Watch Out for Ice! How to Wash Your Car in Winter

  • January 31, 2022
image of family removing snow from their car image of family removing snow from their car

Winter can do a number on your vehicle, and it's important to take care of your ride throughout the season. But should you wash your car in cold weather? And if so, how can you do it safely and efficiently? Learn everything you need to know about washing your car in winter with this guide.

How Often Should You Wash Your Car in Winter?

While there’s no right-or-wrong schedule for washing your car in the winter, some experts suggest doing it every two weeks. If your vehicle continues to get particularly grimy, you might want to wash it even more often in the winter. 

However, it’s especially important to wash your car thoroughly after snow and ice melts. This way, you can avoid the accumulation of salt, sand, soil, and ice, reducing the likelihood of corrosion. Rust damage costs motorists about $3 billion in damage each year, so you want to make sure your car’s exterior is adequately protected before and during winter weather.

When Should You Wash Your Car in Winter? 

You may want to avoid washing your car if the outside temperature is at or below freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit). Shoot for doing a car wash in cold temperatures when the thermometer shows a reading of at least 49 degrees. Ideally, though, the temperature should be between 50 and 89 degrees. Whatever the temperature is, try to wash your car in the afternoon, when the sun is at its warmest point of the day.

How Do You Wash Your Car in Winter?

Keeping your car clean in the winter is not much different than cleaning it during any other season. However, there are a few extra precautionary measures you may want to take. Here are some of the steps that we recommend taking when washing your car in the winter:

1. Use a cleaning solution designed for vehicles. 

When washing your car in winter, and otherwise, it's best to avoid the detergent you use to wash your dishes. The enzymes found in dish soaps can eat away at the wax on your vehicle.

2. Wash the exterior completely.

To thoroughly wash the exterior of your vehicle, make sure to clean the tires, wheels, undercarriage, fenders, and bumpers. Prioritizing each component can help prevent salt and debris buildup.

3. Wax the exterior.

Be sure to follow the automaker’s instructions for waxing your vehicle. In some cases, you might want to wax your car every two months. In other cases, every six months might do the trick. How often you wax your vehicle depends, in large part, on how harsh the weather is where you live. Keep in mind that wax might be tough to apply when the temperature is below 55 degrees.

4. Use the right products.

If you decide to do a DIY car wash, be sure you’ve got the right products to do the job. These include a vehicle-specific cleaning solution, two buckets (one for warm water and the other for cleaning solution), a water hose, a sponge or washing mitt, and microfiber towels for drying your car.

5. Wash one section at a time.

When you’re cleaning your car at home, wash one section at a time, being sure to rinse off the cleaning solution before moving on to the next section.

6. Don’t overlook the interior.

To keep winter grime to a minimum inside your car, be sure to vacuum the carpets and floor mats. Then, tackle other interior cleaning. While you’re at it, you might want to get things organized inside your car.

Tips for Safely Washing Your Car in Winter

Follow these three tips to safely wash your car in the winter:

  1. If you’re doing a DIY wash, try to do it inside a heated garage. This can shield you and your car from winter temperatures and precipitation. In addition, this can keep your driveway from getting wet and freezing over.
  2. When washing your car outdoors, bundle up to protect yourself from cold weather. Your clothing and gear should be waterproof.
  3. To steer clear of difficulties with a DIY at-home wash, consider a public car wash or take advantage of a car-washing service.

Washing your car should be just one component of your winter car care routine, including checking your battery and tires. You can make an appointment at your neighborhood Firestone Complete Auto Care to help ensure your car is ready for winter weather.

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