Power washers are designed to clean hard surfaces like buildings, sidewalks, and cars. They’re also called pressure washers because they use a high-pressure jet of water to remove impurities.
Our comprehensive guide explains everything you need to know before buying a power washer to clean your car or truck. We tested dozens of models and compared key features such as power, durability, and overall effectiveness.
Top 5 Best Power Washers in 2023
1 – Sun Joe SPX3000 Electric Power Washer
Our top pick is the Sun Joe SPX3000 2030 Max PSI 1.76 GPM 14.5-Amp Electric Pressure Washer. It’s our highest ranked power washer, along with one of the most popular electric models on the market.
At 1.7+ GPM, it delivers great overall cleaning power for the price. Pressure is consistent across the board with all spray tips.
The SPX3000 is feature-rich with everything you need to get the job done. It comes with 5 quick connect spray tips, dual soap tanks, a safety lock feature, and a quality extension wand that’s easy to grip.
2 – Sun Joe SPX3500 2300 Electric Power Washer
The top of the line Sun Joe SPX3500 2300 Max Psi 1.48 Gpm Brushless Induction Electric Pressure Washer is our second best pressure washer for your car. It’s the big brother to the Sun Joe SPX3000, with a slightly higher PSI (2300 vs. 2030). Also, it’s upgraded brushless induction motor is designed to last longer and run quieter than many other power washers on the market.
5 spray tips are included (0 degrees, 15 degrees, 25 degrees, 40 degrees, and a soap tip). It’s soap tank is slightly larger than the SPX3000 as well.
Overall, the SPX3500 is a great choice with tons of features. It’s also slightly more powerful than our top pick.
3 – Greenworks GPW1501 Electric Power Washer
Our third pick is the compact Greenworks GPW1501. Coming in at 1500 PSI and 1.5 GPM, this pressure washer is ‘lighter duty’ compared to other picks, but can still easily cut through tough dirt and grime. It weighs only 17 lbs, giving you the ability to easily move around your garage. It can also be operated vertically or horizontally for greater flexibility.
Features include 2 spray tips (25 degrees and 40 degrees), a great form-fitting wand, and a soap applicator instead of a soap tank.
Choose the GPW1501 if you’re looking for a versatile and compact power washer that’s light on the wallet.
4 – Sun Joe SPX3001 Electric Power Washer
Fourth on the list is the Sun Joe SPX3001. It’s based on our top pick, with a few important feature upgrades. First, it puts out 2030 PSI and 1.76 GPM. That’s plenty of power to tackle the dirtiest cars and trucks. You get the same spray tips as the SPX3000, safety features, and onboard soap tank.
The onboard reel really sets this model apart from the rest. Organizing 20 ft. hoses can be a complete pain. The built-in reel makes cleanup and storage quick and easy. This feature alone is worth the price.
5 – Stanley SHP2150 Electric Power Washer
Our fifth best power washer is the Stanley SHP2150 Electric Pressure Washer. It’s 2150 PSI power is great, along with a longer hose than most on our list (25 ft vs. 20 ft).
4 spray tips are included, however, this model also comes with a foam cannon attachment. The foam cannon sprays silky smooth foam which helps with pre-soaking dirt and grime.
Choose the Stanley model if you’re looking for higher PSI, great reliability, and a built-in foam attachment.
Benefits of Car Pressure Washing
If you’re on the fence about investing in a power washer, look no further. Here’s a list of reasons why owning a power washer is beneficial to you.
Say goodbye to harsh cleaners
Your power washer can clean almost every surface. So you don’t have to bother with scrubbing brushes and sponges anymore. Consequently, you can mostly avoid using harsh surface cleaners. There is, however, no escape when it comes to cleaning the interiors of your car. Power washers can’t be used to clean your dashboard or your seats.
Save time and energy
Power washing is a quicker process than any other method of cleaning. Simply plug in your power washer and use the high-pressure hose to wipe any surface clean in a flash.
Power washing does not require too many resources either – just running water and electrical output. Your days of bending and twisting your body to get to one stubborn spot are finally over!
Remove mold and mildew
With the onset of rainy weather, microorganisms like algae start sprouting in your car’s body. Without proper cleaning, your car may become home to a mold infestation. Power washing helps you clean those impossible nooks and crannies in your car. This process protects your car’s body, as well as your health.
Like we mentioned before, all you need to pressure wash your car is water and electricity. With the absence of harmful chemicals, you don’t need to worry about pollution. With electric power washers, you could even clean your car close to your house or your garden. There will be no toxic fumes or vapors to bother you!
Types of Power Washers
A power washer consists of five main parts:
- A water inlet hose
- A motor
- A water pump
- A high-pressure hose
- An attachment at the end of the hose with a trigger gun
There are two main types of power washers – electric power washers and gas-engine power washers.
Electric power washers
These power washers require electricity to run their motors. These washers generate around 1300 to 1900 psi (pounds per square inch) of pressure. Therefore, they are perfect for domestic purposes like cleaning cars or walls or removing mild cases of mildew. Their comparatively low-pressure outputs make them the best for washing and cleaning cars.
Electric power washers mostly comprise a variety of hose attachments. They also come with a number of nozzles which regulate the pressure of the water jet.
Most electric power washers also contain a compartment to pour detergent into. The detergent then gets ejected along with the main water stream and provides better cleaning.
Gas-engine power washers
Gas-engine power washers produce a significantly more powerful jet of water. They are heavy-duty and therefore are used for deep cleaning surfaces. So they are more suited for commercial purposes like cleaning sidewalks, or for industrial uses like removing paint or stubborn cases of dirt or mold. These power washers come in two different levels, based on their water pressure.
- Commercial washers: 2,000 to 3,000 psi
- Industrial-strength washers: 3,100 to 4,000 psi
Do note that gas-engine power washers aren’t the best options for cars because of their high pressure.
Power washers can also be classified into cold water and hot water models. Washers that use cold water are cheaper and recommended for domestic use. Hot water pressure washers are much more expensive and used for non-domestic purposes.
Sun Joe began their product lines in 2009, producing eco-friendly home, garden, and yard tools and equipment. Over the years, they’ve quickly established themselves as the leader in electric power washers, along with other battery-powered garden tools. Most name-brand stores carry their product lines, but they also have a well-known online presence.
Greenworks, also Greenworks Pro and Greenworks Commercial, is a global manufacturer of cordless battery-powered gardening tools. Beyond electric power washers, they produce quality electric-powered lawn mowers, trimmers, edgers, and more. They’re also known for their battery-powered chainsaws. Their battery platform is one of the most awarded in the industry.
Techtronic Industries Company Limited (TTI Group) markets its cordless power tools under the Ryobi line. TTI was founded in 1985 with factories worldwide, employing over 20,000 people. Ryobi’s power washers are sold in most big-box retail stores, along with online.
How to Choose a Power Washer for your Car
Choose light-duty electric washers
The most important thing in a pressure washer is, well, the pressure. The optimal power washers for cars have motors that allow water pressure from 1200 to 1900 psi. That amounts to 1.4 to 1.6 GPM (Gallons Per Minute) of water.
Too much pressure will cause structural damage to your car, or damage its paint job. Pressure less than 1200 psi will result in inadequate cleaning. High-pressure power washers also cannot function in household connections, as they require more electricity than the standard 120V output.
Check for proper insulators and circuit-breakers
Electricity and water make a dangerous, possibly fatal combination. So make sure that the power washer you choose contains high-quality ground-fault circuit breakers. These are also called Residual Current Devices (RCDs).
The RCDs prevent electrical fires and protect you against dangerous electric shocks. When you buy a power washer, read through the manual to find out what kind of protection the device contains against electrical accidents.
Check for user-friendly designs
Though you may only use your power washer occasionally, you must ensure that your cleaning doesn’t become backbreaking. Some models come with intelligent designs that provide a comfortable cleaning experience. Therefore, check if your power washer has a long power cord.
If the power cord is short, then you need to connect the washer to an extension cord. This may not be a good idea as even a minor fault in the extension cord can trigger faults in the power washer.
If your washer is a heavier model, it should have wheels so that you don’t have to carry it around. A built-in detergent container is another bonus. Furthermore, many models come with a number of nozzles to choose from. This will enable you to clean a variety of surfaces.
How to Pressure Wash your Car
Understand nozzle types
Before using your power washer, you need to ensure that you understand how it works. Possibly the most important part of your power washer is your nozzle. The nozzle essentially controls the pressure of the water jet, which comes out of the hose.
The tip of your nozzle is marked in degrees to signify how wide the opening is. The higher the degree, the lower the pressure of the water jet will be. In addition, you must also understand the kind of nozzle you should use for each surface of your car. There are four kinds of nozzles typically included:
- The 0-degree nozzle is red and should never be used for cars. This is because it creates an extremely high-pressure water jet.
- The 15-degree nozzle is also unsuitable. It may strip off the paint from your car. Use it only if there is a stubborn patch of dirt to be removed.
- The 25-degree nozzle can be used to clean the body of your car normally.
- The 40-degree nozzle is best for removing the detergent form your car, due to the wide jet it creates.
Step 1: Park your car appropriately
Make sure that you park your car in an open space, away from furniture or trees. This step is the most important one, as this is the first step to ensuring the safety of those around you. In addition, parking away from the public property also entails that you do not damage it.
Step 2: Rinse off the dirt and grime
Use a wide nozzle for this, preferably the one with the 40-degree tip. By performing this first cleaning, you are ensuring that your cleaning is not a long and tedious process. If you are using your power washer to clean your windows and lights, use the 40-degree tip and step further away from your car.
Step 3: Apply detergent and rinse off
If your power washer has a compartment for detergents, use the 40-degree nozzle to spray it across the body of your car. If your washer does not have a detergent slot, you can simply pour some on your car and let the power washer do the rest. Using the same wide nozzle, rinse off the detergent. Make sure to move your hose so that the water jets form overlapping lines. This will ensure that there are no streaks after washing.
Step 4: Perform a final clean-down
Once the detergent has been thoroughly rinsed off, run the hose over the car one more time. This time, focus on the spots of dirt which have not been cleaned by the detergent. You could use your 25-degree nozzle for this. Use the 15-degree nozzle if there are stubborn stains. Move from the top to the bottom of your car while cleaning, Gravity is not your friend.
Furthermore, make sure you keep a safe distance from your car while cleaning. The water jet acts at extremely high pressure. This means that any dirt or debris will be flung away from the car very fast. Keeping your distance not only ensures that you stay clean. It also protects you from flying particles, which may cause serious damage on contact.
Once clean, make sure you apply one of the best carnauba waxes for cars, or a quality paint sealant to protect your ride’s finish.
Power Washing: The Do’s and Don’ts
- Do use protective equipment while using power washers. Contact with the water jet can cause lacerations, punctures, and other wounds. Wear shoes which cover your toes and full-length pants.
- Keep the hose at a minimum of 6 inches from the surface you are cleaning. Even light-duty power washers will cause damage if the hose is any closer.
- Do call professional cleaners if there are places you cannot clean properly. Also, take their help if you are unsure of how to use a power washer.
- Do keep a safe distance from your car while cleaning it.
- Do use both hands to direct the hose. This will help you clean your car more safely.
- Understand what all the nozzles are used for and interchange them accordingly.
- Aim downwards while cleaning your car. That way, you will avoid damaging the body.
- Do not aim the water jet at people. You may cause serious harm.
- Do not clean the interiors of your car with your power washer.
- Do not stand still. Keep moving so that you are constantly out of reach of the water jet.
- Do not stand on a high surface while power washing. The force of the water may push you off your ladder or stool.
- Do not start cleaning at the bottom. Start from the roof of your car and then travel downwards.
- Make sure not to clean your car indoors, or in a constricted space.
- Ensure not to allow children to operate the power washer.
- Do not clean under the hood of your car. You may cause serious damage to your engine.
Power Washing FAQs
What exactly is power washing?
Power washing, or sometimes called pressure washing, is the method of applying a high water pressure spray to a surface. Power washers can produce a concentrated stream or spray that’s much more powerful than your everyday garden hose. They can be used to clean concrete driveways, wooden decks, home siding and brick, and even cars and trucks with the right usage.
Where should I store my power washer?
Store in a dry and clean location, for example, your garage or storage shed. Make sure it’s well ventilated. If storing in an unheated location, make sure to winterize the engine and/or the water pump.
When storing a gas-powered power washer, should I drain the fuel?
Yes. If you’re storing your power washer for more than 30-days, it’s recommended to drain the fuel. However, you could also add a fuel stabilizer to the gasoline in the tank. This will prevent the fuel from clogging the carburetor.
Can I leave water in the pump?
No. Leaving water in the pump, even if it’s clean water, can lead to mineral build-up and corrosion. This’ll wear out the pump seals over time, leading to failure. Flushing the pump after each use, while an extra step, could help save you money down the road.
What is PSI?
PSI stands for pounds per square inch. This is the standard measure of the amount of pressure or power applied to the surface. The higher the PSI, the greater the cleaning power. However, higher PSI power washers can also damage surfaces more easily if you’re not careful.
Can I connect a hot water source to my power washer?
No. Power washers require cold water to help cool the water pump during use. Using hot water could easily damage the pump and lead to premature failure.
The most important thing to remember while buying and using a power washer is safety. Even the slightest slip could cause significant damage. Before buying a power washer, make sure to research its features. Then see if those features suit your requirements.
Store your power washer in a cool, dry place. Also, do not use it too frequently as you may end up causing damage to your car. Your power washer could be the best investment you ever make if you pick the right one.
- Pressure Washing: An Oh So Satisfying Clean – HowStuffWorks
- Do You Need to Wash Your Car’s Undercarriage? – HowStuffWorks
- How to use a pressure washer – DetailingWiki