With all of Iceland’s open space, it’s the perfect place for delving into nature. With a hardy 4x4 vehicle, you can access most places on the island, with the help of the ring road (Route 1) and the F roads that lead up to the highlands. But as you drive in Iceland, your car is bound to get a little dirty. Many areas of the island are covered by huge lava fields, and in strong winds, volcanic ash can be whipped up and cover your car. If this happens, you might be thinking you want to visit a car wash to freshen your car up.
24h Car Wash in Iceland
The great news is that at most gas stations in Iceland, there are actually free self-service car wash facilities. The facilities are generally basic, usually including only a broom and a hose, but it will suffice to remove any built-up dirt on your vehicle. These facilities are available 24/7 and their use is unlimited.
Alternatively, if you want a more thorough clean, there are car wash service stations that can do a professional job, such as Löður. They have 15 locations spread around Iceland, several of which are in Reykjavík. Their biggest car wash station is in Fiskislóð, Grandi, and is open from 8 am until 7 pm every day.
Car Wash Prices in Reykjavik
Their service fees depend on the size of your car and how thorough of a cleaning you want for it. Prices start at 2.690 ISK ($19 USD) for a ‘Silver car wash’. They accept all major debit cards and credit cards and also offer interior cleaning. Many of their stations have automatic touch-free car washes which are open 24 hours. Several of these are located at or near gas stations in the city.
On a side note, because many of their stations are self-service and no staff is present (which is also the case for many of Iceland’s gas stations) you will need a card with a chip and pin to use their service.
Do I Need to Wash my Rental Car?
On a trip to Iceland, most visitors choose to rent a car in Reykjavik. It is more convenient and less stressful, as you can guarantee that cars available here are suited for driving in Iceland. Whether or not you need to clean your car, and how much, depends on the car rental company.
Reykjavík Cars is happy for you to utilize one of the free car wash facilities and just rinse your car with water if it is very dirty. Other car companies charge a cleaning fee if you return your car coated with mud, so be sure to establish what condition they would like the car returned in when you pick it up, both inside and out. I would suggest playing it safe and ensuring that your car is at least reasonably clean when you return it.
Where Would My Car Get Dirty?
As I mentioned earlier, something that’s going to get your car dirty is volcanic ash. For most of the year (not so much in summer), there’s a chance of sandstorms occurring throughout Iceland, especially along the south coast. Wind speeds can be extremely high, and so large pieces of black sand and volcanic ash pound against your car. Unfortunately, this might lead to more than just a messy-looking exterior.
Sandstorms have been known to cause paint damage and even, in extreme cases, smash windows. So, it’s best not to travel when there is a sandstorm forecast. You can check for this on the Icelandic Meteorological Office’s website.
For those who are planning to drive up to the highlands, be aware that your car is also going to be covered with dirt. The roads that lead up to the highlands, F roads, are comprised purely of gravel. It’s important to drive slowly on these roads, not so much to keep your car clean, but because if you drive fast the gravel will shoot up and damage the underside of your vehicle. Most rental companies don’t cover for this kind of damage unless you have purchased Gravel Protection insurance.
Many F roads also involve river crossings. Because of these kinds of conditions, visitors must drive a 4x4 in Iceland or will not be legally allowed to access F roads. Additionally, F roads are only open from June to September.
You might be thinking ‘my car will also get dirty when I drive off-road’. Well, no, it won’t, because off-road driving is illegal in Iceland. Icelanders want very much to protect their nature and if you are caught driving off-road, the fines are heavy.
Other Driving Tips for Iceland
There are certain driving laws in Iceland that you may not have in your country. For instance, whilst driving, your headlights must be kept on at all times, day and night.
An important point to make is that here, unfortunately, texting drivers are common. I’m sure this is the case in many places in the world, but here not a day goes by when I don’t see someone on their phone whilst driving. For this reason, I advise you to pay close attention when driving through the city, leave safe distances between vehicles and ensure you have eye contact with other drivers before making turns or pulling out of a junction. If you are walking around the capital, don’t assume anyone will stop for you at crossings; again, wait until you have made eye contact.
The weather here can be extreme and unpredictable Icelanders have a saying for it: ‘If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes.’ So, always be prepared for bad weather and don’t travel if a storm is forecast. If you are here in the winter, spring, or autumn, be aware that roads can be closed if they are unsafe to travel on. You can check road closures in Iceland online. Always travel with warm, waterproof clothing, even in the summer, in case the weather turns bad.
If you do become stuck somewhere in Iceland, contact your car rental company first. Reykjavík Cars offers 24/7 emergency roadside assistance, but for this reason, you’ll need to make sure your phone is charged enough to contact them. Also, once you leave the capital, gas stations are few and far between, so as a rule, it’s a good idea to fill up whenever you hit half a tank and a gas station is nearby. Absolutely ensure that your tank is full before driving up any of the F roads. Check with your rental company regarding how much gas they expect you to return the car with too.
Samuel Hogarth, Reykjavik Cars.