photo: MagMos/iStock

Washing Your Car in Winter

By AMA Staff

Washing your car in winter is just as important as doing so in during the warmer months—perhaps even more so, given the amount of grit, grime and slush that can accumulate on your vehicle, potentially damaging your vehicle over time. But washing in winter does present the risk of water freezing on parts of vehicle that need to be able to move smoothly. Bundle up, grab a hose and follow these tips to ensure both a clean car, and one that’s ice-free.

DON’T WASH WHEN THE WEATHER’S REALLY FRIGHTFUL
This may go without saying, since most of us aren’t disposed to do much of anything when the temperature is truly frigid, but you should avoid washing your vehicle when the mercury drops below -23 Celsius. The reason is simple: Any water put on the car will freeze too quickly for you to dry off, meaning hinges, weather stripping and various other parts could become stuck—and damaged if you try to use them while they’re frozen.

In any case, you’ll find that most car washes, be they self-service or automated, don’t open when it’s this cold outside. Interestingly, it’s also the temperature at which some Alberta elementary schools decide to keep kids inside for recess.

But if the weather’s warm* enough…

WASH THE EXTERIOR FIRST
This ensures that you leave enough time for certain parts of your vehicle to dry (and avoid freezing) before exiting the car wash.

RELATED CONTENT
Learn how winter weather can affect your car’s high-tech features

PAY ATTENTION TO THE WHEELS
Check for snow and slush buildup inside your vehicle’s wheel wells and rims, and rinse it out using the car wash’s wand tool. This may take some time if it’s especially cold out, but make sure you get it all. You don’t want slush accumulating near the rims. If it freezes, it could damage your tires’ rubber—or in extreme cases, the frame of your car.

DRY THE NOOKS AND CRANNIES
After you’ve washed the car, it’s important to dry off any areas where water can easily freeze. So, open all doors and dry off the doorframes and their surrounding weather stripping. Leave the doors open—to allow them to further air dry—until you’re ready to leave the car wash.

The same goes for the fuel door. Open it, dry it and leave it open. Open the hood, too, and allow it to drip dry.

VACUUM THE INTERIOR
Spending a bit of time vacuuming inside your vehicle not only helps clean up all that road salt you’ve tracked in on your boots, it also allows a bit of extra time for everything else to dry off.

RELATED CONTENT
Maintenance checklist: Preparing your vehicle for winter

HELP THE HINGES AND LOCKS
Spray lubricant on your door hinges, locks and keyholes, as well as the hood latch, in order to help keep them properly lubricated and free of moisture buildup.

IF YOU GO AUTOMATIC…
Most automated, drive-thru car washes use a strong blower to dry your vehicle. But make sure you drive out slowly, otherwise water may remain and freeze shut your windows, doors, hood or trunk, causing you grief if you need to open them. 

*Warm, of course, is a relative term during an Alberta winter. 

HOW TO SAVE
Carry your card: A prepaid reloadable Esso Card isn’t just good for gas. You can use it to purchase car washes too! Pick up a card at any AMA centre to earn 2% back in reward dollars on the purchase amount. Plus, earn 2% every time you reload the card in-centre or online.

Detailing deals: No matter where you drive, you can get your vehicle cleaned at a discount. Members save 10% on select detailing services at Ming Shine (Edmonton), Rocket’s Detail Deluxe (Red Deer), Titan Auto Spa (Lethbridge) and Mike’s Lube & Clean (Grande Prairie), and save $10 on select detailing packages at Infinity Auto Spa (Edmonton).