Cars get quite messy during the snowy periods of winter. This is the time where all it takes for the car to get dirty is a 30 seconds ride. That’s why most people don’t bother with a car wash until the snow is gone. But you may have heard that road salt can be dangerous. If you are living in an area where it snows regularly, you must be wondering: How often should you wash your car in the winter? That’s what we will be answering here.
When it’s snowing and there is salt on the roads, you should wash your car once every week or two. During this period, pick a day with no freezing temperatures, and give your car a nice wash to get rid of the salt.
That’s as straightforward as I can put it. Honestly, this is all very situational. That’s why this calls for a thorough guide.
What Is The Road Condition In Your Area
The winter is not the same everywhere. Some places have a mild winter, some have a strong one. In my area, we get snow once a year. It lasts only a week. So, I wait out that week out then wash my car. But you may not be in that situation. I know that some places have two to three weeks of continuous snow. That means that the road will definitely be covered in salt.
So, what is your situation? If you are like me, you don’t really need to be bothered. If the snow does not last more than 2 weeks, just wait it out. Some years, it snows only a bit so there’s no need for salt. In these cases, washing the car is no hurry. If you live in a place where the winter gets really bad, practice washing your car at least once per week or two, depending on how regularly you drive.
Is Road Salt Bad For Cars
As you can see, road salt and winter grime is the main problem here. If it’s not snowing, the winter will not be that bad for cars. Sure, some cars will have starting problems but the roads should be clean, so driving should not be a problem.
However, when it snows, most local governments pour salt over the roads to prevent sliding accidents. Although this makes the roads safer, the salt can be dangerous for the car.
Salt speeds up rusting. It causes a chemical reaction that increases oxidation. So, when the salt sticks to your car, your paint job is exposed to corrosion. But you may think that just the exterior is exposed, the brakes and the fuel lines can be exposed too. They are close to the undercarriage where most of the winter grime sticks.
Don’t be too worried tho. You don’t have to wash your car every day. The thing is, while the winter weather is freezing cold, the salt is not that dangerous. The salt will be frozen, still attached to the snow and winter grime. Bad things start happening when the ice starts to melt. So, that’s why you should be good for a week or so.
How To Remove Road Salt From Car
Since road salt is that dangerous, you want to remove it as soon as possible right? This begs the question: How to remove road salt from cars?
First of all, removing the salt while there is still salt present on the roads, and you are planning on driving is a bad idea. Wait out the snowing period, or if it does not end soon enough, remove the salt once a week. Don’t worry while waiting, just don’t let the salt melt.
Road salt sticks to the undercarriage, wheel wells, and to tires. These are the parts that are most susceptible to rusting from road salt. So, while washing the car, pay special attention to these parts. Of course, clean the entire car.
To remove the salt from the wheel wells or the tires, you can simply use a garden hose. Some people recommend a power washer but be careful with it. If the salt is too close to the wells, just use a water hose. Start slow, chunks of salt, you can probably take out by hand.
Now, the undercarriage is more complicated. The thing is, by blowing water under your car, you can damage some crucial parts. It all depends on the engine you have, you must be sure that it’s safe to spray water there.
The undercarriage should be cleaned 4 times a year, so I highly recommend taking the car for a professional undercarriage wash.
If you are sure that you can wash your undercarriage, by all means, do it. If you don’t know anything about cleaning an undercarriage, and you don’t know whether you can spray water under your car, play it safe. Go to a professional.
To remove salt inside your car, on the mats, and on the carpet, make a water and vinegar solution. Put in the spray bottle.
Spray the mats and the carpets, gently. The mats you can rinse outside with a garden house. For the carpets, spray gently, wipe the carpet with a soft cloth. Then, just dip with a dry cloth to absorb the moisture. I recommend trying all-weather mats.
Can You Wash Your Car When It’s Below Freezing
Let’s put the road salt aside for a second. Some of you may be worried about washing the car when the weather has reached freezing temperatures. Do you wash the car when it’s below 32 F or 0 C?
Washing a car when it’s below freezing is a bad idea, you should not do it. The problem is, you have to allow for some drying time. And, freezing temperatures just don’t allow that. Before the water dries it will freeze.
Even if you try wiping with dry pads after washing, the car doors may freeze. Not to mention, the water that entered your hood, or the water under your car.
So, what to do? My advice is, follow the weather. Provided that there is no snow, you can pick a day when the cold temperatures are not below zero during the daylight hours.
Take your car to a professional car wash, or wash your car with soapy water. If there is snow, wait for a week to pass since the salt trucks have done their job. Otherwise, it’s just a waste of time. Your car will get dirty, and you will need to wash it again in a week to get rid of the salt.
I get it, this is a lot of information. I told you though, this is all very situational. That’s why I would like to sum things up. So, how often to wash your car in winter?
If there is no snow during the winter season, wash your car like you regularly do. Just avoid washing your car when the temperatures are below freezing. When there is snow and a lot of salt buildup, wash your car once every week or two. If you don’t drive your car frequently, I recommend using a car cover during winter.
I recommend washing it once a week if you ride regularly and during the day the snow starts to melt. Once every two weeks is acceptable if the temperatures are freezing throughout the whole day. Honestly, you should be fine as long as you get rid of the salt. I haven’t seen anyone with a rusted car because of the salt yet. It’s only dangerous if you don’t wash the car at all. Washing it more than once a week is just a waste of time and money.
What you need to take special care of are the undercarriage and the wheels. So make sure to pay special attention to these while you are washing your car. It’s best to use a handheld pressure washer for these.
Wash the rest of the car like you usually do with wash soap and warm water. If you don’t have one, it’s okay, just get rid of the salt on and around the undercarriage. Same for the wheels.
If you are going with a professional car wash, specify that you want an undercarriage wash. If you are going in an automatic car wash, ask if the machine washes the undercarriage.
If you are really worried about the paint job, you can add a layer of protection. This will make sure there is no rust on the exterior. For protection, a coat of wax and undercoat will do the trick.
Parking During The Winter
One last thing to worry about. Now, I know that most of you prefer a garage during the winter months. This is fine because it protects the exterior surfaces from corrosion.
But if your car has salt and road grime this is not as good. The reason being, it’s better if those chunks of road grime stay frozen. Once they return to their natural state, the troubles begin.
So, if you haven’t washed your car, it’s best to park it outside. You don’t want that salt to unfreeze. As soon as you wash your car, you can take it back into the garage.
Related Questions And Other FAQs
Does Washing Your Car In Winter Prevent Rust
Yes, winter car washing is the best preventative measure you can take against rust. The cold temperatures and the road salt will expose your car to corrosion. The paint, the fuel lines, and the brakes are the first to suffer. Regularly washing your car during the winter months will prevent rust.
What Temperature Is Too Cold To Wash Car
Obviously, below-freezing temperatures are too cold to wash a car. But that may be also true for cold temperatures above 32 F or 0 C. Don’t wash a car in temperatures below 40 F or 4 C.
How Can I Wash My Car In Winter Without Freezing It
You can’t really stop the water from freezing if it’s freezing cold. However, soft-touch washes are recommended. You don’t want water getting in the windows, doors, etc. So, it’s best to use damp cloths and pads to wash the exterior. This way you control where the water goes. You can’t really wash the undercarriage and the wheels this way though.