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How Often Should You Wash Your Car in Winter? – Car Caring Guide

Written by Howell Crist / Fact checked by Sam Howard

Wash & Dry

how often should you wash your car in winter

Proper car maintenance includes washing your vehicle on the regular. A thorough soaping and hosing once a month is typically enough to keep your ride clean.

But it’s a different story when sleet, snow, and chunks of ice are involved. Waiting three weeks before dealing with the detritus could cause irreparable damage to your car’s exterior.

So how often should you wash your car in winter?

Experts say it depends on a number of factors. But, generally speaking, every seven to fourteen days is ideal.

Winter Washing: Factors to Consider

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Freezing temperatures and harsh weather conditions make car care particularly difficult during the winter season. You can’t just step outside and hose your car down when you feel like it.

But there are several independent factors that will dictate how many times you should wash your vehicle. For instance:

1. Temperature

You risk damaging your car if you hit it with a jet of frozen (or near-frozen) water. Ergo, professionals advise against washing your vehicle when it’s too cold.

Generally speaking, the best time to wash car/s is when temperatures are higher than 40 degrees Fahrenheit (or 4-5°C). If the temperature dips below that number, it might be best to reschedule the wash.

If you absolutely must have your car cleaned, warm it up first by going for a quick drive. Make sure to keep the heater on during the entirety of the wash.

2. Location

A Michigan-based Reddit user claimed that they washed their vehicle every day during winter.

Another Reddit user from Syracuse, NY, stated that they averaged fifteen washes a month due to the amount of salt used for their roads.

Other comments on the Reddit thread ranged from once a week to once a month to once when winter starts, and then never again.

Basically, location is a pretty big factor to consider if you want to know when to wash car in winter.

  • If snowfall in your area is so mild that salting the road isn’t necessary, you can probably afford to wait roughly two to three weeks between washes.
  • However, if your town experiences heavy snows and below-freezing temperatures, definitely try to get your car washed every five to seven days.

3. Exposure

One of the biggest reasons why people need to regularly wash car in winter is the salt. As we mentioned earlier, salt can corrode a car’s metal parts. If left to fester, the vehicle’s structural integrity can eventually damage.

But as it turns out, your car’s risk for corrosion via road salt can also be determined by where you park it!

Cars that are parked outside are completely exposed to ice, sleet, and – of course – salt. However, suppose the outside temp is below freezing. In that case, there’s a likely chance that the salt will stay frozen, significantly slowing down its corrosive nature.

On the other hand, cars that are parked inside heated garages are protected from the outside elements. But the frozen salt slush that gets on them melts almost immediately in the higher, controlled temperatures. This frees the salt and, as you can guess, allows it to seep into the car’s metal parts at a normal pace.

  • Therefore, it’s recommended to wash the car more often, once a week or so, when it’s being exposed to salt and rain.

Why is Winter Car Care so Important?

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Regular car washing is important all year-’round, but it’s especially crucial during winter. Winter brings about a handful of external (and uncontrollable) elements that simply don’t happen in any other season, and these elements can greatly affect your vehicle.

1. Salt = Increased Risk of Rust

You might be familiar with the tried-and-tested practice of sprinkling salt (or a salt solution) on roads and pavements.

Road salt adheres easily to metal. If left alone, it encourages oxidation which, in turn, leads to rust. This corrodes metal car parts and may eventually eat through a car’s structural foundation.

Regularly washing your car in the winter minimizes the risk of salt buildup (and potential corrosion).

2. Ice = Additional Dirt and Residue

Melted ice makes it easier for dirt and debris to stick to your car. Slush and sludge are very common during winter and tend to leave a dirty, sopping mess when they melt.

Although icy, muddy water isn’t as hazardous to your car’s health as rust is, it’s still pretty unsightly.

If you leave it alone, you also risk ice building up around your car’s windshield, windows, and side mirrors. This buildup can limit your view and cause potential blind spots.

If you wash your vehicle thoroughly every ten to fourteen days (or even five to seven in areas that experience long winters), you can prevent this from happening.

3. Slush/Snow = Undercarriage Corrosion

This problem isn’t as common in places with light to regular snowfall, but it’s still worth noting.

Trudging through ankle-high snow drifts can produce a healthy amount of snow, slush, and similar residue clinging to your boots. This slush melts once in the car (especially if the heat is on). If left alone, it can soak through the carpeted flooring.

Water plus a vehicle’s undercarriage often equals corrosion.

This is why most professionals recommend switching to rubber floor mats during winter—to be on the safe side! It may not have to do with car washing, but extra precautions such as this can still be categorized as “winter car care.”

Conclusion

So, how often should you wash your car in winter? The most straightforward, general answer is seven to fourteen days.

But uncontrollable factors like region-specific temperatures and weather conditions can affect this answer. Waiting too long between washes can damage your car in the long run.

But pushing for a wash every day (or every other day) when it’s actually not necessary can also waste precious resources.

The best way to determine your winter car wash schedule is to consider these factors (as well as your situation) and adjust to the seven-to-fourteen-days range accordingly.

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Our chief editor is Sam Howard. The vast market of car care necessitates extensive research. He entered the market, experienced the service, and reported customer feedback in order to provide the best advice and content to car owners. We have faith in him to turn our website into a reliable resource for all car owners.