Tuesday, September 26, 2023


Truck washes could spell danger. One damaged our RV and others too

Every season bequeaths our traveling homes road grime, bugs and dirt. In dry desert climes, our diesel pusher tends to get dirty quite often. When our home on wheels is caked in dust, it gets a hands-on bath – the kind of TLC that would make Mr. Miyagi proud of his “wax on, wax off” exercise. But when traveling, sometimes the road grime and bug guts buildup requires a quick wash. It’s not so much a pocketbook decision; it’s usually one of expediency. Washing one’s RV in any season is time-consuming. But during the summer, it’s a lot more fun to be enjoying the therapeutics of swimming in the water than spraying the coach.

From the 1984 “Karate Kid” movie, Mr. Miyagi’s wax on, wax off is tiring on your biceps. Credit: youtube.com.

Muddied it up

Last spring, at a park with no concrete or blacktop, a windy rainstorm stirred up a lot of dirt. The next morning our coach looked like we drove through mud puddles with dirt spots half-way up each side. Since we were leaving, we didn’t have time to wash it. Rather, we located a truck wash along our route and decided to try it. We pulled into a large bay with our tow vehicle attached, as the cashier remarked they would wash that too.

Using pressure washing lines, two washers attacked, one on each side like ants to a piece of discarded fruit. Long brushes and spray wands delivered their bubbly foam. After the rinse, my spouse walked around while our coach drip-dried before driving out of the bay. It appeared clean.

A few hours later we arrived at our destination. After setting up, my spouse opened the front slide to retrieve a tool. The passenger side was now shaded as he noticed dark splotchy areas mid-coach. He called me to come outside and look. I walked around the entire coach and was surprised to see dark splotches as well. The only thought we could deduce was the truck wash used a detergent that affected the paint. It was disappointing, as my spouse had spent a Miyagi-proud week hand compounding, washing and waxing the entire rig. The affected side looked like an ugly duckling, neglected after years in someone’s backyard in the middle of Arizona’s desert. It went from looking spectacular to murky in a matter of minutes.

Sage advice from a long-haul driver about truck washes

Across the lane, a retired long-haul driver sitting outside overheard our conversation and walked over to where we were standing. Joining our conversation, he interjected, “The darkening was most likely caused by the truck wash.” My spouse turned and asked him, “What caused this?” He stated that in his years of cross-country transport, he had this happen to him and learned quickly. He said that when livestock haulers get their rig washed, they specifically want the trailer cleaned with a harsh chemical to get the poop and stink out. Then he asked, “Were you behind one of those rigs?” My spouse said, “Yeah, next in line. And it stunk like hell.”

Live and learn

After discussing more with the neighbor, he helped us understand that what appeared to have happened was that one of the washers did not flush the wand and hose full of the acid-based detergent used to clean and sanitize trucks that haul chickens, cattle or pigs. Or the washer may have not switched back to the standard vehicle detergent. Or perhaps just the one sprayer line was pre-rinsed and cleaned, the other not. It was our unlucky day.

Investigating the plight

The next morning my spouse contacted the truck wash to learn more about what chemical(s) were used so he could effectively redress the blotchy areas. The office staff was not interested in discussing the problem and would pass a message on to the manager.

Later that afternoon, the manager called my spouse to inform him that he personally watched the film of the brown motorhome being washed and everything was done correctly. It was not their fault or problem. My spouse replied, “Gee, that’s interesting since our motorhome is silver and gray.” The manager hung up and a stalemate ensued. So much for customer service…

So, my spouse spent a few more days exfoliating the stains with Meguiar’s polishing compound and hours of buffing wax on and wax off.

Not an isolated incident at this truck wash

After sharing our story with other full-timer friends, we were informed that ours was not an isolated incident. Their motorhome was one year old when they visited a truck wash and left with a milky residue all over their new rig. They were livid, to say the least. Regardless of the nomenclature, describing the outcome of each of our experiences at a truck wash, they reported they had their motorhome detailed, costing them about $400.

The caveat: Don’t assume – Ask

First and foremost, don’t follow a poopy truck into the truck wash! Rather, be forthright to the washers before they begin spraying your rig and ask them to flush/clean the spray lines before applying the appropriate detergent to your rig. The new best friend told us he regularly asks the washers each time as a matter of habit. Trust, but verify!


Everything you need to know about cleaning your RV awning



  1. About storage..if you don’t have a set of Rubbermaid Brilliance storage containers ..you are seriously missing a great product. They are plastic..so lightweight, clear..so you SEE what is inside, have locking lids..no spill and air tight, also..you CAN use these in microwave for reheating or short term cooking, they go in dishwasher and they can stack on top of each other in your refrigerator. Yes they go in freezer too. I have sent sets to family members and they love them. Pantry size available as well. Great for salad, and leftovers, lunch, side dishes, etc. Check Amazon, Wal-Mart, Rubbermaid, Bed Bath and Beyond.

  2. I went to a truck wash in Salt Lake City to get the salt from Bonneville Salt Flats washed out from under my C class. When they were finished I looked under it and there was salt in lots of places so I pointed it out and they gave it another go. A waste of money. The next day I got under it and there were pockets of salt everywhere. Will do it my self in future. Best one for this job, I have found, is run the garden sprinkler under it. Moving it along every few minutes.

  3. There is a truck wash where I get my chassis work done. It washes the rig with high-pressure sprays (no brushes). In the process it knocked some kind of sensor off, which I had to have replaced. Hand washing from now on.

  4. So the moral of the story is in the name….”Truck Wash”. Not “RV WASH”. I wash my own RV with my pressure washer. I do not get the sprayer too close either, as I only want the dirt to come off nothing else. I use Chemical Guys soaps with a soft extended brush, and Ceramic waxes. My RV looks awesome. Save yourself some grief….when you’re on the road find a self serve spray wash, take your time and do it to your satisfaction.

    • You can’t take your time, they dispense water not by volume but by time, for only a few minutes at a time. I’ve tried that, once. You have to bring your own bucket of suds and scrubbing stuff, rinse once, work fast, try to rinse off, put more money in, work fast, etc. Meanwhile other people are waiting. They are designed for 6’5″ 19 year olds with unlimited quarters.

  5. In 2019 I used blue beacon to wash my 2 month old 2019 phaeton. During the wash my rear tail light was broken by the wash crew. They stated that they had done nothing wrong and it must have already been broken. (It was not). Later they stated that they reviewed the security cam and refused any compensation When I asked to see a copy of the film they refused. Why would they not show me the film if it proved they were not at fault.

    Have not used them since

  6. We have used Blue Beacon Truck Wash in the North East and South many times over the past 20 years on 3 different Class A rigs. We talk to the manager before they start on using low pressure and no chemicals. They were all very cooperative and have had no problems. Sorry to learn there are those who had problems at maybe other Truck washes. Stay safe, Stay well

    • No, my fiasco was at a Blue Beacon. I’m glad you have a good place that helps you, but don’t want people to think ‘oh, truck washes are bad, but Blue Beacon is ok.’ Not so.

  7. I have used Blue Beacon truck wash many times. I request low pressure wash, hand wash. It only takes a little more time. I have never been disappointed. Never use the chrome wash, it is a weak acid based mix. I also wait to do it when the line is small. They take more time in the not busy times.

  8. I don’t think the lesson learned is to ask questions, it’s to never use a truck wash. My one experience with one was awful, expensive, time-consuming, and half-completed. If you just can’t hand wash, you’re better off hiring a local guy with a pressure washer to blast the sides, because that’s all you’re going to get, and let’s hope that doesn’t mar your finish too much.

  9. Our local dealership did us a favor and washed our travel trailer after service..
    It also peeled off the decals on one side! Unfortunately we brought the trailer home and put it into winter storage. The next Spring we saw the ghost of the decals but it was too late to report it to the dealership. Oh well, we are polishing those out…

  10. Coincidence or not. Shortly after having my Class A washed at a truck wash, I had to have my windows defogged. They asked if I wanted some orange cleaner sprayed on my chrome wheels which I said yes. They have been spotted since then. That was the first and only time that I had my RV washed in a truck wash.

  11. 1. My brother had a summer job washing (tractor) trailers. The chemicals that he had to use, per management, were quite strong.
    2. Most RV parks we have used do NOT allow the washing of vehicles, including travel trailers. The only place we have seen a “wash it yourself” car wash that was large enough to accommodate a Class A was just outside the gate of the Wilmington KOA. It seems like having one outside of an RV park would be a money maker (hint to RV park owners).


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Sign up for the

RVtravel Newsletter

Sign up and receive 3 FREE RV Checklists: Set-Up, Take-Down and Packing List.