It may not seem pointless to keep your car clean in the snowy months, but getting a good winter car wash is key to preventing rust. Some paint and rust experts recommend washing your car after every big storm, or any time you think your car may have been exposed to salt, sand, or other chemicals on the road. But washing your car once every few weeks (or days, here in New England) may not be realistic for everyone. Here are a few of the next-best alternatives:
Look for discounts at the car wash.
Many local car washes have discounted days, like Crazy Tuesday, or offer a discounted pass for multiple washes. Check with your local shop to see if they offer special winter car wash pricing and find out which deals work best for you.
The touchless wash is ideal in the winter. The brushes and sponges in a traditional wash can be harsh and abrasive on your paint; if your paint is already salty or sandy, it can cause small scratches or swirls in your topcoat. Service with a wash bay and a power nozzle is also a great option. The nozzle allows you to spray water under your car as well as into the nooks and crannies on your undercarriage where salt and sand tend to hide.
If you do go to the car wash, leave some extra time to drive your car after, ideally on a main road where you can accelerate. This will help your car to air dry and remove extra water before you park it; in freezing temps, any leftover water will freeze to your paint and leave nasty watermarks, or sneak into seals and freeze your doors shut.
Break out the hose and bucket.
Every once in a while in New England, we get a beautiful, mild day in the middle of the winter cold— the perfect opportunity to give your car a rinse in the driveway. If you’re washing your car yourself, these tips will help you keep your car clean:
- Hold out for the warmest day possible. If you wash your car when the temperature is near or below freezing, you run the risk of the wash water freezing onto your car. More often than not, you'll end up freezing your doors shut!
- Wear waterproof gear. You’ll likely get wet, so wear waterproof gloves, boots and any other winter weather to help keep warm.
- Drive around the block a few times to warm up your car. You can also start your car for a few minutes with the heater on high to keep the water from freezing.
- Remove excess snow or ice from the car before spraying any water on the car.
- When you do start to hose the car down, use warm water. Warm water will not only help keep you warm when it is cold outside but can help melt away the salt, sand, and grime that may still be stuck to your paint.
- Remember to be gentle. Always make sure the car is wet and your sponge is sudsy to lift the dirt off your paint before scrubbing. Otherwise, you'll just rub all the sand, salt, and dirt into your paint leaving tiny swirls in your topcoat.
- Pay special attention to the wheels. Your wheels take a beating from the winter weather and tend to be the first to
- Make sure to dry your car as best as possible in case of dipping temperatures. The best way to dry your car is usually by driving it. Even if it's cold out, the heat from your car will help water to evaporate, or simply roll off the paint, as you drive.
Don't forget about the interior.
Keeping your interior clean during the winter is a neverending battle, especially with kids or pets in the car. Stepping in and out of your car tracks in endless snow, grime, and salt that can damage your floors and seats. One easy way you can keep your interior from getting trashed is to tap off your boots. Before you step into the car, hit them together to shake any excess dirt and snow off. You can also switch out cloth floor mats for rubber ones that you can easily, shake out, vacuum, or wipe down once a week.
At V&F, we strive to provide our customers with a well-rounded knowledge of all things automotive. Since 1988, our family-owned and operated service center has been providing top-quality auto repair services to Agawam, Feeding Hills, Southwick, West Springfield and the surrounding Massachusetts communities. If your car needs maintenance or repair before this winter season, call us at (413)314-2280 or schedule an appointment online.
This article was originally published in 2019 and has been updated to reflect new best practices.