How Crazy Is Too Crazy When It Comes To Washing Your Cars?


Hello, humans of Jalopnik, and welcome to your weekly dose of Letters to Doug, everyone’s favorite column wherein you send me a letter and I prattle on about something that’s only tangentially related while simultaneously insulting the Audi Allroad.

If you want to send me a letter, you can! Just write me a note on Facebook or send me an e-mail at, and I will probably ignore your letter and laugh at whatever predicament you’re in that requires the solicitation of my advice. There is also some small chance that I will publish your letter.

For instance: this week, I published this guy’s letter. He didn’t sign his name, but I’m going to call him Roderick, because that sounds like a lovely name for the kind of person who uses the salutation “Faithfully yours.” Roderick writes:


Hey Doug,

Fell down the you tube rabbit hole and discovered ammo nyc car washing/detailing tutorials. Say what you want about his water filtration system and techniques, what gets me are his haircare-like products. He applies “paint moisturizer”, can a normal sane person do this?

Faithfully yours


I am happy to take this question for one reason especially: there is absolutely no issue at which I am at greater odds with the general car community than washing and detailing automobiles. The car community is absolutely obsessed with detailing automobiles. The car community lives on detailing automobiles. The car community thrives on the cleanliness of automobiles, to the point where I have been to cars and coffee with people who discuss nothing other than whether or not a car has swirl marks in the paint. “Look at that F430 stick shift!” I would say. “Yeah,” the person would reply. “But look at the swirl marks.”

Me, I like to drive.


Let me explain myself. I personally drive 20,000 to 25,000 miles a year even though I work from home and have no commute. I also live in a very dense, crowded city, which means I do not even use my car to go to the supermarket, or the pharmacy, or the post office. It has been literally months since I have driven within my city’s boundaries out of necessity.

So how do I drive 20,000 to 25,000 miles a year? Because I absolutely love to drive. It is not uncommon for me to be sitting at home, late at night, watching television, and suddenly the idea of going for a drive strikes me, much like the idea of “scratching yourself” might strike you. So I hop in the car, and I drive to the curvy roads outside the city, and I’m gone for an hour and a half.

This is at odds with the whole “obsessive about cleaning your car” thing. It involves brake dust, and dirt, and grime, and it happens every few days.

I have a friend who is so obsessed with automotive cleanliness that the way he interacts with his cars on Sunday mornings is, he backs them out of his garage, he parks them in his driveway, and he cleans them for four hours. Then he brings them back in his garage. Me, when I back my car out of my garage on Sunday mornings, I do the exact opposite: I get it dirty.


Moreover, I don’t care about the PH balance of my car’s paint, or the allure of the car’s finish, or the suppleness of the car’s luster, or whatever words detailers use to describe a car’s gleaming coat after they’ve finished scrubbing it with a specially-designed brush the size of a regulation staple. I simply do not have the time or money to devote hours each week or days each year to making sure my car’s exterior finish is perfect, and beautiful, and magazine cover-ready, when I know I will probably soon drive it in the rain, and the wind, and the dirt, all for pleasure. I may even hit an opossum.

Now, I should note that I am a bit reticent to post this, because I know this is not how most car people feel about automotive detailing. I take my Aston Martin through the touch-free car wash, where people ATTACK it with – GASP! – USED BRUSHES!, and the last time I posted a picture of it in this situation, more than a few people told me I do not “deserve” such a car. Simply because I want to devote my hours to driving, rather than cleaning. So I’m very worried you people will disown me forever.

But here’s the thing: I am currently driving my Aston Martin to Maine, so I’m very worried right now anyway. This column can’t make it any worse.

And now, I place my flame suit on for everyone to tell me how wrong I am. Hopefully, you will only attack me with words. Fortunately, if this does become physical, I am not especially afraid of your weapon of choice: specially designed brushes the size of a regulation staple.

@DougDeMuro is the author of Bumper to Bumper and Plays With Cars, which his mother says are “fairly decent.” He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer.

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