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Take it from Dad: A clean car runs, rides better during a road trip

Quarter Car Wash.jpg

Quarter-slot car-wash bays are clean hard to find these days.


By Mark Rutledge

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Long before I started driving cars, my father taught me about the value of keeping one clean. So far, one of my daughters appears to have adopted that appreciation.

One out of three ain't bad.

I came up during a time when washing a car required more planning, a good bucket and a quality nozzle. It seems we're headed back to those days.

My dad didn't need a reason to wash a car, but he never failed to do so before a road trip. I'm exactly the same way. I never want to leave home in a dirty car or come back to a messy house.

One evening last week, hours before one of my daughters (not the clean-car conscious one) was to leave on a road trip to visit friends, I realized that her room was relatively clean but her car was dirty. Because it was dark and she was not at home, I also realized that she was perfectly fine with displaying dried mud on her tires all the way to eastern North Carolina and back.

My father would have instructed me to get up early and wash my car before hitting the highway. Plan B would have been for Dad to wash the car himself to make me feel guilty.

I moved directly to Plan B.

My earliest car wash lessons were in the driveway. We did not have do-it-yourself car wash stations in our town back then. When the quarter-slot spray-wash bays did spring up, Dad was that guy who would bring along his bucket and mitt.

“I like to get my money’s worth,” he would say.

When I set off the other night to wash my daughter’s car, I had to face the realization that quarter-slot spray-wash bays are on the way out. Most car wash businesses today are of the automated variety, where you ride through with the car and come out on the other end with a semi-washed vehicle.

Some automatic car wash businesses are exceptions, of course. I know of a hybrid one in Greenville, N.C., that employs lots of teenagers to dry and detail cars as the vehicles exit the automated bays.

But when those places are closed and you just need a quick turn with the tire cleaner, the manually operated variety is your best friend. At least it used to be.

The one down the street from our house is a throwback to the 1980s — except for requiring five quarters to begin a wash sequence. The bay I chose took two of my quarters and started spitting the rest out. I tried three other bays before giving up.

I guess the machines were overfilled with quarters, because none would accept any of mine.

After heading into town to find another quarter-slot car wash, I discovered something: There aren’t any left. Not on my side of town.

Somewhere in eastern North Carolina, my daughter is driving around with Tennessee tags and muddy tires. On behalf of the Volunteer State, I sincerely apologize.

If you see her, tell her to stop by Adams in Greenville and get the full-service wash. It’ll take more than five quarters, but Dad will cover it when she gets home.

Contact Mark Rutledge at mrutledge@reflector.com or like him on Facebook at Mark Rutledge Columns.