Winter driving sure makes for a mess. It seems like every time you pull out of the driveway in the cold months, you enter a wet war zone – slippery, sloppy, and altogether unpleasant, if not for you, certainly for your car. Winter also makes for quite a challenge to keeping your vehicle clean. Wet roads, snow, sludge, salt, and more all conspire to not only make driving difficult, but to do damage to your car. They do nothing to make it look nice.
But really, what is the point of keeping your car clean in the winter when it is only going to get dirty again? Probably in short order at that. Why wash a vehicle that is only going to get slushed and sprayed the moment you roll out onto the salt covered street? A car does not stay clean for very long in the winter. For that reason – and likely because of the hassle of washing a car in the cold – many drivers forgo the car wash when the weather is bad. At least, they put it off for too long.
But washing your car in the winter is equally as important as washing it any other time of year. In fact, the argument can be made that it is more important. Consider these thoughts to keep your car clean and safe this winter.
Reasons for winter washes
At no other time of year do the elements work against your car, truck, or SUV than during the winter. Salt, sand, and mud pelt your car’s paint and stick to its body panels. At the very least, these abrasive and corrosive contaminants look unsightly. But they can also damage and dull your paint finish. More than that, they eat into the metal, causing corrosion, rust. Failing to free your car from these adversaries will ensure that they win the war they have waged.
Exterior panels are not the only targets of these enemy combatants. The inside edges of your doors and the wheel wells are highly susceptible to the corrosive effects of salt and other compounds used to thaw winter ice. So is your suspension. And your brakes. And your exhaust system. Virtually anything underneath your vehicle is a target for corrosion.
The interior is no exception. Salt and sludge can become trapped in your carpet, and they are difficult to remove if you wait until spring. Germs – even the coronavirus – are held captive inside your closed up car in winter unless you wash them away. And because the sun sits lower on the horizon during winter months, any dirt on the inside of your windshield attracts moisture and exacerbates glare.
To serve and protect
So what do you do about it? How do you execute a secure defense against the cold war of these winter warriors? For starters, you can help to protect the paint and body panels on your vehicle by giving it a couple of coats of polymer sealant or wax (or both) before winter hits. Sealants and waxes serve to form a hydrophobic barrier that causes water to bead up and run off easily – and prevents contaminants from sticking as easily. Wax also forms a thin sacrificial shield against sand and dirt so that your paint does not get scratched. If you were unable to have your car waxed when the weather was still nice outside, you might consider a professional detailing service that can apply wax, polymer sealant, or even ceramic coating to protect your paint.
Once your vehicle has been protected, you can keep it that way by making sure it is washed frequently. Unlike an oil life monitor that tells you when to change the oil, or a brake pad wear sensor signaling when it is time for a brake job, there is no type of timer for washing your car. A good gauge is to wash it every two weeks at minimum.
Of course, that can be difficult to do yourself, given that your garden hose is probably not operational and all your efforts would freeze on the driveway anyways. Even a self-serve quarter wash is a hassle in the cold. And, of course, just as rain is not a substitute for washing your car, neither is driving through a mud puddle or letting snow mound up on top. That is where a professional automatic car wash is a life saver.
Professional car wash
A soft-touch automatic car wash includes a pre-soak to emulsify contaminants, followed by the gentle agitation of soft cloth and foam brushes, necessary for loosening up those contaminants. A final rinse and dry get you ready to hit the road again.
But an automatic car wash does more than wash, rinse, and dry. Depending on the wash package you select before entering the tunnel, your car can experience anything from alloy wheel manual power wash cleaning including a tire protectant to triple foam conditioners. An underbody wash gets at all of the inaccessible areas underneath your car that collect mud and salt (and rust). You can even give your vehicle a bath of polymer sealant and Carnauba wax to supplement hand or machine applied products.
For auto owners who need some simplicity and incentive to get their cars cleaned more frequently, a monthly wash club or car wash membership offers unlimited car washes for a monthly fee. That kind of deal can save you money and protect your vehicle.
If you want to keep your car clean and safe during the season of snow and ice, take it to a professional automatic car wash regularly and enjoy a season of peace.