Drying your vehicle with a leaf blower is quickly becoming more and more popular. Some people feel it isn’t safe while others swear by it. In today’s post, I’m going to dispel some of the myths about leaf blowers as well as share what I believe is the best leaf blower for drying your car.
Most of the leaf blowers on the market will do a decent job of drying your car. You don’t need to spend a ton of time on picking one out. This blower is my personal favorite thanks to its high CFM and low price. It’s been very reliable for me.
Why use a leaf blower to dry your car?
Well, there’s a few reasons. Some you may find more important than others.
1. It does a better job
You can be as thorough as you want with a towel, but it’s simply impossible to wipe every drop of water off a vehicle. Water likes to find its way into every crack and crevice and in most cases, you won’t know it’s there until you drive the car.
Side moldings, grills, lug nuts, and lights are just some of the many areas that like to trap water. Nobody wants to see marks on their paint where water has dripped down and dried.
2. It’s easy
Walking around your vehicle holding a light weight blower is relatively effortless. There’s far less crouching or reaching with this method vs drying with a towel. If you have an electric blower, it’s just a matter of plugging it in and going.
3. It’s quick
You can dry a car off with a blower in a fraction of the time it takes to use a towel. It only takes a few minutes to work your way around a larger vehicle like a pickup truck. You can be back inside watching the football game while your neighbor is still out there ringing out towels!
4. It’s fun
We’re car guys. We like water beading. We like power tools. Watching the wind from your blower move the water across your hood and off your car is strangely satisfying. Chasing the beads quickly turns into a game with a very rewarding ending. Car guys are weird.
5. It won’t scratch your car
This is in my opinion, the most important reason for drying your car with a leaf blower. I subscribe to the theory of “There’s no such thing as good contact” when it comes to caring for my paint.
This means much more than simply not letting your buddy lean against your fender with his blue jeans (cringe). This mindset counts for everything and needs to be in your head at all times if you care about your paint’s finish.
You see, every time you touch your paint – in any way – you risk scratching it. This may sound obsessive, but it’s the truth. I share 11 other ways you could be scratching your paint in this post:
One of the most extreme cases would be a drive thru car wash that uses brushes. We’ve all been taught that these are no bueno because they touch your paint. This one is obvious. But how can we scratch the paint by touching it in a good way?
Compounding is a great example of that. We are effectively scratching our paint on purpose when we do a paint correction. The use of friction combined with the abrasives in the compound is what levels the surface of the paint, removing the swirl marks and scratches.
Drying your car or even waxing your paint can cause scratches.
No, I haven’t lost my mind. We now know the recipe for scratching paint from the first 2 examples: Friction + abrasive = potential for scratching. You might be thinking “I use the softest towels, and the paint is perfectly clean. There’s no abrasive in this case.” Can you guarantee that your paint is perfectly clean though?
Yes it’s been freshly washed. But if you did it outside, how can you be sure that no dirt or contaminants have fallen on it since your last rinse? Most of them you’d be able to see before wiping. But what about the ones you can’t see?
All it takes is a bit of dirt, a pebble, a leaf to get caught up in your towel and now you’ve completed the scratching recipe. Friction (wiping) + abrasive (contaminants) = scratches.
I don’t want to scare you and tell you to never towel dry your car. I still do it often myself. This is just a concept to keep in mind that will help you to maintain your car’s finish. Anytime we touch our paint we risk scratching it. By using a leaf blower to dry your car, you eliminate one time that you have to touch it!
Is it safe to use a leaf blower on your paint?
Yes, it’s perfectly fine. This is one of those situations where people tend to over think things until they create a problem that doesn’t actually exist. Just because companies make and sell a product to do a specific job doesn’t mean that it’s the only safe way to do it.
This nonsense about “filtered air” is just that – nonsense. Air is exiting your blower, traveling through the atmosphere and hitting your paint. There’s no way to filter the air that actually hits the paint because nothing stands between it.
Even if you could filter the air that goes from the blower to your paint, would we really need to? We tend to think of our cars as stationary objects when we work on them because when they’re moving, we’re inside of them. We don’t get to see a whole lot of what happens to the outside when we’re moving. Let me ask you this:
Is the air on the highway filtered? It’s being pushed violently at your paint at 100 kph + any headwind. There’s all kinds of debris being kicked up from the tires of other cars around it. And yet, the front end of every car that’s been driven on the highway isn’t raw from being sandblasted. Imagine that!
Your freshly washed vehicle which is likely still surrounded by wet (not dusty) ground is not going to have a problem with air being blown at it. Normal driving conditions are just as, if not MORE harsh than this.
The downsides of using a leaf blower to dry your car:
There are always downsides to everything, and leaf blowers are no different. There really isn’t much to complain about though.
1. They’re loud.
Whether you use a gas or electric powered blower, nearly all of them will make a lot of noise. You may want to use ear protection, and avoid washing your car first thing in the morning or late at night if you care about your neighbors. If you have existing problems with your neighbors, leaf blowers can actually come in handy… (but I didn’t tell you that!)
2. They’re hard to use in tight spaces
If you wash your vehicle in a single car garage or near other vehicles, it can be difficult to fit the long tube of the blower where you need to. Ideally, you want to be able to stand a few feet away from the car to be able to maneuver the blower around with ease.
3. People passing by will think you’re crazy
But once again, we’re car guys. We already know we’re weird.
What to look for in a leaf blower:
You don’t need to spend a bunch of money on a high end leaf blower if you don’t want to. There’s plenty of great options out there that are affordable. For me, the ideal leaf blower is an electric one.
MPH seems to be the most common comparison among them but CFM is what really matters in this case. You want a blower that will move the most air. Anything over 100 mph will be fine as long as the CFM is decent.
Gas vs electric:
Electric leaf blowers are more suited for car drying in my opinion. I don’t really believe the myths about gas blowers spraying exhaust, oil, and gas at your paint though. My only reason for not using one is that I don’t want to deal with filling it with gas or mixing 2 stroke oil/fuel when I want to use it. I want to be able to grab an extension cord, plug it in and go.
Electric vs battery powered:
I don’t really have anything against battery powered leaf blowers. They’ll work just as good as a regular electric one. They’re generally more expensive though, and battery life could be a concern if you’re running it wide open.
Again, with an electric blower, I can just plug it in and not worry if the battery will last long enough to finish the job. I’ll admit, I can see the benefit of not having a chord to wrestle with though.
Leaf blower vs automotive specific blow dryers:
I believe that a leaf blower is a better option than an automotive specific blow dryer like the Metrovac. Blow dryers work great but a leaf blower can do the job just as well.
Blow dryers use heated, filtered air. I suppose that’s a nice luxury, but it’s not needed for the safety of the vehicle. We already discussed whether filtered air matters or not. These dryers filter the air before it comes into the machine. Why would we need to filter that air when it’s just going to be blown back out into the atmosphere before reaching the paint anyways?
As for heated air, I drive my 4runner on the highway in -30C in the winter time. I’m not concerned with the temperature of the air I dry it off with. I think these features are more about marketing the blow dryers as an automotive specific product instead of a household item. They’re adding complexity to fix a problem that doesn’t exist.
Blow dryers are metal tanks on wheels. If your driveway is on an incline you could be fighting to keep it from banging into your car and potentially scratching it. I would rather carry a leaf blower than trip over one of these while fumbling with a hose.
Automotive specific blow dryers are much more expensive than a leaf blower. You’ll be paying a lot more money for more hassle and extra features that you don’t need. Leaf blowers work well, and won’t scratch or contaminate your paint. That’s really all that matters to me.
Leaf blower vs air compressors:
You might be thinking you can just use your air compressor to dry your car, and you actually could! It would just take much longer because the opening on your gun is much smaller. An air compressor won’t move the same amount of wind that a leaf blower will. It will blow in a smaller concentrated area.
This will work, but you won’t be able to cover the same ground in the same time as a leaf blower.
My personal favorite leaf blower:
In my opinion, the Worx WG520 is the best leaf blower for drying your car. It’s not the cheapest, and it’s not the most powerful. But I think it’s the best compromise between the two.
Despite the mention of “turbines, jet power, and turbos”, leaf blowers really aren’t rocket science. Any electric blower with decent CFM and MPH ratings will do just fine. I happen to have seen a few detailers online recommend the Worx blower, so I figured I’d see if it lives up to all the hype.
And It does.
The WG520 features an airspeed of 110 mph which doesn’t seem like much. It’s the 600 CFM that makes this a perfect blower for drying your car. At only 6.4 lbs, it’s nice and light weight too.
The ergonomics on this blower make it very comfortable to use and hold. The WG520 uses a variable speed roller switch instead of a simple on/off switch. This is a nice feature as you can adjust your speed easily on the fly. If your vehicle has a wax, sealant, or coating on it, you likely won’t even need to run this at full blast.
At full speed, you can actually feel the recoil on this thing. It has enough power to blow dry a car with bare unprotected paint that sheets rather than beads water. That’s impressive.
I’ve been using this blower for a few months and it works perfectly every time. At this price point, I think it’s hard to beat. It’s even got a 3 year warranty! You can purchase the Worx WG520 here.
Tips for using a leaf blower to dry your car:
As with anything else in detailing, common sense is a key factor.
You probably won’t want to use a leaf blower to dry your car in a dusty gravel parking lot or dirt road. Even on pavement, you need to be careful when pointing it toward the ground. There’s always the potential to kick up dirt or stones. While showering your vehicle with dirt isn’t likely to cause damage, it will undo all of your hard work spent washing it.
A trick to avoiding this entirely is to make sure you dry the car in the same spot that you washed it. Chances are the ground will still be wet from washing so the potential for kicking up dust is far less.
Be careful not to hit your car with the end of the blower.
Scratching your vehicle with the tip of a leaf blower could be a concern, especially if yours happens to have a metal trim ring on the end of it. This can easily be avoided by cutting a piece of rubber vacuum hose or fuel line down the side and wrapping it over the leading edge of the blower.
Towels are still your friend.
There comes a time when you’ve blown most of the standing water off your vehicle, and you’ll just be chasing the few remaining drops back and forth. Rather than drive yourself crazy trying to catch the remaining 5%, it’s easier to whip out a soft microfiber towel and finish the job.
I’m a fan of The Rag Company’s towels and wrote a post explaining which ones I like and how I use them.
You’ll learn which areas need extra attention after your first few times using a leaf blower on your car. This is also a great opportunity to follow up with a spray wax if you’re looking for perfection.
Another helpful use for a leaf blower is to dry your tires off with it.
Anyone that has attempted to add tire shine to a wet tire will know where I’m going with this. Tire dressings work best on completely dry surfaces. It might look like it’s working well when you apply it to a wet tire, but when it eventually dries you’ll realize that it has actually diluted the dressing to be much weaker.
You’ll be going back to do it again if that’s the case. Water based tire dressings or gels are the most susceptible to this issue.
You can also use a leaf blower to dry off your engine bay after cleaning.
It would take hours to dry your engine off with a towel and because there are so many places for water to hide, it still wouldn’t be very effective. Just running the engine up to operating temperature will dry it well, but it’s very possible that you’ll end up with water stains and marks on everything.
Drying with a leaf blower, then heating the engine up is a great way to eliminate all the water. If you’re using a spray on dressing afterwards, you can take it to the next level by spraying the dressing and blowing it into all the cracks and textured areas with the leaf blower. Some of these areas are impossible to reach by hand, and everyone that looks at your engine bay will wonder how you did this!
Finally, leaf blowers are great for drying motorcycles.
The same concepts you use on the engine bay of a car apply to bikes. There are a million little places for water to hide on a motorcycle and you’d never be able to get to all of them by hand.
You might think you’ve covered everything, but as soon as you lean it off the kickstand you’ll see water running from all of the places you didn’t know you missed. A leaf blower will make quick work of drying your bike.
Those are the many reasons why a leaf blower is a valuable tool for any gear head’s arsenal. To be honest, I didn’t think this post would be very long when I started writing it. I guess leaf blowers are even more helpful than I realized myself! If you’re getting tired of your current wash routine, I highly suggest giving one of these a try.
Tim is the creator of Canadian Gearhead. His experience with auto detailing and working for Toyota shows through all of the articles posted here. He runs the Canadian Gearhead site and YouTube channel full-time now and currently owns a 2007 4runner, 2006 Tacoma, and 1991 MR2. Read more about Tim: