5 Ways to Wash Your Car in Winter

Keeping your car clean during the colder months can be a challenge. If you’re looking to beat back the corrosive salt from winter driving, it may seem like you have no options. But there are ways to keep your car clean during the frigid months. Stop wondering how to wash your car in winter, and follow these five tips to keep your car looking good.

Indoor car wash

A white car going through a winter car wash, covered in soap and foam.
Keep your car clean in winter to protect against salt corrosion | Silas Stein/Getty Images

Many car washes in northern climates offer indoor wash bays. Avoid automatic car washes that can scratch your finish by choosing a manual car wash with closing doors. Chances are you or someone you know will know of a manual car wash that is good for winter, and you can use these bays to keep your car clean in the winter. Even if the temperature dips into the mid-20s, a closed wash bay can help you wash your car in winter. However, most bays don’t allow you to bucket wash or dry the vehicle before leaving. In that case, avoid going on days below 20 degrees to prevent frozen doors and locks.

Waterless wash

Take advantage of warmer winter weather and use a waterless wash to quickly wash your car in winter. If the temperature is above 35 degrees, you can use a waterless wash to remove salt and grime by hand. You’ll want to have several towels on hand for this process to avoid scratching your finish with a towel full of dirt and salt. By folding the towel repeatedly, you can safely wash your car without a hose and be back in your warm house in less than an hour. Plus, you can enjoy the hands-on feeling of making your car shine. Follow this Autogeek guide for waterless washing and give your vehicle a hands-on winter car wash.

Hire a detailer

If you don’t want to do the work yourself, look for a detailer in your area instead. By finding a detailer with a dedicated shop, you can be confident that your car will come back as clean as the day you brought it home. This level of cleaning may come at a price, though. Detail services can range from $100 to $1000 or more, depending on the level of service. But you can be confident that your car is cared for by experts. Plus, you can add protection packages to make future washing easier and keep the salt from eating your paint.

Protect your car before winter hits

Interior shot of a car being washed with water running down the windshield.
Touchless automatic car washes can be safe to remove salt during winter | Hauke-Christian Dittrich/Getty Images
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10 Tips for Cleaning Your Car Like a Pro

There are several options out there to protect your ride from salt and sand before winter arrives. Waxes, ceramic and graphene coatings, and paint protection film applications are all available to help protect your car. There are waxes and coatings that you can apply right in your own garage or driveway. However, the high-end ceramic coatings and paint protection film will likely require you to contact a professional. These offer the best protection at a premium price tag, so consider if your vehicle is worth the investment before diving in.

Beat the salt all winter

Use any or all of these four tips to wash your car in winter. Beat back the salt with waterless and bay washes as you go. And protect your vehicle before each winter season with the wax or coating that makes the most sense for your budget.