I’ve always been enamored by the “spot free rinse” offered at my local DIY car wash places. It’s something I ponder every time I wave that rented wand around – water barely flowing as if it was only a half hearted attempt to piss after a single beer. Am I wasting my money and time with this thing? Does spot free rinsing actually work or is this some Jedi mind trick fostered by the marketing department at an evil car wash manufacturing plant located somewhere in Poughkeepsie?
At some places, I swear it’s the former… By the time I’ve driven home, the car is dry from the wash and water spots present themselves everywhere. And yet at other establishments in my area, I’m almost positive it works to a degree and I’m left with a car that is almost spot free. In both cases, I end up going over the car at least one time with something like Ammo Spit or Speed Shine to get perfection.
A few months ago however, I actually met the owner of a number of car wash joints at my local bar. After a few, I brought up my theory and asked him for the truth of the matter.
“Some spot free rinses,” he said, “are absolutely bullshit. It’s simply low pressure water from the well. Others use some type of a silicon additive that is somewhat effective. More high-end places these days, however, offer de-ionized water and these systems actually work quite well if the filters are up to spec.”
So armed with this education, I hit Google and started searching around for home solutions. That lead me to Spotless Water Systems and John Fernandez. After a few emails back and forth, I talked John into sending me one of his units under the guise of a review for The Garage Journal and here we are…
John sent me the DIC-20 High Output Rolling System. Essentially, this is a roll around unit that places two large de-ionizing filters between your water source and the end of your hose. It costs around $450 and is good for somewhere around 300 gallons of water. The filters, of course, are rechargeable and each recharge runs around $90. So, all in all you are looking at about thirty cents per gallon of water you use.
Pretty expensive, right? But let’s get into this thing.
It’s made like a brick shit house. Seriously. The cart is powdercoated with some hammer-toned variation of powder that would be just as appropriate on a 1940’s era Craftsman power tool. And the filter housings are that super thick plastic you would expect someone like NASA to use – light and strong. There’s also a gauge of sorts – it’s a digital read out that tells you the condition of the filters and how much time left in them. All together it’s a pretty damned stout package.
But, does it work?
Yesterday, I pulled out my model-a coupe that has been stuck behind an uninstalled lift in my shop for about a month. It was covered in dust, grinding flash, and all sorts of other grime. First, I rinsed the car with the filter in place. Then, I used a car wash solution from Griots and lathered the car up nice and thick. Then, I simply rinsed the car from top to bottom. The entire process took about 15 minutes and when I was done, I just went back in the shop and got back to work while the car dried in the shade.
Now, keep in my mind that my coupe isn’t in finish paint yet. In fact, it’s in ten year old DP90 primer. Take it from me, NOTHING in this world spots as badly as DP90. Nothing. But the frame as well as a few other bits on the car are in finish paint – nice and shiny. So, I felt this car was the perfect torture test.
After about an hour, I went outside to judge the results. Frankly, I was shocked… so stoked… The car looked as if it had been hand dried and followed with a spray detailer. There simply were not any water spots to be found – either on the primered surfaces or the shiny. The damn thing looked detailed after a 15 minute car wash.
I have no way of knowing how many gallons I used, but if I’m reading the digital gauge correctly I used around 6% of the filter during the wash (or about 20 gallons or so). Given that, I have about 14 washes left in the filters. So if you do the numbers, the wash itself cost me around $6. I typically spend around $8 at my local joint…
Full disclosure. John sent this unit to me without charge so that I could review it. Even so, I would never sell you guys out and recommend something that I don’t believe in and I would 100% put my name behind this thing. I realize the market for a $450 car wash aid is small fellas, but if you are one of those guys that really enjoys washing your car then this thing is a pretty great value. John’s gonna get his money back from me in filter purchases alone as I plan to use the hell out of this thing.
Editor’s Note: As I mentioned, I used the DIC-20 unit – the largest and most expensive unit John offers. There are smaller and cheaper options available as well. You can see them all here.