Why are there few clean cars?

2 minute read

car

“Why are there so many cars that aren’t washed here?”

That was the question posed to me while I was hosting somebody from San Francisco many years ago. I really didn’t have a good answer at the time and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

Here in Utah we have an interesting dynamic. While it only really dumps rain or snow occasionally, we seem to watch and expect precipitation on a more frequent basis. I think that is one particular factor that contributes to the dirty car syndrome (DCS for this article).

When it does rain, even if it’s barely a quarter of an inch, we don’t want to wash our car because it will just get dirty again. The reason? With the rain comes a lot of wind, and there is a lot of dirt here. The wind whips it up into the air and then the light sprinkling of rain acts as an adhesive and you get a car that looks dirtier than it may in other places. Consider it something of a dirt bath. In other states you can joke that if there is rain coming you can get the soap out and just “lather” down the car and let the rain wash it off. In Utah if we did that, it would cause more dirt to stick to the car.

Finally, there is one last excuse. Most people in Utah are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or mormons. The majority of people in the US would set aside some time on either Saturday or Sunday to wash the car, buy groceries and take care of any number of other errands. Members of the LDS church try to cram all those activities into Saturday because Sunday is busy with at least 3 hours of church meetings. Then, if they have family close by, they usually get together with family at least once a month to socialize. Think of it as a mini-family reunion every month.

Combine that with what happens every other day of the week and a person in Utah would consider washing their car something you do after all the other more important things are done. Still, that’s an excuse and many people find time in their schedule to wash their cars.

Around the time the visitor posed this question to me I was in the market for a car. One of the criteria we had on our list was that the dirt didn’t show up as much because of the paint color. Let that sink in for a minute.

We wanted to have a paint color that hit the amount of dirt on the car because we didn’t want to be bothered washing it as often. And that is the reason most cars look dirty: We just have different priorities.


The image, titled “car”, was taken by A. You can find it on flickr.

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