Car High Pressure Cleaning Tool Icon Reviews of car high pressure cleaning tools and how to choose the best one for your car

updated: February 12, 2020
Cleaning car with Tornador
These tools are safe and effective

High-pressure car washing tools have taken the car detailing world by storm. They’re designed to work with your air compressor either with air alone or with a combo of air and water. They can be used on both hard and soft surfaces of any vehicle – exterior and interior.

Don’t confuse these with conventional foam cannons or guns that are powered by pressure washers. These guys work a little differently. The good thing is, they’re not likely to cause serious bodily harm or property damage, which is a risk when using pressure washers.

How do high-pressure car washing tools work?

These car washing devices work by blowing a concentrated blast of air from a regular residential air compressor (must produce ~60 PSI minimum). The high pressure breaks up dust, dirt, and grime from places that are often difficult to fully clean in a car. For instance, floor mats are often stained from ground-in grease and grime, and no amount of regular carpet shampooing can fully remove it.

Cone-shaped nozzle.

High-pressure car washing devices use compressed air blown through a cone-shaped nozzle. The end of the tip where the air comes out oscillates at a high RPM. A container of water or cleaning solution can be attached to blow out along with the air. The oscillating movement plus the high-powered pressure deliver enough power to dislodge stubborn dirt so set-in stains can be removed.

These tools are also effective in blasting dirt out of hard-to-reach areas such as seams, grills, wheels, wheel wells, and more.

For both home and commercial use

Best of all, these high-pressure car cleaning tools can be used for both the home do-it-yourselfer or professional car detailers. They’re often sold in car detailing kits that include several attachments, brushes, and other items that will help you clean every nook and cranny of a vehicle.

Here, we list the top-rated models for 2020, along with our ratings and reviews so you can up your game when it comes to car cleaning.

Our Reviews of the Best Car High Pressure Cleaning Tools of 2020


1Most Recommended By the Pros
The original, most popular, and most recommended by industry pros

This model is the “Classic”, the original design that first started the high-pressure car cleaning tool movement. Popular among detailing professionals, this model is affordable and easy to use.

Comes with: TORNADOR car cleaning tool, 32 oz. jar, and extra jar cap. Dimensions: 12.6” L x 5” W x 9.15” H; Weight: 1.34 pounds; Free speed RPM 3,600; Air pressure: 5.4 – 6.2 CFM @ 90 PSI

ProsThe Good

Several accessories and replacement parts are available and easy to purchase online. There are also a bunch of tutorial videos from professionals and home users alike both on the Tornador website and elsewhere.

The Tornador has a good, sturdy build and feels like a professional product. It’s light enough that you shouldn’t experience much hand and arm fatigue. It’s also fairly quiet.

ConsThe Not-So-Good

There aren’t a whole lot of accessories included with the tool. Just the tool itself (with default cone tip), the water / detergent jar, and extra jar cap. For the price, it would be nice to have some extra brushes or other accessories.

There’s a 90-day limited manufacturer’s warranty offered for the Tornador, although there may be other warranties via whichever retailer you buy it from. The owner’s manual isn’t very thorough either.

Customer OpinionWhat Customers Say

Customers loved that they could use this on virtually any car surface with no worries of damage. They used it on cars, scooters, bikes, window screens, and more. They loved how quickly it worked. Men and women both used it with ease.

Some customers say the quality has decreased from earlier versions. A few also warned about counterfeit versions being sold. Some mentioned that the owner’s manual isn’t clear and didn’t have enough info.

Take a Look At These Alternative Models:
  • Tornador Z-020 and Velocity Vac product image
    Tornador Z-020 and Velocity Vac
    Price: High

    The Tornador Black is an upgrade from the Classic. It’s designed to last longer with less air consumption, more power, and less noise. There’s less wear on the cone since the rotation set doesn’t come in contact with it like it does in the Classic. It comes with the Tornador Velocity-Vac attachment, which attaches to your wet/dry vacuum. There’s no need to change attachments. You can choose between vacuum, vacuum and wet clean at the same time, air clean, or just wet clean.

More Info

2Good for Residential Use
Budget-friendly alternative with brush attachment and detail brushes included

This product is very similar to the Tornador, only cheaper. The specs are nearly identical. You’ll need a compressor that produces at least 60 PSI and a ¼ inch quick connector (not included).

Comes with: cleaning gun, stiff nylon brush, rubber spray tube, 2 bristle detailing brushes.

Dimensions: 12.6” L x 5” W x 9.15” H; Weight: 1.34 pounds; Free speed RPM 3,600; Air pressure: 5.2 – 6.4 CFM @ 90 PSI

ProsThe Good

If you’re on a tight budget, this model may be a good option for you. When used in conjunction with a good air compressor, high quality cleaning chemicals, and brushes, it should perform well for light to moderate cleaning.

You can also adjust the spray with a control valve if you need gentler pressure. Users have reported good results on a number of surfaces, including interior leather and wheels.

ConsThe Not-So-Good

Professional car detailers might want to avoid this one, since the quality control isn’t as consistent as it could be. With a high volume of work, it’s more likely the parts will wear out quickly.

Leaks can be an issue if you overfill the water jug and try to clean a horizontal surface. The spray is also not as strong as it should be at times.

Customer OpinionWhat Customers Say

Fans of this product were happy with the results. Even some detailing professionals have used it with no issues. They love the extra cleaning brushes.

Some customers call this a knock-off of the Tornador, which is understandable, but others think the lower price is a big advantage. Common problems included leaks and the rubber rotator hose falling off.

More Info

3Good for First-Time Users
Budget friendly model that includes a free wash mitt

This model is similar to the prior two, but at an even more affordable price. Unlike the others, it comes with a soft wash mitt and nylon brush attachment. Use with your residential air compressor with minimum 5 CFM at 90 PSI.

Comes with cleaning tool, 1L water bottle, horn head, nylon brush head, wash mitt.

Dimensions: 12.4” L x 5” W x 8.74” H; Weight: 1.54 pounds.

ProsThe Good

The aluminum alloy construction gives this model a sturdy feel. The adjustable spray helps control pressure whether you need to give a light dusting or break up set-in stains. Use with only air, air and water, or air and cleaning solution.

The manufacturer offers a 100% money back guarantee, so it’s worth giving this one a try if you aren’t familiar with these types of tools yet.

ConsThe Not-So-Good

When it works, it works well. However, quality control can be an issue. A variety of issues have been reported, including the spinning water tube falling off, sealant leaks, no instructions included, not enough pressure, etc.

You should spend some time inspecting the parts before using it to make sure everything is put together well. If anything is loose, consider replacing parts and sealant before you do anything else.

Customer OpinionWhat Customers Say

This budget-friendly model is good for first time users of high pressure car cleaning tools. People used it successfully for cars, seals on refrigerators, carpet, and more. Customers recommended using at least a 30 gallon air compressor. Anything smaller didn’t work.

Despite the quality control issues, customer service was very responsive and honored their money-back guarantee to refund or replace broken units.

More Info

4Car Cleaning Kit
Good for first-time users and includes large wash sponge

Another budget-friendly alternative in the high-pressure car cleaning lineup, this model works on a variety of surfaces. It’s quiet and comes with a couple of bonus accessories, including an extra rotating nozzle.

Comes with 1 L water bottle, extra-large wash sponge, extra oscillating tip; Gun dimensions: 10.6” x 4.7”; Bottle dimensions: 5” x 5”; Water pressure: 87-133 PSI.

ProsThe Good

A flow-control valve helps adjust the spray for gentler or higher-pressure cleaning. Works with virtually any car cleaning solution. Customers have used it on a variety of surfaces, including boats, trucks, garage doors, etc.

It’s been good for part-time car detailers. It can run well on smaller air compressors ~20 gal. The bargain price makes it appealing to do-it-yourselfers and first-time users.

ConsThe Not-So-Good

Like many such products, quality control can be an issue. The trigger function works a little strange in that it seems to have less pressure the more you press the trigger. Leakage is a problem when cleaning horizontal surfaces, especially if the bottle is full.

Directions are unclear and terribly written. Warranty information is unclear, though there may be a general return policy from the retailer.

Customer OpinionWhat Customers Say

Customers recommend a 1 part cleaner to 10 part water ratio for best results. Fans of the product were impressed with how quickly it worked and said their cars looked like they had been professionally detailed.

Problems included the usual issues of the rotating tip falling off, leaks, little to no pressure, etc. Several people thought it didn’t clean any better than handwashing.

More Info

A Buyer’s Guide to Car High Pressure Cleaning Tools

These cleaning tools have several benefits, and as you can see in our reviews, they’re popular with both residential and professional car detailers. Let’s touch on some of those.

Quick and efficient

Effective way to clean vehicles.

High pressure car cleaning tools provide a fast, efficient way to clean all kinds of vehicles. It’s easier and saves time because you don’t have to go sit in line at the local car wash.

The high pressure from your air compressor produces a much stronger spray than the regular garden hose you would normally use to wash your car. Removing bird droppings, tree sap, salt, asphalt, and bugs can be a pain in the neck to scrub off by hand. Any one of the cleaners we reviewed will get the job done much faster with less elbow grease.

We’re talking minutes here – you might be able to wash an entire car in less than half the time.

Versatility

These high pressure tools don’t just wash the exterior. Unlike a garden hose, you can use these tools on your car’s interior as well. Cloth, leather, vinyl – they can all be cleaned with a high pressure car cleaner.

The high pressure air works with a minimal amount of water so that your seats and floorboards won’t be saturated. You can easily dry up the water with a towel, wet vac, or simply air dry it with the windows down and doors open.

Could be used for everything.
All surfaces could be cleaned.

What’s more, when using with air alone, there’s no water to worry about. The high pressure air stream will remove loose dust and dirt from hard to clean areas such as dashes, vents, cup holders, and door pockets.

Saves money

Rather than spending several bucks at the car wash or on professional car detailing, you can invest in a one-time purchase of a high pressure car cleaner. Even if you spend more to get the Tornador, it won’t take long to see the savings after a few uses.

Save money washing yourself.

Water usage is minimal, plus there’s less need for buckets, sponges, brushes, and mitts. No worrying about busted garden hoses or spray heads either.

For professional car detailers, these tools make a lot of sense. They cut down cleaning time so more clients can be served, plus they eliminate the need for a whole slew of brushes and other detailing tools.

Not just for cars

Customers have found all sorts of uses for pressurized car cleaning tools. They’ve used them on other vehicles like boats, bikes, motorcycles, and scooters. They’ve even cleaned household items like fridge and freezer door seals, rugs, garage doors, lawn furniture, canvas awnings, fences, and more.

Unlike a gas pressure washer, one of these tools can safely be brought indoors for use on stubborn stains on carpets and other surfaces.

What are the limitations for car high pressure cleaning tools?

One big thing that customers sometimes overlook – you MUST have an air compressor. Not only that, but it must be powerful enough to deliver a consistent pressure so the spray will be strong enough to dislodge dirt.

Air Compressor
Air compressor is required.

If the air compressor is too small, it will either produce very weak pressure or will have to shut off frequently to refill and repressurize. That kind of negates the whole purpose of the device, so make sure you have a good air compressor.

What kind of air compressor is best for car cleaning tools?

The most important thing is to find out what the car cleaning tool requires as far as PSI and CFM. This can usually be found in the owner’s manual. But you may have to contact the manufacturer directly if it’s not clear. Then compare the numbers to your existing air compressor output. Generally, you’ll see a minimum of 60 – 75 PSI, not to exceed 90 – 110 PSI.

Alex Woodward - Power Washers Expert
If you have a mobile car detailing business or would like to store the compressor under a workbench, a horizontal model would work best. These will fit in your truck or van and can be tucked away under a workbench or shelf.
Expert tip

If you don’t already have an air compressor and don’t plan on using it for anything other than washing your personal vehicles, it’s probably not worth the investment in money and storage space.

What to look for when buying

Is your air compressor compatible with the tool? That’s the most important thing. Compressors less than 20 gallons will usually struggle with one of these devices

Cleaning gun with accessories.

Does it come with a variety of cleaning nozzles? The default nozzle is just a regular cone shape with an open end. But having one with a brush on the end can come in really handy too.

Does it have extra oscillating tips? One of the most common complaints is that the tip can suddenly fly off and get lost in the grass or a drain, etc. Having an extra tip in the box (or those you can easily purchase) is a smart idea.

Does it do anything else? Cleaners like the Tornador Black with Velocity Vac make the process quicker. It hooks to your wet/dry vac so you can vacuum up the water when you’re finished cleaning without having to change attachments.

How to use a high pressure car cleaning tool

This section is more specific to the Tornador model, but the general steps are similar for all models.

  • Fabric
    • Remove large, loose debris with vacuum or brush.
    • Turn the water valve to the upright position to spray cleaning solution.
    • Hold nozzle 1 – 3 inches from fabric. Pull trigger. Move over the fabric in straight lines, using overlapping strokes.
    • Let the solution sit for 10 – 15 seconds if necessary.
    • Man cleans a car.
    • Use a microfiber towel or wet vac to remove excess liquid.
    • Turn the water valve to the downward position for only air. Then dry the area.
  • Hard surfaces
    • Set air pressure to 75 PSI (recommended).
    • Turn the water valve to the upright position to spray cleaning solution.
    • Use overlapping motion to spray area.
    • Let the solution sit for 10 – 15 seconds if necessary.
    • Turn the water valve to the downward position for only air. Blow dry the area, then polish with a clean, soft towel.

Maintenance

There are a few things to remember when it comes to caring for your high pressure car cleaning tool.

  1. First of all, try to avoid dropping it on a floor or other hard surface. It could easily break.
  2. Always disconnect it when you’re not using it.
  3. Keep the water valve turned horizontally after using it to prevent leaks.
  4. While holding the jar lid, tighten the jar so you don’t risk stripping the gun assembly connectors
  5. After each use, place the cone 2 – 3 inches in a bucket of soapy water. Squeeze the trigger once or twice to remove dirt that’s collected inside.

Troubleshooting tools.

Troubleshooting tips

The tip is not oscillating. Check for air pressure problems – loose connectors, wrong setting on compressor, compressor unplugged or turned off, clogs in tubing, etc.

The tip turns too slowly. Is there dirt built up around it? If so, rinse the cone in clean water and try again. If still too slow, check that you have the pressure turned high enough on your compressor.

Water drips from the tip or assembly. Keep the water valve turned horizontally when not using. When using, make sure you don’t overfill the water jar, and try to keep the cleaner as upright as possible.

Water won’t come out. Check to see if the cone is filled with dirt. Rinse out if needed. Make sure there’s water in the jar. Make sure the air pressure is still on.

Alex Woodward
Author
Alex owns a home improvement and restoration company in Vancouver. He obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Construction Management from Saskatchewan Polytechnic and is a NARI Certified Remodeler. His team does a wide range of home restoration products, both interior and exterior.
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