Washing your car is an essential maintenance function that preserves the finish and exterior beauty of your car to improve your enjoyment and the car’s resale value. While washing a car in the summer is easy, washing it in the winter is often a challenge, especially in colder climates. If you drive your vehicle on roads affected by winter snow and ice, it is important to wash your car shortly after clearing the roads to avoid corrosion caused by salt-based treatments that affect driving to make safer. Even if washing your car in winter isn’t fun, these tips should make the job easier.
Don’t forget these winter car wash tips
The following eight tips from JD Power aim to make an otherwise dreaded winter chore just that little bit easier. Of course, in addition to washing the outside of your car, you should also clean the inside, including vacuuming the carpet and wiping interior surfaces like door sills, seats, and the dashboard. But for now let’s focus on washing the exterior of your car when it’s cold outside.
1. Wear the right clothes
We should all know by now that we need to layer our clothes when we go outside in winter. Multiple layers of lightweight clothing allow you to add or remove a layer or two as conditions or your activity level dictate. In contrast, wearing just a sweater and a heavy coat leaves no room for flexibility in your attire.
Wool clothing keeps you warm even when it gets wet. Merino wool base layers, socks and inner gloves keep you warm, even if you sweat while washing your car. Waterproof clothing such as a rain jacket, rain trousers, gloves and non-slip rubber boots should complete your outfit. Oh, and don’t forget to wear a warm hat to cover your ears.
2. Think warmly when washing your car in winter
If the temperature where you wash your car is below freezing, it’s a good idea to warm up your car before you begin. Take a ride with the heater on or let it warm up outside. A warm interior helps keep the water you pour on your car from freezing, but if it’s in the single digits or below, you may have to wait for a warmer day.
While you’re having warm thoughts, fill your car wash bucket with warm water and the manufacturer’s recommended car wash detergent. The warm water will help loosen dirt and grime from your car, and your hands will thank you every time you wring out your sponge.
3. Find a shelter or place inside
If you have a garage with enough space to work on the exterior of your car, why not use it? After warming up your car, drive it to your garage and turn off the engine. Then use the warm water in your bucket and give your car a thorough wash from top to bottom before taking it outside to rinse it off. If you don’t have a garage, you may need to find a wind-protected spot next to your house or use a coin-operated car wash that provides wind protection.
4. Pay attention to the underside of your car
The underside of your car contains all sorts of places for stuck mud, other dirt, debris and harsh winter road treatment chemicals and salt to build up and eat away at your car’s metal foundation. The underside of your car usually has little protection compared to the painted and waxed surfaces on the outside.
At a minimum, you should use your garden hose gun or pressure washer to spray as much of the underside of your car as possible, paying particular attention to the wheel arches, suspension components, and the backs of the wheels.
5. Apply de-icing solution to the wipers
Hopefully you have filled your washer fluid reservoir with de-icing washer fluid. After washing your vehicle and rinsing the exterior and undercarriage, activate your windshield washer and allow it to spray “10 seconds or more with the wipers running.” The aim is to ensure that the windscreen wiper arms are coated with washer fluid so that they remain ice-free in inclement weather.
6. Frost-proof your doors and windows
After all the water work, open your doors and windows including the sunroof, hood, trunk, hatchback and fuel filler flap. Take some old towels or buy special rags and dry the rubber seals and mechanisms as best as possible. If the sun is shining, let them air dry open before closing everything.
7. Apply special winter wax
While your seals are drying is an excellent time to apply wax to your car’s exterior. While any car wax is better than no wax, using a winter wax formula will help withstand winter’s assaults on your car’s exterior finish. As always, consult the owner’s manual for details on how to wash and wax your vehicle.
8. Hire someone to wash your car in the winter
There’s always an opportunity to hire someone to wash and detail your car for you, and finding a service to come to your door and use their equipment, materials, and water is just a search of the internet (or the yellow pages pages) removed.
Also, at least one automated car wash in your area will likely stay open in all but the coldest of temperatures. Finally, most automated car washes have the added benefit of providing a good underbody wash thanks to specially designed spray nozzles on the floor.
What is the best way to wash your car in winter?
There is no doubt that hiring a professional to come to your home and wash your car is the best and easiest way to get the job done. However, this is also the most expensive option, often costing five times or more the typical cost of an automatic car wash, and may not fit into your schedule. If you want to spend less, finding an automated car wash near you is also a good option.
TIED TOGETHER: Car Maintenance 101 in Winter: Is Your Car Ready for the Snow and Cold?