Should You Wash Your Car During the Winter?

A few nights ago I found myself sprinting (something I never, never do) to my front door after leaving my vehicle. Not only was it cold, it was brutal, punishing the nerves and skin surrounding my bones. It felt as if the chill, dry and piercing, was making a conscious attempt to attack me. The chill felt both targeted and judgemental. To think of going out into the Denver winter air was one thing, even for just a moment. To go out into the winter air to wash my car is a completely different story, though.

Avoiding washing your car during the winter months (especially in the Denver region) is entirely understandable. Who would want to stand in freezing temperatures with a bucket of water in hand? Wet and cold are usually two adjectives we attempt to avoid as human beings.

Should you wash your car during the winter? Should you worry about it or wait for warmer days?

Denver Is the Pits!

When the beauty of the mountains is covered by ominous clouds full of snow, it can be hard to remember exactly why you moved to Colorado. While gorgeous and full of adventure, Colorado can be the home to some absolutely brutal winters. Just a quick look at weather.gov will show you that snow is in the forecast.

And here’s the thing: I didn’t specify which day or date I was speaking of. If it’s after October and before April, there is snow in the forecast.

Snow and ice have a fair amount of pollutants that can be hazardous to your car’s exterior, but that’s not the main threat. The salt and sand that comes about after (or before) a snowstorm are awful for your car’s exterior. Not only can it cause your car to become dirty and splattered with unsightly grime, but it can eventually rust the metal on your car if not handled.

While your need for a winter car wash wouldn’t be critical in some states, Colorado is one of the worst for the problems involved.

How Often Should You Wash Your Car During Winter?

Overall, exterior experts will often state that you should wash your car once a month to help combat the dirt and grime eating at your paint and metal. At Sell My Car Colorado, we tend to agree.

As stated, Denver winters are ridiculously mean to your car’s exterior. Therefore, you should wash your car after every major snowstorm (especially if it is covered with grime). Meaning, if you truly want to increase the longevity of your paint and exterior, you will probably be washing your car more than once a month.

No, really. We’re sorry for the bad news. This is just another benefit of living in a snowy, mountainous state!

Can I Use a Touch-Free Car Wash?

If you are going to be washing your car more than once a month and want to avoid the winter chill, you may be rushing (or driving) to your nearest automatic car wash. But, does a touch-free car wash suffice in the winter?

Absolutely! Driving through an automatic car wash can be just as successful as a hands-on car wash, especially if the winter weather is causing your hands to go numb. This, of course, depends entirely on the car wash. Some car washes are more detailed and proficient than others. If you are unaware of the effectiveness of your local car wash, check out reviews on Google or Yelp. There are actually reviews about automatic car washes, yes.

There are two major downsides to this method, though. One, if you are going to be washing your car after every storm, automatic car washes can rack up a hefty bill at the end of the season.

Secondly, some car washes may entirely miss your car’s undercarriage, which is the part most affected by winter grime. If you still have salt and sand on the bottom of your vehicle after the car wash, you may need to scrub it yourself. This extra work defeats the entire purpose, right?

Tips On How to Was Your Car During the Winter:

We already broke the negative news; you will need to wash your car during the frigid winter months. But, how should you do it? How can you combat the cold while washing your car?

Here are a few tips:

Never Use Hot Water

You’d think this was a self-explanatory tip, but it’s not. Never let people let you down. Someone will always believe they’ve discovered the genius and unthought-of idea of pouring hot water onto their icy car. What could go wrong?

In short, hot water on cold glass causes the glass to expand rapidly. This quick expansion pushes against the structure of the pane, causing the glass to crack. So, if you want a quick way to break your windshield, pour some hot water on the ice.

Consequently, you may believe you can combat the cold by working with hot water. And while it might not directly affect your exterior (though it could), it will certainly crush your auto glass. Avoid it at all costs.

Instead, opt for warm water. It can be above room temperature, but shouldn’t be smoldering. If you are worried it might be too hot, continue to the tip below.

Warm Your Car Up First

Not only will warming up your car ensure the safety of your auto glass, but it makes getting frozen dirt off the car easier. When working in glacial temperatures, any extra help is necessary.

Let your car run for at least 15 minutes before beginning your washing process. Allow it to run and warm up while you are getting the rest of the washing equipment ready. This extra time will let the car’s exterior get to an above-freezing temperature, helping make the rest of the process run smoothly.

Bonus: your car will heat up to operating temperature quicker if you go for a drive.

Furthermore, you should also run your car after the wash, helping dry off the residual liquid on your vehicle. Don’t let it freeze again. This does not substitute for drying your car off with a rag, though. You should always dry your car with a safe cloth after washing, especially in the winter.

Stay Above Freezing

As Denverites, we are still not entirely sure how to predict the Colorado weather. Mornings are biting, afternoons are scorching, and evenings are unfathomably cold. Denver weather is more dramatic than your local high school’s Shakespeare performance.

If you are in the mood to wash your car in the winter (haha), then wait until the sun is beaming in the afternoon. You may be able to catch a time in which the warming sun keeps things tolerable. It will also help dry off your vehicle post-wash.

Never wash your car in sub-freezing temperatures. In fact, you should never wash your car below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. This will give your car enough time to fully dry before temperatures drop below freezing. You don’t want to turn your car into a solid cube of car wash ice.

Use a Heated Garage When Possible

Duh, right?

If you can find the space to wash your vehicle inside, you certainly should. This would make it easier on you, the car, and the surrounding area. You will not be spraying frigid water into the air, causing all surrounding vehicles and concrete to become iced over.

Of course, this all depends on your situation. If you have a garage with enough space for a quick wash, consider yourself lucky. Some of us are stuck to bearing our wet hands to the stinging winds.

If you can find a friend willing to let you use your garage, beg. It will save you a lot of bone ache going forward.

If you are a big car person and care exponentially about your car’s exterior and lifespan, look for a decent-sized garage during your next home venture. It could save you a ton of hassle in the future.