Tips for Washing Your Car in Winter & Cold Weather

Tips for Washing Your Car in Winter & Cold Weather

It’s that time of the year again where the temperatures are plummeting close to freezing, and the evenings are getting darker as we move into the depths of winter. Maybe you are lucky enough to be living in a nice hot climate year-round, but here in Ireland I can’t say that we do!

One thing that I notice in my area, is that there is a huge drop in the number of people washing and detailing their cars during this time of year, and understandably so.

wash car in winter

If you have ever washed your car in cold and wet winter weather, you will know it is a pretty miserable experience.

Luckily there are several tips and tricks you can use to make it less of a pain in the ass and to get the job done more efficiently, which we will discuss in this post. Firstly let’s take a look at why it is important not to neglect your car in the winter months.

Why You Should Wash Your Car In The Winter

I would argue that the winter months are the most important time for keeping your car clean. Not just for aesthetic’s sake, it is vital for the overall protection of the vehicle. There are MANY things about the winter conditions that are less than ideal for your cars paintwork, and the bodywork in general.

Salt and grit on the Roads

Anything made of metal doesn’t react all that well with salt, and this is certainly the case with our cars. Modern vehicles are sealed and galvanized to minimize the possibility of rust, However, salt and grit have a habit of being able to work into cracks and crevices around a vehicles bodywork.

You need to make sure to comprehensively clean down your car, rinsing off harmful chemicals left on the road by gritters and other cars can extend the length of your vehicle’s paint and bodywork.

wash car in winter

Dirt and Grime

Roads are usually extremely wet and muddy during the winter months with water and dirt being splashed up on your paintwork on almost every journey. When the outside temperatures drop below freezing, this dirty moisture freezes, increasing the time the contaminants stay on your cars paintwork.

Ice or snow that melts also tends to slide off the car, moving all the accumulated dirt over your paintwork while sliding. This also increased the chances of marring or scratching your paintwork, which is also a big no-no.

wash car in winter

Less Protection from Wax/Sealants

When temperatures drop, certain wax or sealant products become less effective if it gets really cold. For this reason, it is important to keep your car clean as best you can, to minimize the damage potential to paintwork.

wash car in winter

Now that you know why you should be keeping your car clean during the winter, let’s look at some tips which will make the cleaning process more comfortable and less of a challenge.

Tips for Washing Your Car in Winter & Cold Weather

Tip 1: Use a Pressure Washer & Foam Cannon

One tip I always give people during the winter months is to use a pressure washer ( ideally with a foam cannon ) in their wash routine. When it comes to car cleaning, it is always best practice to remove as much dirt and grime from the surface of the car before coming in contact with the paintwork with a wash mitt

Due to the increased amount of grime/dirt/salt which is likely to be on your cars paintwork, it will also increase the chances of accidentally inflicting swirls & scratches in the paint. It is important to remove as much of this as possible before starting a contact wash. A pressure washer & foam Combo is the best way to achieve this.

I find that I am usually able to clean the car quicker by using a pressure washer, which means the less time I have to spend out in the cold.

iron x snow soap

Tip 2: Use Warm Water In Your Wash Bucket

It may seem like common sense, but it makes a huge difference in the comfort factor when washing your car if you use warm water in the buckets instead of cold water. There have been many times in the past where my hands have been completely numb due to being submerged in cold water, while already being out in cold temperatures. Not fun!

Warm water will increase the effectiveness of your shampoo, and make it easier to clean with.

Be careful not to go too hot. The temperature difference can crack the car’s glass. Don’t let the temperature difference between the water and the surface get greater than 30 degrees Celsius is a general rule of thumb.

wash car in winter

Tip 3: Don’t Wash Your Car in Sub Zero Temperatures

Running water and Sub Zero Temperatures do not mix very well, I can tell you this from my own experience. I once turned my driveway and road outside my house into an ice rink after washing my car in freezing weather, which became very dangerous. Needless to say, my neighbors were not happy about it.

Image result for slip on ice gif"

My car was clean though! 🙂

It is also quite risky trying to wash your car if there is ice on the surface of the paint. Needless to say, ice is hard and if you accidentally rub or drag ice across your paintwork you are going to cause some serious damage. Not ideal.

Tip 4: Don’t Apply Any Waxes / Liquid Protection

Don’t apply a liquid sealant/wax/coating on a panel that is cold enough to make the liquid freeze. This is a pointless exercise and will probably make your paintwork look worse, as the wax or sealant residue will be very hard to buff off.

Many manufacturers of protective products advise not to use their product under a temperature of 5 degrees Celsius.

During these cold times of the year, if I am looking to add some protection, I use something that is sprayed on and rinse off. A product like Gyeon Wet Coat or Meguiars Hybrid Ceramic Wax are great products when you want to add some protection to your car in a short space of time

Tip 5: Layer Up!

It goes without saying that you should ensure that you should wear the correct clothing and properly wrap up to help stay warm and prevent your extremities from getting too cold and wet. The appropriate shoes or boots are a good idea to prevent feet from getting wet and cold, otherwise, you could end up getting sick.

wash car in winter

Thick pants, a coat and a good hat are all a good idea and even though you will need your hands free for the washing, some form of waterproof gloves will also help to take the edge off the cold on your fingers.

It is also best to try and wash your car during the middle of the day when temperatures are mildest and when the sun is at its highest point in the sky.

In Summary

As mentioned earlier, it is important to not neglect your car during the winter months. While it may not always be as pleasant as caring for your care during the summer, it doesn’t have to be a task you should dread. By implementing some of the tips I have outlined in this post, you should be able to get the job done more effectively.

Do you have any tips you would like to share? Please let me know in the comments below. Also, if you like the content, please consider sharing & subscribing.

Best of luck during the winter months and I hope the readers of this blog have a great Christmas with their friends and family.

Until Next time,

Happy Detailing!

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About the Author – Darren O Hara

Darren is the founder of the DriveDetailed blog and is a keen detailing enthusiast living in the rainy south of Ireland. When he is not cleaning his car he is always researching ways he can improve his techniques and enjoys testing out new products.

Darren currently drives an Audi TTRS and is a big fan of performance cars.

You can follow Darren on Instagram @darrenoharacork

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