Can You Wash Your Car in Cold Weather?

Maintaining your car all year round is very important, but it can get a lot harder to do during the wintertime, especially if you live in an area where it snows. And as you probably know, when the snow hits the ground, so does the road salt, which is what can really mess up your car’s paint and even make the car rust. In that case, washing your car regularly, even during the wintertime, is crucial. But can you wash your car in cold weather?

Washing your car in the winter

Washing your car might seem like a summertime affair, considering it’s more fitting to dress down to shorts and a T-shirt while making generous use of a water hose, but it’s possible to do it in the wintertime as well. It’s just not as fun. In fact, if you’re going to wash your car in the wintertime, be sure to dress up in layers and, if possible, wear waterproof boots and gloves for safety and warmth during the process.

When you do wash your car, make sure to never use hot water as it doesn’t mix well with glass, like your windshield or other windows, and could cause it to crack or break. However, you’ll want to skip washing your car altogether if the outside temperature is below 30 degrees as the water that hits your car can freeze your door handles and locks shut. If anything, wait until the outside temperature is warm enough to safely wash your car, or better yet, wash it in an enclosed garage.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA – FEBRUARY 2, 2017: A man washes his vehicle at an EHRLE self service car wash. Dmitry Serebryakov/TASS (Photo by Dmitry Serebryakov\TASS via Getty Images)

Road salt is the enemy

Aside from the fact that your car constantly picks up dirt and grime when you drive around the slushy streets after a snowfall, the best reason to wash your car as regularly as possible during winter is due to road salt. Luckily, removing road salt from the various surfaces of your car is rather easy as you can soak the car with soapy water to get it all off and then simply clean it up with a sponge or wash mitt. Whatever you do, just don’t rub the salt on the car’s bodywork into the paint with the sponge or wash mitt as doing so can scratch the paint.

man salting the road
A municipality employee spreads salt on the road covered by the snow on January 31, 2012 in Vodable, centre France, due to the first snow falls of the winter’s season in this aera. AFP PHOTO THIERRY ZOCCOLAN (Photo credit should read THIERRY ZOCCOLAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Dry the car thoroughly and wax it

If you do wash your car when it’s cold outside, just remember to dry it as thoroughly as possible afterward and apply a coat of wax. However, don’t wax the car if the temperature is below freezing as most wax compounds are essentially useless in freezing temperatures. Ideally, you want to apply a coat of wax in warmer weather, 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, in order for it to do its job correctly when it comes to protecting the paint.

A tractor clears snow and spreads salt on a snowy road near the French border with Luxembourg on January 30, 2019 in Zoufftgen. (Photo by JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN / AFP) (Photo credit should read JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN/AFP via Getty Images)

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In summary

To sum it all up: It’s OK to wash your car in the wintertime, but remember to use a little bit of caution as freezing temperatures can make the process a hassle or even end up damaging your car. Instead, wait for a warmer day and make sure that you apply a coat of wax when possible. The winter weather can really do a number on your car’s paint if you leave it uncared for, so wash your car as regularly as possible to keep it clean the whole year through.