You probably won’t want to hear it, but those frigid, snow-filled winter months are when it’s most important to wash your car. Often overlooked or considered an act of vanity, cleaning a vehicle’s exterior is more than just a matter of appearance. It’s a matter of protection, proper maintenance and even safety. Keeping a regular winter car wash schedule will help keep your car on the road longer — and it will look better, too.
When you think of washing your car, you think of protecting your paint job, right? While this is a legitimate concern, keeping your exterior clean in the winter months goes deeper than that.
Think, for instance, of what your paint is protecting. Paint and lacquer help keep the metal body beneath from rusting. In the winter, it’s not the snow that will initiate the rusting process but rather the road salt. Left unwashed, salt eats through the paint, allowing the body of your car to oxidize and rust. Once the metal layer is exposed, snow and water are also free to wreak havoc. To guard against corrosion, make sure your wash process includes a thorough wax to protect the paint.
The unpainted undercarriage of a vehicle is particularly vulnerable to the onslaught of winter road salt, slush and mud. Here, the salt, moisture and resulting rust will begin to destabilize and weaken vital suspension components. Once corroded, loose bolts can cause major damage if their affiliated components wobble or rub against each other for miles on end. Your wheels and rims are also susceptible, as are any exposed metal components, such as brake calipers.
Your winter car wash routine should include a thorough cleaning of the undercarriage on a regular basis. When you’re done, give your car ample time to dry before heading back out into the elements.
Metal surfaces aren’t the only part of your vehicle that suffers during the winter. Rubber can harden and, in the case of windshield wipers, cause damage by scraping the windshield. Take the time during your winter washes to add windshield cleaner with deicer to your vehicle. This will keep frost and ice at bay, preserving your wipers and glass.
Tires are also subject to wintertime damage, as rubber can become more brittle when it’s cold. Protect your wheels with water-resistant gel to keep them supple in the snow.
Keeping your car clean in the winter months goes a long way toward protecting your investment. There are many products available to help winterize as you wash, and your vehicle will thank you for going the extra mile.
Check out all the chemical products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on performing a winter car wash, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo courtesy of Flickr
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.