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How to Safely Wash Your Car in Winter

Temperatures are dropping but spirits are high. Don’t let the last thing on your New Year’s resolution list be washing the car. If left untouched, road salt, snow, and mud can do serious damage to your car’s appearance and resale value. Moisture and road salt mix together to speed up corrosion! Keep your car in fighting shape and help protect its resale value. Learn how to safely wash away winter grime in cold temperatures.


8 Steps to Wash Your Car in Cold Weather

Step 1: Watch the forecast.

Avoid washing your car when the temperature is below freezing. If you wash your car at home, the water will immediately freeze in your driveway and create a dangerous slip ‘n slide. Your doors, locks, and windows will freeze shut. If you drive through a car wash, the water will quickly freeze on your car and you’ll be driving around in an icicle on wheels.

Wait for the temperature to rise above 32 degrees F, preferably to the high 30s or 40s. This will help prevent pieces and parts of your car from freezing when wet, and save you from slipping and sliding away.

Step 2: Assemble your materials.

Let’s say it’s 40 degrees outside. Snow worries! If you’re headed to a touchfree car wash, all you’ll need is a microfiber towel or two to dry your car before getting back on the road. If you plan on washing your car at home, read on.

According to Meinke, you’ll need the following items to properly wash your car:

  • Multiple buckets filled with warm water; one for plain water and one for soapy water
  • Car wash soap (NOT dishwashing soap)
  • Sponge or washing mitt made of sheepskin or microfiber
  • Wheel cleaner
  • Microfiber drying towel
  • Bug and tar remover
  • Wax, either spray or rub-on (optional)
  • Polish (optional)

Read the instructions on the bug and tar remover, wax, and polish. These solutions may not work properly at certain temperatures.

Step 3: Wash the wheels first.

Your wheels will require the most scrubbing. Wash behind the mud flaps and clean between the spokes. Refill your buckets with fresh soap and water after you wash the wheels.

Step 4: Wet the entire car.

Rinse off the entire car to remove surface debris. This is a great time to use your garden hose if it’s warm enough to do so. You can spray the hose into the wheel wells and underneath the vehicle to loosen grime.

Step 5: Soap the car one side at a time.

Turn to your bucket of soapy water and get out the washing mitt! Work on one side of the car at a time. Rinse off the mitt in the clean water bucket every now and then to avoid accumulating dirt. Move the mitt in straight lines, not in a circular motion. Circular movement can creates swirl marks in your car’s paint job.

Rinse off the side you’re working on before soaping up another side. Once all four sides have been soaped up, scrubbed, and rinsed, it’s time to dry!

Step 6: Dry the car.

Properly drying your car can help prevent frost and water spots from forming. Move your microfiber drying towel in straight lines, not circular motions, to dry the car. Remember, circular movement can leave swirl marks on your car! Angie’s List even recommends leaving the doors open so that any trapped water can dry out and moisture won’t pool.

Step 7: Clean the interior.

Stepping in and out of your car is one of the most common ways to track in salt, dirt, and grime. Pull out your rubber mats and hose them off. At a minimum, wipe down rubber mats with a rag. Vacuum cloth floor mats, as well as your seats, upholstery, dash, and trunk. If your cloth mats are moist, let them dry before putting them back in the car. Doing so can help prevent mold growth.

Step 8: Keep it smelling fresh!

Want your car to smell as good as it looks? Once the interior of your car is clean, keep it smelling great with laundry scent boosters or your own fabric refresher spray. Sprinkling baking soda on upholstery and vacuuming it up can help get rid of tough pet, baby, or smoke odors.

Washing your car in winter is important, as it can help protect your car’s resale value by preventing rust and body damage. However, it’s not more important than your safety. Curl up with a cup of hot cocoa and wait for the temperature to rise if it’s simply too cold to wash your car. And if you find yourself daydreaming more about a new car than achieving your New Year’s resolutions, check out myAutoloan. Shine your ride and get it sold, then compare new car loan offers online at your convenience.

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