With San Diego’s huge number of apartments, the American ritual of car washing in many neighborhoods has moved out of the driveway and into the stall of the corner self-service, the assembly line of the automated scrubber, and the garage of the custom detailer.
The myriad self-service spray car washes along the city's main thoroughfares may be crowded on a Sunday, but don't take that as a sign of customer satisfaction. You might be better off borrowing your neighbor's hose or finding a secluded spot in Balboa Park with an available water line. Either of these methods combined with a bucket of soapy water could save you 35 to 50 cents and give you a cleaner car. If you want to use the sprays, take a friend and have him follow you around the car with a sponge and some elbow grease to get off the more tenacious dirt. For no matter how much pressure shoots out of those “magic wands” they, usually don’t rinse away bird droppings or grease marks completely. You may think you’re smart if you turn the switch to the “stop” position and scrub the car yourself, but the timer keeps ticking away at an already scant three minute limit.
Those big tunnel-like automatic auto scrubbers and bubble machines do more of a job. though you will pay at least two dollars for an interior and exterior, cleaning. The young men and women who clean your chariot's chrome and tires and vacuum its carpets work a non-stop ten hour day for minimum wage; so if you can afford to wave a dollar bill in their faces as they do the finishing touches, the job will be appreciably better. Forget the “hot wax” treatments; anything that can cover your windshield and not show can’t be worth much in protecting your paint.
If you are one of those fanatics who likes to keep the car showroom-new or you just want to assure top resale, take it to one of the several custom auto detailers listed below. These men have been in the business for decades and know their work. For around $25. you can give your car a glazing or waxing that will protect its paint for months. One of these detailings is worth 100 runs through an “auto scrubber.”
35c Car Wash (self-service), 1551 Garnet Avenue, Pacific Beach. Surely one of the city’s busiest, this place has waiting lines even on overcast Friday mornings. Three stalls with washing “wands” that double as hot wax dispensers for an additional 35c, 25c vacuums, and 50c steam cleaners that run for five minutes. Open 24 hours.
Day & Nite Wash and Wax (self-service). Bacon and Voltaire. Ocean Beach.
A rickety four-stall aluminum structure, this place charges an outrageous 50c for a quick spray wash. The duration of the cycle isn’t advertised, but one disappointed user said it wasn’t long enough to cover her car, which she claims is “about as big as a pregnant roller skate.” There arc three steam cleaners at 50c for three minutes, four vacuums costing 10c for three minutes or a quarter for nine minutes. (The vacuum on the Bacon Street side was stuck permanently “on” when I was there.) This is the only car wash that offers a 10c “flying saucer rifle range” for waiting washers. Open 24 hours.
Pacific Beach Car Wash (automated). 2075 Balboa. 272-2844.
An automated, chain driven drive-through. this wash is free with any fill-up. $1.50 without. Washes exterior only. Vacuums are 25c for five minutes. Shell gas. full-service. Open 8 a.m. till 7:30 p.m.. seven days.
Robo-Wash of Pacific Beach (self-service and automated). 835 Grand (near Mission Boulevard). 488-9332.
Two 50c five-minute spray stalls, and two “robo-machines” for customers too lazy to hold the spray gun themselves. These “robos” are a monorail-type track upon which rides a little box-like contraption with two arms that spray water on your car. You may as well save your dollar and let the morning fog do the job. Two vacuums, 25c. assorted towel dispensers. Texaco gas.
La Jolla Buggy Bath (automated). 835 Pearl Street. 454-0136.
This one looks more like a Cadillac resale lot on a crowded Saturday morning. Some of La Jolla’s finest come here to spend $3 for a complete cleaning, with discounts of up to $1.25 with a $10 purchase of Arco gas. Hand-waxing and assorted other services are also available. Open 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and I to 5 p.m., but “never on Sunday."
Reynoso Auto Detail (custom). 999 Morena Boulevard. 291-1100. This family operation will handwash your car for $2. Wax jobs run S25-S30. “depending on how bad it is.”
Genie Car Wash (automated). 3949 W. Point Loma Boulevard, 223-6830.
An interior exterior drive-through. The complete wash costs $2.25, $1.75 with a fill-up (Mobil gas). Hot wax is available for $1. 50c with a fill-up. Hand-waxing is also offered. Open 8:30 a.m. till 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. 9 to 3. Sunday.
Auto Scrubber (automated). 3405 Rosecrans. 223-6355. Same prices and services as Auto Scrubber. 3450 El Cajon Boulevard.
Robo-Wash (automated). 804 University Avenue. 291-3462.
$1 exterior only. Towels and vacuums. Texaco gas. Open Monday through Saturday. 8 a.m. till 6 p.m.
Buggy Bath Hillcrest (automated), 624 University. 291-7757.
A full-service, interior and exterior wash costs $2.75. Variable discounts with purchase of gas. Hot wax. $1. Standard gas. Open 8:30 a.m. till 5 p.m.. seven days.
East San Diego
Adams Ave. Car Wash (self-service). 3302 Adams Avenue. 281-4869. A spanking new place, five stalls. 50c wash. 25c for towels and vacuums.
35c Wash and Wax (self-serviceK Mississippi and University. Four stalls, two 25c vacuums.
North Park Auto Wax (custom). 3401 University. 284-0600. One of a handful of places specializing in hand washing and waxing. $25 for a wax. Rugs and interiors hand shampooed for $16.50; engines steam-cleaned for $8.50.
Auto Scrubber (automated), 3450 El Cajon Boulevard. 280-2641.
One of the better deals around. A complete exterior machine wash for $1.50. Spray wax 25c. hot wax $1. Free vacuums. Arco gas.
Sofspra (self-service). Estrella and University Avenues. Four stalls offering 50c wash. 50c for five minutes of steam cleaning. Towels and vacuums. 25c.
Robo Wash (self-service and automated). 6260 El Cajon Boulevard. 287-1154. This one man operation features two stalls at the amazingly inflated price of SI. Also boasts an automatic monorail-type wash for $1. Steam cleaner, towels, and vacuums. Mobil gas. 8 a.m. till 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.
Green's Auto Polish (custom), 7267 El Cajon Boulevard. 469-3133. Another custom work shop. Green gives your car a complete inside and out cleaning for $35.50 to S38. Campus Car Wash (automated). 6445 El Cajon Boulevard. 583-9946. A complete job inside and out. with vacuuming, for $1.25. State college students score a 25c discount when they show their I.D.'s. Open 8:30 a.m. until 6.p.m. Monday through Saturday. 9 to 4 Sunday.
College Car Wash (automated). 5985 University Avenue, 5X3-X760. A full-service wash runs $3; exterior only. $2. Wax jobs ranging from $1.25 to $26.95 are available; one attendant said just about anything that can be cleaned on a car. they'll do. Mobil gas served. Open Monday through Saturday 8:30 a.m. till 7 p.m., Sunday till 5 p.m.
B and H Self-service, 6902 El Cajon Blvd., four-stall spray wash with towels and steam cleaning.
Bubble Machine (automated). 5402 El Cajon Boulevard. 582-6621. Exterior wash, $.1.50; vacuums, 25c for five minutes. Chevron gas. self-served.
Minit-Man 76 Car Wash (automated). 5050 Mission Center Road. 297-4306.
A complete interior/exterior and vacuuming cost $3 with a variable discount for the gas purchaser. Exterior wash only costs $2. Union 76 gas. lull service. Open Monday through Saturday, 8:30 a.m. till 5:30 p.m.
Mr. Clean Car Wash (automated). 1050 11th Street. 239-7389.
$2.75 for a complete wash; $2, exterior only. Both hand-dried. Union 76 gas. Open 8.:30 till 5 Monday through Friday, till 3 on Saturday.
Bubble Machine (automated), 1122 “G” Street, 233-3866.
Same operation and prices as the El Cajon Boulevard Bubble Machine. Open Monday through Saturday 7 a.m. till 10 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m. till 9 p.m.
Body Beautiful (automated), 2045 Pacific Highway, 232-8903. A complete interior and exterior cleaning for $2.95. 5c per gallon discount on complete wash. Free exterior wash with fill-up. Hot wax, $1.
James Auto Park (custom), 741 Front Street, 234-0857. William James is a veteran of the auto care business. He’s been plying the trade for 47 years now, 26 of them in downtown San Diego. The kind of cars people entrust to him make his showroom look more like Motor Car Locator than a car wash. James specializes in “glazing,” a process that shines like wax but leaves no machine marks from the electric buffer. James is a busy man, and rarely takes on a simple car wash. “They’re just a nuisance,” he says. James’ work will cost you $30 to $35, depending on the size of your car. Carpet cleaning and upholstery work are extra.
Fed-Mart Car Wash (automated), Genesee Plaza at 5530 Balboa, 278-7880. A complete interior/exterior job for $2. One of the best deals around, also serves up.cheap-o “Fed-Mart” gasoline. Open Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. till 6 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Fed-Mart Arena Plaza, 3229 Sports Arena Boulevard, 224-9655. Same prices and services as Genesee Plaza.
Fed-Mart, Kearny Mesa, 8001 Othello, 277-1591. Same prices and services as Genesee Plaza.
Kearny Mesa Auto Detail(custom), 5595 Magnatron Boulevard, 292-0859. Hand-washing and waxing, plus interior cleaning for $42. $55 for a full-sized sedan or wagon. Also offers engine degreasing and detailing. “It’s $55,” an employee explained on the phone, “because we stand behind our work. If we burn the paint (high-speed buffers can discolor), then we have to repaint it, and that’s expensive if it’s a Cadillac.”