Keeping cars clean in Aspen isn’t easy
December 29, 2006
Aspen, CO ColoradoIt’s car wash season, that time of year when frequent snowstorms of any size make a mess of Aspen’s autos.Auto body experts recommend keeping your car clean to avoid expensive repairs down the road.John Stock, owner of Action Auto Collision in Carbondale, recommends washing your car after every storm as a cursory approach to removing magnesium chloride, the salt used by the Colorado Department of Transportation to melt snow and ice on state highways. (Pitkin County doesn’t use the substance, because it’s considered harmful to the environment.)Mag chloride is hard on antilock brakes, it can corrode electrical systems, cause chrome to rust, and “it will dry rot all the rubber on the car,” Stock said.
“If it gets in the electrical system, you can total out a car, because all those new cars are just loaded with electronics,” he said. “It doesn’t take a lot of time.”While drive-through and wand-wash car washes help, but they aren’t enough to counter the damage, Stock said.”People wash the outside of the car, but you need to wash the underside,” he said. The mag chloride “splashes up into every crevice of the car,” and undercarriage washes aren’t thorough enough.Mike Zakahi, manager at Willits General Store, suggests having the car engine steam cleaned or detailed several times a year, but he agreed regular washes after snowstorms do help.”The body parts, the wheels, the paint and the undercarriage, those are the real important parts to get initially,” he said.
Zakahi’s store uses a high-pressure hose to pre-wash cars before they enter the bay, but other drive-throughs employ an alkali-based soap to help wash off chemicals and dirt. Once inside, he said, those car washes use an acid-based wash to help neutralize the alkali soap.”It’s kind of like presoaking your dishes,” he said.Zakahi said his store prefers to minimize the amount of chemicals to avoid adding to the problem. Over the long term, using chemical washes to combat the chemicals on the road can be bad for the car, bad for the environment and bad for the attendant at the car wash.”We’d almost prefer not to have any [soap], but people like to see suds at a car wash,” he said. “Any time you can use less chemicals, you’re better off.”The car wash at Willits General Store uses a “super-light mixture” of the alkali-based soap.
Other washes that employ cheaper soaps, he said, have to use more of it. That increases the chance some of it’s going to be left on the car, behind bumpers and trim and in other tight spots. The soap itself, because it’s a chemical, can also harm the car in the long run.Buggy Works in Carbondale cleans car engines, but employees there recommend having an attendant check your car before making an appointment, as certain types of engines can be damaged by the process.A final suggestion, if you’re headed to one of the drive-through washes in the Roaring Fork Valley: Leave plenty of time and take some reading material. The lines can be long when the weather clears, and once you’re in, you might become trapped as the cars stack up behind you.Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org