A California man took his vintage 1974 Volkswagen Beetle to a drive thru car wash and left with a little less on the bumper.
Juan Bermudez told CBS Sacramento he restored the classic car over the course of a few years. Needing to get it cleaned, he took the Bug to Quick Quack Car Wash. When he came out of the wash he found 38 deep scratches on his bumper.
The Quick Quack Car Wash in Citrus Heights, Calif. denied causing damage to the car, but refused to show Bermudez the surveillance tape of his car going through the wash.
While the car wash does have a disclaimer posted warning customers that the wash is only responsible for factory installed, secure and undamaged items on cars less than 5 years old, that does not release them from all liability.
Car washes are businesses, and like any other business they carry liability insurance in case damages occur. When you hand over property for an agreed upon service, it's known as a bailment. During bailment, a car wash owes you ordinary care of your car while it is in their custody. If something goes wrong during this time, the car wash can still be liable.
Carwash.com, an online magazine for professional car wash and detailing professionals, says that any claim that goes to court, frivolous or not, ends up costing the car wash owner time and money. It's in the owner's best interest to quickly settle such complaints. Thus, if you find yourself in a similar situation to that of Bermudez, make a formal complaint to the owner or manager. The issue should be quickly resolved since most car washes don't want the bad publicity. If that doesn't help, go to the corporate offices if the location is a franchise.
Bermudez eventually received a call from Quick Quack's corporate offices admitting the wash did damage his car. They agreed to fix the bumper. It's important to keep in mind that automatic car washes are dangerous for classic cars. If you need to clean an older car, a brushless car wash is your safest bet.