Give extra attention to areas around tires and wheels, where road salt and chemicals collect

Washing Your Car in Winter

Winter is, without question, the most difficult time to keep your car clean. While your summer car wash routine might have you stopping by every few weeks to polish and shine, winter is the time of year when snow, slush, freezing rain, road de-icers, and exhaust build on your car from the bottom up. Without regular cleaning, many of the chemical products and dirty chunks of snow can break down your paint job, which makes winter car washing even more important. Because winter weather isn’t always ideal for dragging out the hose, we know that heading out into the cold with a bucket of water in hand might not be your idea of fun. With these winter car wash tips, you can get the job done quickly and be back inside your heated car in no time.

  1. Keep a long-handled brush in your car. Those big chunks of snow and ice that collect in the wheel wells and along the bumper do some of the most chemical/dirt damage. Keep a brush in your car to wipe these chunks away (do this both before a car wash and on a regular basis).
  1. Spray your car early and often. You don’t always have to dig in and do the heavy scrubbing yourself in the winter. If you want a quick rinse to get rid of the worst of the winter buildup, grab a self-service rinsing hose and spray it down a few times a week. This can help melt those chunks of snow and ensure that the chemicals are washed away without requiring you to get wet.
  2. Forget the soap. When the temperature is under 32 degrees, water is all that’s needed to clean your car, since the grime is likely frozen on and only needs to be melted away. (Most car washing can be done down to about -10 or -15 degrees. Any colder than that, and you may want to hold off on the deep cleaning.)
  3. Rubber gloves or other protective hand gear can keep your fingers warm. While you’ll probably get wet and cold no matter what, you can take steps to reduce your discomfort. Rubber gloves can protect you from overspray while you wash your car.
  4. Work in a covered area. Self-service car washes are ideal places to clean your car in winter because they provide a covered space that’s still open to the air. You get the protection of a roof over your head, which will not only warm things up and keep the water from freezing on your car, but also ensure that you’re not standing in the middle of a snowstorm while you work.
  5. Open the doors as soon as you’re done. One common pitfall of winter car washing is allowing the water to freeze and seal your doors closed. As soon as your time runs out, open the doors and give your car time to dry before heading out again.

The faster you can clean your car in winter, the better it will be. That’s why heading in every week for a quick wash is the best plan. You can get in, get out, and get on your way—and avoid many of the discomforts associated with cold weather washing.

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