How To Pressure Wash Cars and Trucks

In this ‘How-To’ article you’ll learn why you should be pressure washing your vehicle weekly… and how to do it in only 10 minutes.

I don’t know about you but I’ve spent countless hours washing my car / work truck by hand – usually with a bucket of soap, a big sponge and a garden hose with a nozzle gun. Unfortunately the garden hose and nozzle gun combo are not a 50th of what a pressure washer is (in terms of pressure) – so I spend at least 30 minutes washing.

In the summer this method becomes more difficult. My technique is to go over the car with the soapy sponge and then spray it all down. Often, the side I start with has been dried by the sun and the soap has caused the car to look dirty and smeared, and has to be done again. With a pressure washer you can just use a detergent and correct nozzle and give the whole car a clean in 10 minutes…

…And it’s easier, cleans better and uses less water.

Which Pressure Washer?

An electric pressure washer will get the job done for the least cost. You’ll probably be washing your car in your driveway or lean-to so I’m guessing there will be easy access to an electrical outlet? Check out the 3 electric pressure washers I recommend here.

The PSI range of electric pressure washers (light-duty 1000 PSI –> low-range medium-duty 2000 PSI) is perfect for the small jobs like washing your car or truck. Combine the correct nozzle and you’ll be wondering why you didn’t get a power washer sooner.

Verdict: Electric pressure washer: 1900 PSI from Karcher, AR Blue Clean or Powerworks.

Which Nozzle?

Picking the correct nozzle for the job is essential. Because we’re talking about your car or truck all you ┬áneed to know is that the 40 degree nozzle will do the job. But if you’re 4×4’ing and get a lot of mud stuck to your undercarriage etc you may need the 15 or 25 degree nozzle to get those off.

The degree naming of the nozzle refers to the width of the water sheet that leaves the nozzle. So 0 degree is a straight line and 40 degrees is a wide sheet of water – the wide sheet provides a nice wash and the straight jet of water removes caked on mud and dirt.

Verdict: 40 degree nozzle

Hot Water or Cold Water?

Hot water pressure washers will clean your car better. We all know this is true intuitively. Think about when you wash the dishes – you use hot water right? Same thing goes for washing your car. The hot water actively removes the dirt and grime from the surface of the car. It will also use less soap because it can get the job done without it.

The downside of these hot water pressure washers is they need an extra mechanism to heat the water up. Most will use a heating element akin to your electric kettle. So that’s another component that needs maintenance.

Cold water pressure washers are more common. They’re more affordable and more simple.

Verdict: Cold water

Use Detergent or Not?

The majority of washers these days allow for detergent to be used alongside the high pressure water. I would jump at this and use it for every wash. It really does make the wash effortless.

Make sure to use a soap nozzle that has a bigger orifice that allows the soap to discharge with the water.

Verdict: Use detergent

Proper Technique

This video does a great job of showing you the proper pressure washing technique for your car or truck:


  1. Some pressure washers on eBay. I used this to look at some specific specs of hot water electric pressure washers.
  2. Buying guide on Home Depot. Not a bad guide. I used it to confirm that range of PSI for washing your car.

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