How Often Should You Wash Your Car in Winter?

Between the snow, slush, sand and salt, keeping your car clean is a constant battle. If you want to stay on top of rust, however, here's what the pros recommend.

Keeping your car clean during the winter may seem like an impossible task. As soon as you wash it, it’s dirty again. That doesn’t mean it’s a waste of time, however, as the salt that’s used to melt snow and ice on roads can eventually cause havoc on your vehicle’s finish. Left unwashed for too long, that salt on your exterior opens the door to oxidation, which can lead to rust. So, how long is “too long”? Experts say how often you wash your car in winter depends on a number of factors.

How Often You Wash Your Car in Winter Depends on Where You Live

If you live in a region where roads are salted during the winter (basically, all of Canada), you should wash your car regularly—about every week or two—according to Morrie’s, a car dealership in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota. (Here’s a handy checklist to help get your car ready for winter.)

“If the roads look white (because they’re covered with salt), every week would probably be a smart choice. It’s all dependent on conditions, but about every 10 to 14 days is a good rule of thumb,” the dealership notes on its website. Remember that removing salt from the undercarriage is just as important as taking care of the crusty white film that’s visible on the painted surfaces. (Don’t miss these tips on how to get rid of salt stains in your car.)

What Kind of Car Wash is Best?

It’s not just how often you wash your car in winter that counts; the way you wash it also comes into play. Using a handheld pressure wand, start at the top of the vehicle and work your way down. Pay special attention to the car’s wheel wells and underside, as salt and grime tend to collect in the corners of the undercarriage. Rinse and dry as thoroughly as possible. If you opt for a drive-through car wash, be sure it includes an undercarriage wash (you may have to pay extra). Consider treating any potential problem areas with an inexpensive corrosion-inhibitor spray.

Where Do You Park?

You may think that parking your car in a garage helps to keep your vehicle clean and protected from winter’s worst, but that’s not necessarily the case. When the frozen slush melts, the moisture will react with the salt and may actually speed up corrosion.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line in keeping your car clean throughout the winter: Be sure to wash it regularly, taking special care to clean the undercarriage. If possible, ensure the vehicle has enough time to dry before the temperature drops below freezing (and potentially freezes your doors shut!). In addition, to help keep the interior clean, use rubber floor mats to avoid getting all that salty slush on the carpet.

Next, check out the best rust proofing options on the market.

The Family Handyman
Originally Published on The Family Handyman