Keeping a Clean Car in Winter

November 18th, 2014 by

A closeup shows someone using a green snow brush to clean off a red car at a Chevy dealer in Ohio.

As the weather gets colder and wetter, it is inevitable that cars get messy. From interiors gathering mud, grass, or snow to exteriors left exposed to the elements, vehicles always need a little extra attention when the weather gets cold. This is more than an aesthetic choice – keeping a vehicle in good working order becomes a much easier job when the car is clean. If you have a Chevrolet in Ohio, here are some quick tips from the team at McCluskey Chevrolet to get you and your car ready for the winter.

Grime in winter seems to multiply as the temperatures drop. Everything is gray and wet; salted roads make it safer to drive, but that salt has to go somewhere and can get embedded in tires or built up under the vehicle. The interior sees mess from shoes, moisture from wet jackets, and plenty more. All this means that winter is a prime season to pay more attention to how a car looks, but how do you do that?

Winterizing: Prepare Ahead of Time

The process of winterizing a vehicle should be the first step an owner takes. This is preventative care, essentially getting the car ready for harsh weather ahead of time. Most winterizing involves adding protective coatings or sealants to various parts of the exterior to keep those parts in good working order. Winterizing can include simple steps like adding antifreeze to the windshield wiper fluid or more time-consuming tasks, such as applying a layer of protective coating over the car’s exterior paint. This all needs to be done in addition to standard maintenance, like a basic car wash before any extras are added.

Paint coatings work better than standard sealants because they tend to last longer, some as long as two years. This will lessen the number of applications needed over the life of the vehicle. These paint coatings tend to prevent moisture from accumulating on the vehicle and provide a resistance against dirt, grime, or road salt wherever they have been applied. Most paint coatings require more than a simple application and are made to be used by trained detailers. Paint sealants require fewer steps for application, freeing them up for the standard car owner to DIY.

A protective sealant can also be added to the wheels, protecting them against a build-up of road salt, grime, and the like. These sealants also provide protection from brake dust adhesion, a year-round problem for all vehicles. When applying any sealant to the wheels, make sure to avoid coating the tires as well – if anything gets between the rubber and the road, it could cause you to lose control of your vehicle.

Perhaps the easiest step in standard winterizing is getting the right window wiper fluid ready. Checking the wipers themselves, as with the tires, is the first step. Check for breaks or tears in the rubber of the blades and any spots where the rubber may not be making full contact with the glass. If your wiper blades look good, then add a glass cleaner that contains antifreeze. This will keep your front windshield from icing up if you try to clean it in below-freezing weather.

The final step in winterizing is considering storage. If you park in a garage, you may want to consider buying a mat to park on, which will limit the spread of dirt and grime as you get in and out of the vehicle. If your car is parked outside, exposed to the elements, getting a cover to limit that exposure is a good investment. You will also want to make sure that you have all the tools you need to get your car ready in the morning, including a shovel, brush, and ice scraper.

A closeup shows a tire and car driving on a snowy road in Ohio.

Exterior: Tires and Caring for the Body

As the temperature falls, so does the air pressure in your tires. This is entirely normal, but it’s important to make sure your tires are still inflated properly after winter weather hits. Practicing safe driving can also keep your car safe in harsh weather conditions. Practice defensive driving and avoid large areas of standing water, mud, or potholes if possible. If these can not be avoided, make a point of examining your car once a week for any built-up grime, road salt, or signs of damage.

The best way to avoid said build-up is by washing your vehicle regularly. In extreme cold, this can be more of a challenge, but it is not impossible. The first thing you will need to do is remove any build-up with your hands or a brush. Use warm water and do not wash the car if the temperature is below freezing. If temperatures are lower, drive the car around the block a few times first to warm it up. Pay special attention to the undercarriage and any other hard to reach areas.

One of the primary concerns with the exterior of a vehicle in winter is the possibility of rust forming. Regular examination of any points where two pieces of metal meet is the first step in rust prevention. The protective coatings mentioned above are also important as rust can appear any time moisture is allowed to accumulate on a vehicle’s paint. The wheel wells are one of the first points rust can form and may need special attention. If you dry your vehicle after washing and inspect it carefully after driving through harsh conditions, rust should not be a worry.

Interior: Rubber Mats and More

Caring for the interior may not be as labor-intensive as the exterior, but there are still some easy preventative measures you can take. Replacing any cloth floorboard mats with rubber is a great first step at catching any mud that may be tracked into a vehicle. Keeping an extra pair of shoes in the car or covering the mats with plastic or newspaper can be an alternative if rubber mats aren’t an option. If cloth mats do get wet or muddy, wash them and hang them to dry as soon as possible. Leaving them wet in the vehicle can cause a bad smell, fabric breakdown, and encourage mold.

Seat protector covers, likewise, can protect your seats from moisture on the outside of jackets or other clothes. A general rule of thumb is to wash any and all stains or spills as early as possible before they can accumulate or set in. Beyond the upholstery in your car, you must also consider the dashboard, panels, and plastic trim. These can get covered not only in mud and dirt but also get exposed to cold germs and the like from anyone in the car. Antibacterial wipes are an obvious first defense against the occasional unexpected sneeze.

Additionally, there are a variety of cleaning products made specifically for dashboards inside cars. Most of these can be easily applied and wiped away with a dry cloth. Glass wipes, likewise, will keep visibility up and make it easy to wipe down the windshield. Remember to clean the interior and exterior for the best results. Winter doesn’t have to be a season of dread and, in fact, can be a time for some of the best tender loving care your vehicle will get.