During the winter, it’s important to protect both your car’s interior and exterior from the elements. Just keeping it free from dirt and road chemicals can help prevent corrosion as well as maintain a beautiful appearance. We recommend that all car owners follow the “Winter Car Care Checklist” below:
Winter Car Care Checklist
● Wash Your Car – FREQUENTLY!
● Dry it Thoroughly
● Wax It – Yes, It Takes Time – But It’s Worth It!
● Clean the Interior – Properly & Thoroughly
● Monitor and Maintain All Fluid Levels
● Install Rubber Floor Mats
● Don’t Park Outside – or at Least Use a Car Cover
Wash Your Car – FREQUENTLY!
During the winter, we recommend that you wash your car about every ten days. If it’s particularly nasty outside, you might even want to do it once a week. We know it’s cold outside and the last thing you want to do is mess with a water hose and bucket. An automatic car wash can easily knock off the dirt, and you don’t even have to get out of the car.
On the warmer days, you can spend the extra time it takes to do it right. The point is to make sure you get that road grime off the undercarriage and fenders of your car. If you don’t, it will only take a couple of seasons for rust to show up. That is something you DON’T want!
Use a high-pressure hose and fresh water for cleaning the car. At home, the best way to dissolve salt off your vehicle is with baking soda. Add a generous swig into your wash bucket and use warm water. Make sure you rinse it completely! The baking soda will leave a residue if it’s not rinsed.
As a matter of point, you should always use warm water to wash your car – not hot – warm. Be careful not to do this on days where the temperatures are below freezing. The warm water could cause extremely cold windows to crack.
Use a sponge for soaping and avoid shop towels. Some shop towels contain bits of metal that can scratch the surface of your paint. When cleaning the exterior, make sure to wash under the door handles, behind the mud flaps, and in and around all crevices and cracks of the car. Pay particularly close attention to the undercarriage. That is where the road salt accumulates.
Dry Your Car Thoroughly
Running it under one of those hot air blowers at the end of the automatic car wash is NOT going to do the trick. It is important that you dry all the water off the vehicle. Those blowers are better than nothing, but they leave behind droplets. If left untreated, the water may freeze on the car. Granted, most cars have to put up with a bit of ice in the winter. However, if you are washing your car as often as you should, the paint could start to suffer from the frozen liquid.
Make sure you leave the doors open and let the trapped water dry out. Seal the vehicle’s surfaces only after it dries out completely. A chamois is inexpensive and very good for drying off cars. Microfiber towels also work well. Carry a few in your trunk, and you’ll have them when you need them.
To get the car dried before it has a chance to freeze, you may need to wash it in sections. Start with the roof and then work your way to the other sections: driver’s side, passenger’s side, front end, and rear end.
We suggest you start with the roof, for the same reason your mother cleans her house from the top floor down. In the case of your car, water and dirt fall according to gravity. Starting at the top means you won’t dampen areas you already dried.
If water freezes on the car, simply use the hose to remove the ice then clean and dry the region quickly to prevent another occurrence. When using the hose, attempt to aim the hose in a downward direction and avoid spraying other regions of the car. Then, simply dry the sections as you go.
Wax Your Car
No, you don’t have to wax your car every time you wash it. However, you do need to make sure you do a thorough waxing just before the winter season hits. The wax will protect the finish and paint of your vehicle. This is important considering all the abuse your paint takes throughout the
season. Waxing helps preserve the oils in the car’s paint, which lessens the likelihood of oxidation. Delamination and fading lead to costly paint touch-up or repainting. Trust me; it is much less expensive to add that extra coat of wax.
Even though you don’t have to wax every time you wash your car, you really should if possible. When waxing the vehicle, give special attention to its lower parts, such as the quarter panels, the front grille, and behind the wheels, where salt and ice will impact the most. To ensure a smooth application, warm the rag that you’ll be using for applying the wax. Alternatively, you can also use a hair dryer to warm the car’s surface for a more effective application of wax.
Clean the Interior – Properly & Thoroughly
There is nothing harder on the interior of a car than snow, slush, and mud. Every person that gets in and out has it on their shoes. Your floor mats are going to start looking pretty bad if you don’t keep them cleaned.
Each time you wash the outside of your car, take a few minutes to vacuum out the interior. Run a duster over the dash and use spot cleaner on the upholstery. If you have leather seats, make sure you get a good leather cleaner. Salt can destroy leather. If you have cloth floor mats – consider getting rubber ones (see below). Shampoo or soap down your floor mats and dry them thoroughly.
Monitor and Maintain Fluid Levels
Cold weather is hard on a car. It takes a while to warm up the engine and fluids tend to move around sluggishly until it gets going. To ensure the smooth function of your car during the cold weather, it’s crucial that you maintain its fluid levels.
The very first thing you need to do is to replace the windshield washing fluid from summer with a winter blend. You do NOT want your washer fluid freezing on your windshield as you are driving down the road.
You also need to check the coolant and oil levels of the vehicle to eliminate the possibilities of internal damage. Keep the gas tank at least halfway full to keep the gas lines from freezing. By maintaining the fluid levels, you can avoid any unnecessary car downtime in the snow.
Install Rubber Floor Mats
While this seems like a no-brainer, it’s amazing how many people don’t have winter floor mats. There are all sorts of rubberized mats available, in all price ranges. Some companies sell mats specifically designed to fit certain models of car, or you can buy universal mats.
If you don’t have mats, at least put down a thick towel or, in a pinch, a trash bag. Use anything you can find to keep that salt and water off your floors. It’s not just the look of the floor mats that you need to worry about. Your car’s floorboards can rust through from the top just as easily as they can from the bottom. Keep them dry!
Don’t Park Outside – or at Least Use a Car Cover
All cars deserve a heated garage, but sadly, most car owners have other things to worry about, like mortgages and hungry kids. If you can pamper your vehicle by keeping it in a heated garage – do it!
If you have an unheated garage and can clear out the bikes, mowers, and trash bins to make room for your car – do it!
However, if you don’t have a garage (or you just can’t clean out enough junk to make it usable) the least you can do is cover your car. Find parking in a clean, snow-free place. Purchase a car cover for the whole car if possible. You can buy custom car covers and universal ones from any number of suppliers. At the very least – get a windshield cover. You won’t be able to protect your paint – but you can at least save yourself the rigors of scraping.
Next to your home, your car is more than likely the second largest financial investment you’ve made. With just a little bit of care and prevention, you can keep your vehicle in tip-top shape and retain some of its value. Don’t let winter grime destroy your vehicle with delamination, cracking, or rust. Follow our “Winter Car Care Checklist” and keep your ride looking good.
Additional Tips for Winter Car Care
▪ Keep an ice scraper and snow shovel in your car year around, so you don’t forget.
▪ Apply tire coating or cleaner in order to ensure smooth functioning of your vehicle.
▪ Clean the windshield properly during the winter by using anti-frost washer fluid.
▪ If you have to park your car outdoors, cover it properly with a quality cover.
▪ Replace wiper blades every year to make sure you have optimal visibility.
▪ Use a mild shampoo when washing your car and dry it thoroughly.
▪ Tire cleaners can help remove salt from the sidewalls and treads.