How to Use Tesla Car Wash Mode: Protect your EV

dirty tesla with title reading Tesla Car Wash Mode

How to Use Tesla Car Wash Mode:
Protect your EV

Use Car Wash Mode to avoid potential damage when you take your Tesla through automatic touch-less car washes. Select Controls>Service>Car Wash Mode to automatically close windows, trunk and charging port; disable Sentry Mode, park chimes, windshield wipers and walk-away door locking; and enable Free Role (neutral).

A clean car says a lot about the driver – so when it comes to cleaning your electric vehicle, do it right. Tesla recommends hand washing with gentle cleaning products, but busy drivers can run through a touch-less car wash without worry by activating Car Wash Mode

What is Tesla Car Wash Mode?

Car Wash Mode is a feature on Tesla vehicles that prepares your vehicle to go through an automatic car wash as safely as possible. Although drivers can activate each setting separately, Car Wash Mode does everything with a simple click.

car wash mode warning for Tesla Car Wash Mode

Car Wash Mode:

  • closes all windows
  • locks the charging port
  • disables Sentry Mode
  • disables automatic windshield wipers
  • disables walk-away door locking
  • closes the trunk (if automatic)
  • indicates whether the frunk is open or closed
  • turns off parking assist chimes
  • enables driver to shut off current climate or set to recirculating
  • enables driver to select Free Role (neutral) (shift to Drive and apply brake)
  • gives drivers the opportunity to select Fold Mirrors and enter Screen Clean Mode

How Do I Turn On Car Wash Mode?

Place your vehicle in Park. Using your vehicle’s touchscreen, select Controls>Service>Car Wash Mode. 

car wash mode checklist for Tesla Car Wash Mode

Pro Tip:

We recommend leaving your Tesla on the Car Wash Mode screen, so that when you position your vehicle on the car wash rollers, you’re ready to choose Enable Free Roll on the touchscreen.

How to Disable Car Wash Mode?

There are two ways to disable Car Wash Mode: 

  1. Tap Exit Car Wash Mode 
  2. Simply drive away. Car Wash Mode will automatically shut off when your vehicle’s speed exceeds 9 mph (15 km/h).

What is “Enable Free Roll”?

The Enable Free Roll feature ensures your vehicle remains in Neutral during the automatic wash. This means your vehicle will be able to free roll and will not engage the Parking Brake if the driver exits the car. 

How to Enable Free Roll

After activating Car Wash Mode (Controls>Service>Car Wash Mode):

  • Shift your vehicle into Park
  • Select Enable Free Roll on the touchscreen 

Alternatively, simply shift into Neutral.

How to Disable Free Roll

There are two ways to disable Free Roll:

  1. Select Exit on the touchscreen
  2. Simply drive away from the car wash
    Once your vehicle’s speed reaches 9 mph (15 km/h), Free Role is automatically disabled.

What are the Potential Risks of Automatic Car Washes?

Traditional automatic car washes use friction from brushes, rollers and cloths to clean your vehicle. This can leave small swirls or scratches on paint and lead to dulling or damage to trim, camera lenses and lamps. Cloth cleaning strips can become tangled on windshield wipers and high pressure brushes and jet streams can open the charging port. 

Touch-less automatic car washes are safer as long as soap and chemicals are <pH 13 and your vehicle is secured using Car Wash Mode. 

What Happens if You Don’t Put Your Tesla in Car Wash Mode?  

Running your vehicle through an automatic car wash without selecting Car Wash Mode can cause a few problems that won’t be covered by Tesla’s warranty:

  • windshield wipers can break or become tangled in cloth cleaning strips
  • high pressure jet sprayers can open the charging port during the wash 
  • interior can suffer water damage from open windows 

What Models Have Car Wash Mode?

All of Tesla’s vehicles (Models S, 3, X, Y) have Car Wash Mode.

Is it OK to Take a Tesla Through a Car Wash?

Hand washing your Tesla vehicle is preferred in order to avoid potential discoloration or damage to the paint, trim, lenses and lamps.  If hand washing is not an option, choose a touch-less automatic car wash and place your vehicle in Car Wash Mode. Controls>Service>Car Wash Mode. 

Ensure touch-less car washes use pH-balanced soaps and chemicals (<pH 13) to avoid discoloration and damage to paint, trim, lamps, cameras and lenses.

discoloration of the tesla trip - Tesla Car Wash Mode
discoloration of tesla trim - Tesla car wash mode

Should you Use Car Wash Mode if you are Hand Washing your Tesla?

Make sure you put your vehicle in Car Wash Mode when hand washing. This ensures your charging port and trunk won’t open if you accidentally spray or tap on them while washing. It will also save you from having numerous Sentry Mode videos of you washing your car! 

Do not select Enable Free Roll when hand washing and ensure you are not plugged in.

How to Use Tesla Car Wash Mode: Protect your EV


Do I have to use a touch-less automatic car wash for my Tesla? 

If you can’t hand wash your Tesla, always choose a touch-less wash which is generally safer on Tesla’s exterior surfaces than automatic (friction) car washes. 

If your vehicle is particularly dirty, gently spray it with cold water prior to entering a car wash to remove salt, dirt, bugs and other debris that can potentially scratch the finish with high-pressure sprayers. 

Can I go through a car wash right after buying my new Tesla?

Experts recommend waiting a few months after your vehicle leaves the factory before going through an automatic car wash. This allows the paint finish on your vehicle to fully set.

Can I go through a car wash with my wrapped Tesla?

Wrapped Teslas look incredible, but the same advice applies to a wrap as it does for an unwrapped vehicle. It’s preferable to hand wash a wrapped Tesla but if that isn’t possible, choose a touch-less automatic car wash over a traditional direct friction car wash (which can degrade and peel the film). Wait five days before washing your newly wrapped vehicle and always activate Car Wash Mode.

How do I put windshield washer fluid in my Tesla?

low windshield washer warning - Tesla Car Wash Mode

To fill up with windshield washer fluid, open the Frunk and locate the windshield washer fill port near the driver’s side, close to the window.  Be careful not to overfill. 
Your vehicle will notify you when your windshield washer fluid is getting low with a message on your touchscreen.

Warning: Never use windshield wiper treatment fluids (like Rain-X, Invisible Glass, Bug Removers or De-Icers) as these may affect cameras and interfere with the friction, causing a chattering noise when wipers are activated

Why is Car Wash Mode greyed out?

Car Wash Mode is greyed out when the vehicle is plugged in and charging, or not in Park
Before activating Car Wash Mode, ensure your vehicle is in Park, and not plugged in.

Does Car Wash Mode auto-fold my mirrors?

Car Wash Mode does not automatically fold in your vehicle’s mirrors, which is a great feature if they are frozen with ice and snow. However, you can manually choose to fold in your mirrors from the Car Wash Mode screen.  

Can electric cars go through automatic car washes?

Electric vehicles are safe to bring through a car wash, as they have design features that prevent moisture from getting into electrical components. Ensure windows, doors, trunk and charging ports are closed and windshield wipers are disabled. Choose a touch-less car wash over a traditional friction wash to protect your electric vehicle’s paint, trim, lenses and lamps.

Are touch-less car washes safe for my EV?

Touch-less automatic car washes are safer than traditional friction washes for paint, trim, cameras and lamps. High pressure jets, harsh chemicals and salt from reconditioned water in touch-less washes can still contribute to scratches and dulling over time, so hand washing is always preferred. 

Touch-less car washes are safe for the batteries and other electrical components of EVs due to electric vehicles’ water-resistant design features. 

Do all electric vehicles have a Car Wash Mode?

Not all electric vehicles have a convenient feature like Tesla’s Car Wash Mode. Some EVs (like the Chevrolet Bolt and Rivian electric trucks) have a car wash feature that allows the vehicle to remain in neutral, however they don’t match Tesla’s all-in-one feature. With a simple click, Tesla’s Car Wash Mode performs several actions at once: your vehicle remains in neutral (Free Roll); disables wipers, Sentry Mode and walk-away door locking; secures windows, doors and locks charging port. 

Can I wax my Tesla?

You can wax your Tesla vehicle, as the body is just like any other vehicle.

Do I need to put my car into Car Wash Mode to clean the interior?

Car Wash Mode is designed for exterior washing. It places your car in neutral and secures ports, windows and wipers for exterior washing. Car Wash Mode is not recommended when cleaning your interior. – 𝐑𝐞𝐚𝐥 𝐓𝐞𝐬𝐥𝐚 𝐃𝐫𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐬. 𝐄𝐱𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐭 𝐀𝐝𝐯𝐢𝐜𝐞.
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Darren Globe

Darren is a Tesla EV owner, Professional Firefighter and former Paramedic. His experience and passion for EVs inspired him to create, where he works as CEO and Chief Editor. Darren is a recognized Tesla expert featured in and referenced by MSN, Yahoo and in numerous forums, websites and social media.

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