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When is it too cold to wash your car during winter?

Posted by Scott Stueber, CPCU, CISR, AAI on Jan 25, 2022 10:28:48 AM

Winter car wash tipsIf you live in a cold climate, washing your car during winter can be challenging because perfect days can be few and far between. If it’s not snowing, it may be too cold. And even on a relatively nice day, blowing and drifting snow can bring out the salt trucks to dirty your car.

So, should you wash your car during winter or wait until spring? It’s recommended that you wash your car at least once every two weeks. Benefits include:

  • Prevents rust and long-term damage.
  • Improves visibility.
  • Keeps tires in good shape.
  • Increases re-sale value.
  • Keeps your clothes clean.
  • Looks better than a dirty car.

The ideal temperature for washing your car is at or above freezing, which is 32 degrees Fahrenheit or zero degrees Celsius. However, this can be tricky because there might not be that many days that reach that temperature. So, here are some tips that can help keep your car clean during cold weather:

1. Visit your local car wash.

While you may enjoy washing your car by hand during the summer, winter is more challenging and less fun. You know what I’m talking about if you've ever tried it. Visiting a car wash keeps you warm and dry and provides you with different wash options and packages.

  • Touchless wash – Uses high pressure hoses with a detergent to blast off dirt and debris.
  • Soft Touch wash – Besides using high pressure hoses and detergent, soft brushes are used to scrub the dirt and debris off your car.
  • Packages – Include different car wash treatments at various price points. For example, a regular or basic wash will cost less. Adding special detergents or the undercarriage wash will be more expensive. However, undercarriage cleaning is vital during winter to keep parts you don’t see functioning at their best.

Like all decisions, there are pros and cons to each option. Some may argue that a touchless wash doesn’t get all the dirt off your car, leaving a film. Others may suggest that a soft touch wash can cause scratches. I’d recommend visiting a reputable car wash near where you live and giving each one a try to see which works best for you and your car. Remember, a cheaper wash may give you less than impressive results.

Lastly, be sure the car wash location you select has a sound drying system. A good system is fundamental because it can remove excess water, preventing frozen doors, windows, and mirrors.

2. Take a lunch break.

If you’re working from home or your office is near a car wash, consider taking your car for a wash during the afternoon. Afternoon sun can help dry your car and keep it warm enough to prevent components from freezing.

3. Give your car a sponge bath.

If the conditions aren’t ideal, but your car needs to be cleaned, consider using a squirt bottle filled with hot water and a sponge to gently dab the areas that need it most. These areas include windows, mirrors, door handles, license plates, sensors, and your backup camera. If you’re tackling filthy items such as windows or rims, you’ll need a bucket of hot water to rinse out your sponge. Never use boiling water, as it can cause severe burns and damage your car’s paint. Don’t forget to wipe up excess water to prevent slips and falls. 

4. Take it for a drive.

If you must wash your car during a cold period, consider washing it when you have errands to run. Driving your car before and after the wash keeps it warm, which helps prevent components from freezing. It also helps shed excess water. Once you’re home, park your car in the garage and close the door immediately to prevent the heat from your engine block from escaping. Lastly, use a warm, damp microfiber cloth or chamois to remove excess water around the windows, mirrors, and door hinges.

If you still end up with frozen doors, locks, or windows, don't try to pry or force them open. It’s best to allow the doors and windows to dry out on their own. For additional hacks on keeping your car rolling this winter, click here.

Do you have any suggestions or information you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you. Please share them in the box below.

Topics: Auto Safety, Weather

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