It’s that time of year again – as summer becomes a distant memory, get ready for wet and stormy conditions, frosty mornings and cooler temperatures. As well as swapping our summer t-shirts for snuggly jumpers, winter means taking care of your car in a different way, too. Freezing conditions, snow and rock salt on the roads bring their own challenges; salt melts into slush and gets splattered onto your vehicle’s paintwork and, if that mixture refreezes, there’s added potential for damage and corrosion.
The key stages of pre-wash, wash, rinse and dry stay the same, but here are our top tips for washing your car in winter.
Start with the wheels
Wheels take a lot of punishment in the winter weather. Once you’re sure they and the brake calipers have cooled, it’s a good idea to use a specialist wheel cleaner onto the surface and wait for a few minutes while it gets to work. If you need to, use a soft bristle brush to dislodge stubborn dirt, and then clean carefully using a sponge or wash mitt. Remember to empty the bucket and clean it thoroughly before refilling with fresh water for the next stage so that you don’t transfer any contaminants; in fact, it’s a good idea to use a separate one altogether.
This is also a good time to check for any scratches or blemishes; left unchecked and open to the elements, rust and corrosion can set it. Our high-tech microfilm patches are the ideal DIY scratch repair solution, taking moments to apply with no mess or fuss.
Your vehicle’s wheel arches tend to get the worst of the dirt and salt on the road. They’re also more difficult to access and are often overlooked when it comes to car-washing. Make sure you pay special attention to the wheel arches; in fact, if you can, use a trolley jack every few weeks. Lift each corner of the car in turn to make it easier to clean wheel arches thoroughly.
By removing as much dirt and grit as you can before you start washing, you’ll reduce the risk of loose particles getting caught up in your washcloth and scratching your paintwork. You can buy pre-cleaners which are easy to use – just spray on and leave for a few moments (don’t allow them to freeze) before rinsing off. Alternatively, using water alone via a hose or pressure washer is better than nothing.
Use the two-bucket method
When you’re washing your car, have one bucket filled with water and car shampoo and a second with just plain water. Use a microfiber wash mitt or cloth; you want to keep particles away from your vehicle’s surface once removed to minimize the risk of scratches to the paintwork.
Clean a section at a time, first using the wash bucket and then rinsing immediately with clean water. If it’s cold, use warm – not hot – water. This will also boost the cleaning properties of some car products.
Clay bar – optional
If you want to be especially thorough – or if your car is really dirty – you might want to consider using a clay bar. These are specially formulated to lift particles away from your bodywork safely and can be used either on the whole vehicle or specific areas. Rub the clay bar back and forth using light pressure; you’ll notice a red-brown residue forming. The bars are malleable so, every so often, fold it over to trap particles, squash it flat, and carry on using. Run your fingers over the surface after every few passes; if it feels smooth, all contaminants have been removed. Rinse your car thoroughly before you finish.
You might already favor a particular type of drying cloth but, if not, microfiber towels are hard to beat. They’re graded according to grams per square meter – the higher the GSM, the plusher the towel. Microfiber cloths are incredibly absorbent and help ensure a smear-free finish.
Alternatively, if car care is a priority, you might want to invest in a touchless car dryer. These machines use heated, filtered air, preventing water marks and accidental scratches. More importantly, they chase water out from hard-to-reach places such as behind badges and trim or inside recesses.
Windows and wipers
Give windows and windscreen wipers some extra TLC in the winter. Clean rubber blades regularly to remove dirt and grease, and keep your screen wash reservoir topped up with an anti-freeze solution. It’s also a good idea to apply a hydrophobic glass sealant to your car windows; it will help prevent snow and ice from sticking to the glass and any droplets will bead and disperse, improving visibility.
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