Can You Wash Your Car in Winter?

Vehicles are never more desperate for cleanings than in the coldest months. Here's how to wash your car in the winter safely and effectively.

Properly washing your car on a regular basis has many benefits that reach far beyond pure aesthetics: it prevents exterior damage, enhances the vehicle’s resale value, makes driving safer and even improves your health.

While you should be washing your car throughout the year, it’s particularly important to do so in the winter. The season’s harsh weather conditions – as well as the salt, sand and ice-melting chemicals used to clear the roads – can take a toll on your vehicle. Washing your car in the winter can help prevent these substances from causing rust and corrosion, which not only are eyesores but can lead to significant damage and costly repairs.

How To Wash Your Car in the Winter

If you have a heated garage, move your car inside. This will save you from the frigid temperatures and prevent any water from turning to ice if it’s below freezing outside. No garage? No problem. When washing your car outside during the winter, your best bet is to wait for a relatively mild day or until midday when temperatures are at their warmest. (If you’re worried about the water freezing you could always opt for waterless car wash products, which work well if your vehicle doesn’t have too much grit and grime on it.)

Make sure to warm up your car before you begin washing. Once you’re ready to get scrubbing, use the same two-bucket method you would when washing your car in warm weather. One bucket will hold the soap, the other contains the rinse water. Speaking of water, make sure to use warm, not hot, water. Hot water on a cold windshield can cause the glass to crack (as can cold water on a hot windshield).

Work your way around your car, focusing on one section at a time. Make sure to pay attention to the wheels and undercarriage: These areas bear the brunt of the road’s harsh conditions.

You may need to dig your car out before you can get to washing it. Here’s how to do it properly.

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Drying and Finishing

Once the car is clean, wipe it down with soft cloths to dry the water before it freezes. Also, and most importantly, wipe down the door seals and spray the rubber gaskets with a silicone spray to prevent the doors from freezing shut. It’s a good idea to lubricate the door locks and hinges as well.

Applying a coat of wax to your car after it is cleaned can add another layer of protection against the season’s harsh conditions. However, make sure to only do this if the weather is warm enough. If the wax gets too cold, it will essentially become unusable.

Don’t Forget the Interior

While your car’s exterior will likely – and rightfully – get the lion’s share of your attention, don’t forget about the inside. Stepping into your vehicle after walking on snow, ice, salt and sand brings all those messy substances into the vehicle’s cabin.

The easiest way to keep your car’s interior clean during the winter is to replace cloth floor mats with rubber ones, which can better handle moisture. Remove the carpet mats and install the rubber mats. Don’t stack them, as they could slide and get stuck under the pedals.

All-weather floor mats could be a wise investment if you don’t already own some. Either way, make sure to wipe down and vacuum your floor mats and seats regularly.

How Often To Wash Your Car in the Winter

You should wash your car at least once a month throughout the year, but you may need to do so more often in the winter. It’s a good idea to wash your car after any big snowstorm, or when you believe your vehicle was exposed to salt, sand or other chemicals used to clean the road.

Learn more about keeping your car in tip-top shape. Have a question we haven’t answered? Leave it in the comments below!

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3 Thoughts on “Can You Wash Your Car in Winter?

  1. Recently when filling the gas tank in my 2004 Toyota Corolla the gas stops pumping every few seconds. The car is in good shape, only 59,000 miles, my mechanic doesn’t know the reason. It starts up again, I have to keep repressing & repressing it-what coukd be the reason?

  2. What a crazy article. If someone had a heated garage, I can’t believe they would be running a hose inside it to wash a car. Other than that, washing a car at home, outside in the winter is not very feasible ! Here in New England, most people drain and take their hoses inside for the winter and turn off spigots from the inside, or at the least maybe cover it with an insulated boot.

    Maybe car wash tips and tricks for the winter would have been a better topic. For example, is it a myth that below freezing temperatures cause ice build up on car wash equipment that can cause scratches, etc….

    Thank you

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