The winter months are tough on cars for a number of reasons. In colder climates, the salt poured on roads takes a real toll on your exterior, suspension, interior and even frame. Keeping your car clean in the winter might sound like a lot of work — and maybe even futile — but it’s an important part of extending the life of your vehicle.
Salt is particularly corrosive, easily eating its way past rubber seals and enabling rust on exposed metal (not to mention wear and tear on the paint that protects it). It’s definitely important that cars aren’t slipping and sliding all over the road, though, so even when it pains you, remember the salt is there for a reason … and it’s not going anywhere for a while. The best thing to do is know how to protect your vehicle, and make sure you follow through with regular washing.
Winter isn’t great for your interior, either. All that slush and grime becomes a headache quickly. Replace or protect carpet with rubber mats in your interior for easy cleaning and draining. Mats can be custom fit to your vehicle or more generic.
Windows and Windshield
Replace your wipers when they start to go, especially if they’ve been run repeatedly over rough ice. (You know who you are.) Use wiper fluid with a deicing component and a scraper to break down the ice before turning the wipers on. Also remember to keep your fluid topped off.
Undercarriage and Suspension
This is the hardest part of your vehicle to access and unfortunately also one of the hardest to protect from slushy, salty, post-storm conditions. Salt and ice work their way through rubber bushings and encourage rust on metal. The best thing you can do is to make sure that regular washes include a good cleaning of the undercarriage, and tackle rust soon after it starts to form.
You have a few options here. You can wash it after each storm, always splurging for wax, as it lends an extra layer of protection and makes the next wash easier. Using a pressure washer will also make your winter washes far less work. In addition, you can invest in a paint coating or sealant, which will protect paint longer and better. Don’t forget your wheels and tires, because they’re also susceptible to salty conditions. And importantly: Be sure to dry your car after you wash it, or you might find your doors frozen shut. No, really.
Covers are helpful when your car is parked, but the majority of salty grime is picked up when you’re out and about. At some point, you just have to face the facts and deal with it. Keeping a clean car in the wintertime slows down inevitable aging and leaves you with less to address come spring. It’s worth the effort.
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Photo courtesy of Blair Lampe.
Blair Lampe is a New York-based professional mechanic, blogger, theater technician, and speechwriter. In her downtime she enjoys backpacking wherever her boots will carry her, rock climbing, experimental theatre, a crisp rosé , and showering love on her 2001 Sierra truck.