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Safe PSI for car washing: Tips from an auto detailer

Seeing a clean car is always attractive and also makes it last longer. Keeping your car clean can be a challenge and takes time. You have several options: go to a carwash, use a hose, bucket, and sponge, or use your pressure washer. Pressure washers are a great way to clean your car. The higher water pressure ensures that dirt comes off, and cleaning the underside of your vehicle using other methods is difficult. But the water pressure should not be so high that you can damage your paint or other parts.

Safe PSI for car washing:

In general, 1200 to 1900 psi is seen as the best range for washing your car with a pressure washer. Most pressure washers can be set to this pressure. Make sure to use the right nozzle, with 25 degrees or 40 degrees, when cleaning your car. And keep the tip of the pressure washer at an appropriate distance from your vehicle.

This article will help you with the different pressure washer options and whether or not it is safe to use them to clean your car. It will also look into cleaning the most important parts of your vehicle with a pressure washer.

What PSI is safe for washing cars?

My experience is that for washing cars, the pressure washer’s PSI needs to be set between 1200 to 1900 PSI. Also, using the correct nozzles is important. I recommend a 45 degrees one. This is the white nozzle. The pressure washers with such nozzles cover more surface area, and their pressure is low.

When it comes to pressure washing your car, the problem is that there are many fears associated with it. The car owners fear that the pressure of the washer can damage the paint of their cars. To prevent any damage to the body of your car, you are recommended not to use pressure washers that have more than 1900 PSI. The ideal pressure for washing cars is between 1200-1900 PSI, and the experts recommend using pressure washers with PSI ratings in this range. Or one where you can set the pressure to this level.

Apart from the PSI, Nozzles are another important factor that you must consider before choosing the pressure washer. There are different sizes of nozzles that come with the pressure washers, and the function of these nozzles is to distribute the water coming from the pressure washer. 

Choose the nozzle of your pressure washer wisely so that the water evenly spreads. The pressure washers with narrow nozzles spread less water over the surface area, but such give a higher spot pressure. The same way as if you change the nozzle of your hose. Using a wide nozzle will make the water cover more surface area with a lower spot pressure.  

The table below shows the different nozzles, with the usage type, color, and degrees of the tip. This will help you the next time you are going to buy a pressure washer or nozzle for your car.

Degree of Nozzle
Color of the tip
0 degree
These types of nozzles have huge pressure, and they are ideal for cleaning surfaces and cement. Experts do not recommend using this type of nozzles for cars.
15 Degree
These types of nozzles are ideals for removing paint from the wall. 
25 Degree
These nozzles are used for cleaning truck beds or Rims of the tire. They are ideal for cleaning the mud in the vehicle, and they can be used for pre-rinse.
40 Degree
They cover a large surface area and have low pressure. Such nozzles are ideal for cleaning the surface of cars.

What PSI is safe for car paint?

In general, to protect the paint of your car, you should use a pressure washer with 1200-1900 PSI. Experts recommend using a pressure washer with 1200-1900 PSI with 1.4 to 1.6 Gallons Per Minute (GPM) to protect your car’s paint. While using a pressure washer, also take care that you use the correct nozzle.

The pressure needed for yard work is different from those of cars. The PSI for pressure washers of some yard work needs to be higher to clean stains from a concrete driveway. Since the vehicles have mud and dust on them, the washer’s pressure needs to be set accordingly, but such that it does not damage the car’s body.

Different types of pressure washers are available in the market. Gas pressure washers and electric pressure washers are the two most common ones. Gas pressure washers can often achieve higher pressure and flow rate, but they are generally more expensive and need much more maintenance. For washing your car, electric pressure washers with appropriate PSI are fine.

Nozzles also play an important role in protecting your car’s paint. The red 0 degrees nozzle will give a higher pressure, thus increasing the chance of damaging your car’s paint.  For protecting the paint of your car, we recommended using a white 40-degree nozzle. Such a nozzle will give a lower pressure and will cover much more surface area. This will ease your job, and you will be cleaning your car quickly whilst protecting the paint.

Is 3000 psi too much for a car?

Using a Pressure washer with 3000 PSI can definitely damage the paint of your car. If you have a pressure washer with such a high pressure, first try to set it lower. With most machines, you can change the output pressure. Also, ensure that you use the correct nozzle, one from 25 or 40 degrees. So the water is spread more evenly on the body of your car, and the spot pressure is lower.

Having an appropriate PSI pressure washer is important for protecting the paint of your car. We have already mentioned the safe range of PSI, which should be between 1200 to 1900 PSI. Using 3000 PSI and a nozzle of 0 degrees or 15 degrees is too much for the body of your car, and there is a high chance that you will damage the paint.

What can you do if you already have purchased a pressure washer with 3000 PSI? Pressure washers with such high pressure most likely have a way to control this pressure. Check the manual on how you can set the output pressure to a lower setting. Also, use a 25 or 40 degrees nozzle. Both these nozzles cover more surface area and have lower spot pressure. Therefore they have less chance of damaging the paint of your car.

Is 2000 psi too much to wash a car?

In general, anything below 2000 PSI is a safe pressure to wash your car. The chance that you will damage the paint is minimal. Ensure that you keep the tip of the pressure washer at an appropriate distance. And use a green 25 or white 40 degrees nozzle.

Pressure washers with less than 2000 PSI are safe for cleaning cars. But ensure that the appropriate nozzle is used. Use a green 25 degrees one, or even better, the white 45 degrees nozzle.

Another important factor that you must keep in your mind when using a pressure washer of 2000 PSI is to keep the tip of the pressure washer at an appropriate distance from the body of your car. Holding the tip too close to the car’s body will not only increase the chance of damaging the paint. It will also increase the likelihood that water is pushed in areas where it usually does not come. This can increase the chances of rust or reach covered mechanical parts, thus decreasing the lifetime.

Hold the tip at an appropriate distance. For example, you can start by holding the tip at 4 feet distance and move the pipe closer when needed to remove more challenging dirt.

Does a pressure washer hurt a car?

In general, a pressure washer does not hurt your car as long as the pressure is not too high. The recommended PSI is 1200-1900 together with a green 25 or white 40-degree nozzle. Ensure that you hold the tip of the pressure washer at an appropriate distance from the body of your car. If you follow these tips, the pressure washer will not damage the body of your car.

There are different pressure washers available in the market, and each of them comes with a different pressure level. More modern pressure washers often have a changeable pressure setting, so you can set it to high pressure when needed and a lower setting when the job asks for it. The ideal PSI of pressure washers to clean your car is between 1200 to 1900 PSI. Any pressure over 2000 PSI increases the chance of damaging the paint of your car.

Can I pressure wash my car engine?

In general, you can pressure wash a car engine. It is completely safe as long as you are using a pressure washer with the correct PSI. Anything between 1200-1900 is fine. Before pressure washing the engine, make sure that the engine’s electrical components are covered correctly. Check things like the fusebox cover. Apply some degreaser and use the pressure washer to clean the dirt away from your engine.

The engine is an essential component of a car. With time, it gets dirty. Most people rarely notice the dust particles that get stuck on the engine. Regular cleaning of the engine helps to spot other problems like an oil leak much quicker. If you want to clean your car’s engine and you are not sure of how to do it, let’s walk you through the process:

● Step 1: Check if the electrical components are covered correctly

The first step is to ensure that the engine’s electrical components are covered correctly. Check if the cover for the different components is really closed. Under normal circumstances, driving in the rain is already important. But when you hit them with high-pressure water and more from the top, there is even a higher chance that water will enter. Make sure to protect all the electrical components. Else, you will end up damaging them, which might be very costly.

● Step 2: Degreasing

The next step is to degrease the engine by using a degreaser detergent. This will help wash away all the grease present in the engine of your car. Check the manual of the degreaser on how to use it.

● Step 3: Clean the engine with the pressure washer

After the detergent has been applied, it’s time for a pressure wash. If your pressure washer has a changeable pressure, set it to the correct setting. Also, change the nozzle to a green or white one. During the cleaning, ensure that the tip of the pressure washer is at an appropriate distance from the engine’s body. The distance between the engine and tip will ensure that the pressure decreases before the water hits the engine.