Driving your car through the winter months in most areas of the United States means exposing it to all manner of snow, grime, dirt, road salt and other harmful chemicals. Since these chemicals mix with moisture and get kicked up and caked on, vehicles have a habit of getting dirty and staying that way.
These impurities are more than a bad look, as they could mask larger damage or even cause some. To counteract this, it’s best to make a few trips to the car wash throughout the season, but a big clean at winter’s end is important too. Here are a few tips on how to get the most out of your first vehicle spring clean.
1. Wash the Undercarriage
Arguably, the most important part of any post-winter wash is the undercarriage. That’s where most of the grime and salt accumulation is going to happen, and that’s where it’s going to cause the most damage to unpainted metal parts. Thoroughly pressure wash this area, and while you’re there, inspect for any signs that rust has started to take hold so you can deal with it.
2. Clean the Interior
You and your passengers have been tracking bits of whatever’s on the road inside the vehicle all season too. Now’s the time to tackle this, as salt has a way of digging deep into fibers, staining and stiffening them up. Bust out the vacuum and a brush to loosen up tough spots and get to work. Remember, especially as temperatures rise in the spring, moisture is a breeding ground for mold, which is difficult to get rid of once it takes root. Investing in interior all-weather mats can help make this job a lot easier in the future.
3. Check the Details
Set aside a little extra time and effort for a deep clean, and be ready to use a little elbow grease. Really get into the nooks and crannies with a good automotive detergent, making sure to get the oft-overlooked areas that even your favorite car wash might not hit. These include the cracks between the doors and the body, under the wipers and around the wheels. The point of this wash is to get the harmful stuff off any surface where it could accumulate cause issues, which is pretty much anywhere. Getting up close and personal with your vehicle can help with the next tip as well.
4. Inspect for Damage
While you clean, keep an eye out for any signs of issues that might have come up over the winter. Some common issues include a chipped windshield, wipers in need of replacement, irregular tire wear (indicating an alignment issue from a bad run-in with a pothole, perhaps) and any new areas of rust on the undercarriage or body in places where paint is scratched or faded.
5. Ensure Your Lights Are Working
All the road sludge can muck up your headlights over time, causing them to appear dimmer to other drivers. Luckily, they can easily be restored to their original glory with cleaning kits from the store or common household items. This also presents a chance to upgrade your bulbs to a brighter, more energy-efficient system.
As the cold weather melts away, it’s a fine time to get back outside, tackle a few projects and get on the road for new adventures. But first, make sure your ride is in the best shape possible for the season ahead by giving it a thorough clean.
Check out all the automotive cleaning products available on NAPA Online, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on car washing, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photos 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.