When you drive up to your neighborhood car wash, you're likely to be confronted by a blizzard of price points and option choices. Do you spring for them or just get the basic hose-off? Here are our recommendations for two options to go for and two to skip.

Two to Consider

1. Undercarriage Flush or Wash

Especially after a long, brutal winter where rock salt in the northern states and salt brine in the southern states are left clinging to the undercarriage, your car is in desperate need of TLC. Eric Wulf, CEO of the International Carwash Association, reminds us, "Today's automotive finishes do a better job at preventing visible rust and corrosion for road salts and brines, but that doesn't help protect equipment that is exposed to the elements under your car, with the braking systems perhaps being most important."

2. Polish and Protect

Try a foam or tri-polish treatment to give your chariot an extra boost of shine while repelling water and debris from the surface between washes. Variations on these treatments can contain combinations of a cleaning agent, conditioner or wax. Sometimes they're specifically formulated to blast insect carcasses. Ask your car wash operator exactly what their particular polish options will do for your car. Ha ha! Just kidding. Seriously, when it comes to preserving a car's like-new sparkle, the quick wash options are no substitute for an old-school hand wax, once before winter and then again in the spring.

Two to Skip

1. Wheel Cleaning

You may see Tire Shine or Wheel Wash on the car wash menu, but to give your tires the attention they deserve, you are better off cleaning them yourself. Particulates of every kind, from antifreeze and oil-laden road sludge to brake dust, settle onto your wheels and can corrode the surface over time. Because rims come in various materials, it is best to visit your local automotive store to find the appropriate product to rejuvenate your particular wheel type. That's also a good time to pick up some tire cleaner and dressing products to transform dull tire rubber back to black brilliance every few months.

2. Rain-X and Other "Rain Shield" Products

This popular windshield product is loved by some car enthusiasts for its water-shedding properties but disdained by others because of its potential for filming or streaking. A quick spray-on version at the car wash doesn't seem like a good bet, since precise application is key to its success. Driving through a Rain-X shower is a hit-or-miss operation. Find a reputable detailer to apply it properly and skip the random (and pricey) spray job.



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