not careful, they can accidentally hit or scratch the roof rack with the cleaning tools.

Best Ways to Clean Car with a Roof Rack

Guidelines to Follow to Ensure Safety for Static and Dynamic Loads

If you own a car with a roof rack, keeping it clean can be a challenge. Here are some of the best ways to clean your car with a roof rack –

Remove the Roof Rack

If your roof rack is detachable, removing it before cleaning your car is best. This will give you easier access to the roof. Moreover, it can prevent any damage to the rack during cleaning.

Use a Gentle Detergent

When washing your car, use a gentle detergent. It won’t damage the paint or the roof rack. Furthermore, try to avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners. They can scratch the surface of the car or the rack.

Apply Lubricants

Roof racks can become rusty over time due to vibrations from the car. Therefore, you must frequently apply lubricants to the bolts to keep them shiny and smooth.

Use a Soft Brush

Use a soft brush and sponge when cleaning the car or roof rack. This is the best way to avoid scratching the surface. A microfiber towel can also be used to clean the surface gently.

Rinse Thoroughly

After washing the car, rinse it thoroughly with water to remove any remaining soap or detergent. Additionally, rinse the roof and roof rack to remove any dirt or debris.

Do it Manually

Manual washing is the safest way to wash your car. Use a soft soap or detergent while cleaning to prevent unnecessary spots on the car or rack.

Check for Damage

Consistently check the roof rack and car gears for damage. If any part is corroded, consider replacing it urgently. If any wear or tear occurs, repair or replace it promptly.

Some Important Tips to Go Through a Car Wash with Roof Rack

Going through a car wash with roof racks is a tricky process. Nevertheless, I’m giving you some tips and tricks that can help you to overcome the situation –

While Washing the Car with Roof Rack, Tighten it

Tighten the roof rack on the car perfectly so that nothing is loose. This is the best way to ensure the rack doesn’t get loose during the car washing task and damage anything. Besides, you should ensure that no products are fastened to the racks.

So, there won’t be any chance they will fly off during washing and harm pedestrians.

Ensure the Washing Elements Can’t Harm the Rack

You must ensure the roof rack isn’t harmed during the washing task. Otherwise, it can become rusty and unusable. For this reason, taking care of the rack during the wash is necessary.

Car washes often detach residues fastened to anything strapped onto the car’s roof with high-pressure water hoses. You need to be careful at this time. If you have anything costly, cover it up with something to protect it.

Use a Brushless Application

Before going through a car wash with a roof rack, it is good to use a brushless system to wash the car. The biggest reason is that they’re much softer and gentler. Moreover, they won’t make any scratches on the car’s surface or harm the exterior paintwork.

Furthermore, avoiding using automatic car washing machines will be a wise decision. They can cause significant damage to the car’s paintings.

Select the Right Application

When washing a car, the first and foremost thing is choosing the appropriate application. It basically depends on the budget and weather conditions in your area. However, I recommend choosing the right program instead of a cheaper option.

After all, the car and roof rack are expensive products, and selecting the wrong option could be detrimental.

During winter, you can use an active foam and underbody wash, costing around 5-15 USD. On the other hand, during the summertime, you can use a pressure washer. Since you need to apply snow foam to your vehicle during hot weather, you should apply some force to remove it. It can cost around 3-10 USD.

Furthermore, it is recommended to use hot water with soap to wash the car. Hot water is perfect for removing stains and residues from the car, as the cleaning solution can go along with it much more easily.

Another thing to consider is to avoid washing the car during extreme temperatures. It could be harmful to the car’s body and paintwork. If you have to clean the car during the summer, it is better to choose a time when there are low winds and moderate sunlight available.

If you want to know which carwash soap will be perfect for you, I suggest you go after Meguiar’s Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash or Chemical Guys Chemical Guys Extreme Bodywash & Wax Foaming Car Wash Soap.

Both are magnificent and highly sophisticated carwash programs.

Place the Vehicle in the Correct Position

Before starting the operation, you need to put the vehicle in the proper condition. So, it will be well-prepared for the job. Firstly, close all the windows and fold the looking glass slowly. Shut down the engine entirely and deactivate the rain sensor.

Now, I can say that the car is prepared and in perfect condition to get washed.

Things to do After Carwash

After completing the cleaning job, dry the whole car with a microfiber cloth. So, there won’t be any unwanted water. Check the entire vehicle very closely. Moreover, you should carefully check sensitive places like trunk and door seals.

After that, use a glass cleaner to clean the window glasses of the car. You can go for 3M Glass Cleaner, 08888, 19.0 oz. It is undoubtedly the best in the market due to its safety and shiny capability.


If your car faces any unexpected damage, immediately call the customer care of the car manufacturing company. However, reading a company’s car wash license will be better. It’ll be constructive in case of conflict.

So, these were the tips from me. I assure you you’ll have a great and successful car wash experience by following these tips.

What are the Disadvantages of Washing a Car with a Roof Rack?

Of course, there are various cons regarding washing a car with a roof rack. Here, we’ll look at a few notable ones –

  • First of all, car wash tools are made for just cars. These equipment manufacturer doesn’t build tools to keep roof rack in their mind. So, it’s evident that the car wash equipment can do the proper justice for the rack. Thus, there’s always a high chance the rack can get severely damaged.
  • If you fail to wash the car carefully, there’s a big chance that the car’s roof can get scratched, dented, or partially damaged. Sometimes, people doubt how to clean the car with a roof rack and fail to do the job correctly due to a lack of knowledge.
  • Sometimes water or dirt can gets stuck into the roof rack. Hence, the rack’s effectiveness is greatly diminished and the car’s paint can be vandalized.
  • The roof rack can also scratch or damage the car’s roof. It happens especially if it is not adequately secured or moved around during washing.
  • Sometimes, people tend to unclasp the roof rack to wash the top. After that, they fail to fix it correctly. It can pose a danger to other vehicles on the road.
  • The roof rack makes it harder to clean some portions of the car. For this reason, the carwash process doesn’t go in the same way people want. Hence, a large amount of residues can build up in specific areas. As a result, the car’s overall efficiency gets reduced over time.
  • Climbing a car’s top to wash the roof can be dangerous. It might happen if the rack is slippery or unstable. If you lose sight for a moment, things can go totally unexpected. Thus, a severe injury can occur.
  • If water is forced into the roof rack, it can damage the car’s interior and electronic components, leading to costly repairs or replacements.

Generally, it is a good way if you go for a handwashing formula while cleaning the car. In the end, the self-service or old-school method is still the best. There’s basically no chance of risk or damaging the car. Besides, it won’t cost you additional money.

How do You Maintain the Roof Rack?

If you want to use the roof rack for a long time, you must maintain it carefully. Here are some steps to do it perfectly –

Remove the Rack

Before starting the carwash, consider removing the rack.

Clean it Regularly

Dirt, residues, and other debris can accumulate on the rack. As a result, the rack’s efficiency can be damaged over time. To prevent this, you should clean the rack regularly with mild soap and fresh water.

Check for Damage

Use the rack each time and check whether any damage has occurred to it. Take measurements immediately if you find any cracks or parts needing repair.

Re-grease or Lubricate

To prevent corrosion or rust, you must re-grease or lubricate the clamps, hinges, or hardware.

Don’t Overload

Overloading the rack can cause it to slump or even break. Before loading cargo, you must check the weight limit of the rack.

Check the Manual

Before starting to use the roof rack, it’s better to read the manual and follow the instructions provided by the manufacturing company.

Store at the Right Place

When you’re not using it for a long time, store the product in a cool, dry place where it will stay safe without pressure. This is how you can prevent rust and keep the effectiveness of the rack.

If you can follow these tips, I assure you you’ll be able to keep the rack intact for a long time.

How Can I Wash the Car with a Roof Rack Installed?

I have just one word for you: handwashing. Yes, that’s right. Some may complain that washing your car in excessive heat is very difficult. But there’s no way to wash your car correctly with a roof rack.

However, if you’re lazy like me, you can always visit a professional carwash to get the job done. You may have to pay a small fee, but it will be worth it.

How much time does removing a roof rack from a car take?

I can’t answer that question in one word. The reason is that so many roof racks are available on the market and have different configurations. However, most racks don’t take more than 20 minutes to remove. 10-20 minutes should be enough time to remove a rack from your car.

Many people find this to be a tedious task. But removing the rack when you’re not using it can significantly help with a carwash and even save fuel.

Where Should You Wash Your Car: At Home or a Car Wash?

Most importantly, if you wash your car at home, you don’t have to spend any additional money. All you need to do is purchase the necessary cleaning kits. On the other hand, if you take your car to a professional service, you will need to spend extra money. However, they can do it professionally.

If you wash your car at home, you can do it according to your specifications. But a professional service will be more effective in the long run. Ultimately, the decision is yours to make.

However, I recommend doing the task at home.

What is the Average Height of a Carwash that is Helpful for a Carwash with a Roof Rack?

The height of a carwash that is helpful for a car with a roof rack would depend on the exact car’s height and the roof rack. Generally, car washes usually have the highest clearance height posted at the entrance. It is typically between 7 to 8 feet (2.1 to 2.4 meters). Besides, this height should be sufficient for most cars with roof racks.

Notwithstanding, it’s always a good idea to check the clearance height of the car wash before entering. This is how you can avoid damaging the roof rack or vehicle.

Final Speech

I wanted to tell you shortly, but it did take a long time! Sorry about it because I just wanted to let you know about it thoroughly. So, the question is can you go through a carwash with a roof rack? Yes, you can. But should you go through a carwash with a rack? Hell, no! I won’t recommend it. Don’t be a lazy ass like me! Do the handwashing job and save your money. It’ll be good, I can ensure.

Automotive products are like an addiction to me. Years ago, I started my job at a Roof Box installation co. Then I realized that I have a passion for cars. It is a perfect scope to share my different experiences about automotive products.