Should You Wash Your Car in Winter?

Should You Wash Your Car in Winter?

As temperatures linger around the freezing point, motorists are understandably hesitant to was their cars in winter. The doors may freeze shut. The locks may freeze. Many motorists don’t wash cars when the temperature may drop below freezing and cause these problems. Should you wash your car in winter?

While washing a car when it’s cold outside is not a pleasant experience, it’s very important to keep the exterior of the car clean in winter. Motorists can avoid many problems, including mechanical problems with the car, by washing their cars (or best still get their cars professionally cleant) in winter every fortnight.


The salt used on roads in winter can be very corrosive to the car’s paint and metal surfaces. Slushy roads allow dirt to build up quickly on the lower portion of the car. Leaving the salt and winter grime on the car can lead to permanently damaging the metal surfaces, finish, and paint.

Damage from winter grime and salt isn’t limited to cosmetic issues with the car’s exterior surfaces. Salt can corrode the metals of the car’s undercarriage which can cause rust. This can lead to mechanical problems from components being compromised by rust.(1)

Entering the car with snow and salt on your boots can cause more than damp carpeting. The water and salts can eventually leak into the car’s undercarriage and be another cause of rust there. (1) White streaks on your car’s carpeting or mats are signs of salt.


Motorists can help reduce the damaging effects of winter grime by applying a good quality protective wax before winter. (1) To prevent salt on the carpeting from seeping into the car’s undercarriage, replace the carpeted car mats with rubber mats. Also, be sure to try to clear any excess snow from your shoes before entering the car.

People who need to spend a significant time outdoors before entering the car or have to continually get out and get back in the car such as delivery drivers should consider covering the seats with waterproof covers for winter. (1) The water on the person’s coat can easily lead to stains and odors on the car’s upholstery.

Prepare the windscreen and windows by cleaning and then applying an anti-fogging coating. This can help reduce the condensation on the glass and prevent the windscreen from fogging up. Fogged up windows can interfere with the driver’s vision and be hazardous. While you are preparing the car for winter, you may want to replace the window washer fluid with de-icing fluid.(2)


Try to take advantage of a day with warmer temperatures to wash a car. It would be very difficult to get the car thoroughly clean and ready to go if the temperature is below freezing. If the temperatures are remaining below zero and the dirt and grime is becoming a real concern, drive the car around the block and turn the heater on high for several minutes before washing to help keep the water from freezing during the car wash. (2)

Fill two large buckets with water, adding car wash soap or baby shampoo to only one of the buckets. The water without soap is for rinsing. Be sure to dress with warm clothing. You may want to consider getting waterproof gloves to wear while washing the car. (3)

Start washing with soapy water from the top of the car. Wash and rinse a section, then move on to the next. Repeat the process, cleaning and rinsing each section twice.(3) Make sure to thoroughly clean the grill, behind the wheels, and quarter panels which are the areas where road salt tends to accumulate the most.(2) The car sills beneath the car doors are prone to rusting and should be cleaned often in winter to prevent salt and grime from building up.(1)

Some motorists opt to use a public car wash instead of washing by hand. You may want to use an automatic car wash or a public car wash with pressurized sprayers. If you use pressurized washers to clean the winter grime and salt from your car, start with spraying the lower parts of the car with the most dirt.(3) If the temperature is below freezing, soap does not need to be used. (3) Even without soap, the pressurized washers will get the winter grime off the car.

After the bottom section of the car is clean, spray the entire car down from the top.(3) After the car is completely clean, open all the doors including the small cover to the fuel tank and wipe dry to prevent the doors from freezing.(3)

Whether you use the sponge and bucket method or pressurized washer sprays in below freezing temperatures, be careful of any ice forming on the ground. It’s easy to forget that the water may be freezing and cause a safety hazard while trying to wash the car.

Motorists who do not want to wash their cars in winter themselves should consider hiring a professional valet service to thoroughly clean the car once or twice a month.(4) While it’s understandable that people do not want to spend time washing a car in cold weather, the winter car wash should not be neglected.


1 “Should I Wash My Car In Winter?”. Simoniz. N. p., 2016. Web. 22 Dec. 2016.

2 “Why Washing Your Car In Winter Is Important | Yourmechanic Advice”. N. p., 2016. Web. 22 Dec. 2016.

3 “How To Wash Your Car In The Wintertime”. wikiHow. N. p., 2016. Web. 22 Dec. 2016.

4 Belfield, Lauren. “Car Cleaning: Remove The Effects Of Winter”. The Car Expert. N. p., 2013. Web. 22 Dec. 2016.