Renewable Journal

Leaf owners – beware the gas station car wash! – Renewable Journal for 10/6/2014

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A couple months back, I gave my Leaf a bath in a gas station car wash. I came out of it complaining that it didn’t get all the bird poop off my pretty new car, but that happens sometimes – some car washes are just not that good. The thing that stuck with me, though, was that it was hard to get the car positioned right in the car wash, and even harder to get the car out of the wash at all.

See, the car wash I was at had a metal ramp, and the coefficient of friction of a wet metal ramp is quite a bit lower than that of wet concrete. What happened was my electric motor’s torque made the front wheel drive spin out, and instead of rolling gracefully up the ramp, I nearly overshot the pressure plate that tells the automatic car wash that my car is positioned correctly. And when I tried to let my car settle back slightly by taking my foot off the brake, the car tried to go forward instead. In my unexpected difficulties of navigating a simple car wash I’d forgotten to put the Leaf in neutral.

Getting out of the car wash turned out to be even more of an adventure. The Leaf’s ultra-low rolling resistance tires were soaking wet and covered in partially rinsed-off soap by then, and they wouldn’t grip the wet metal at all – all they wanted to do was spin in place. I had to take a lesson out of my snowy weather driving manual and actually rock the Leaf back and then forward to get enough momentum to get my front wheels out of the depression. Not pleasant. I had visions of having to call my wife for a careful push to get me out of the stupid car wash.

Something to keep in mind if you’re looking to buy a Leaf – be careful in gas station car washes!