Washing your car in the winter - what to do?

britton2britton2 Member Posts: 305
I hope this isn't a dumb question - but how do I keep the exterior of my car clean when it's below freezing? I know I can drive to the do-it-yourself car wash and spray the underside of the car to remove road salt, etc - but what about washing or waxing? How cold is too cold to wash or wax? If it's below freezing, do I just wait for a day when it's above 32F to wash my car? thanks


  • joe3891joe3891 Member Posts: 759
    I wash my car in the winter and wait until its above 32 deg and if sunny even better.Its hard to dry at times it freezes first.
  • ryanbabryanbab Member Posts: 7,240
    I wash 3 vehicles in the winter (mine my mom and dads).

    This is how i do it. Ill hose it down (hook up hot water from inside house) wash it as fast as possible then pull it into the garage. Turn on the torpedo heater we have and that keeps it from freezing up.

    Or another way. Do section by section (way i do it anyways in the summer. Do the hood roof and front windshield. Dry that. Then do the one side dry that etc.

    Also i wouldnt wax when its below 50 or 60.

    Good luck and stay warm (i know how you feel it gets cold here in indiana)

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Unless you are in Siberia or maybe upstate New York (lol) water doesn't freeze that fast. Look at how long it takes to make ice cubes.

    The problem is trapped water that you didn't dry off...sometimes if your door weather seals aren't too good your doors will freeze shut because it leaked in between the door and the seals.

    What you could do is drive the car around a bit after washing it, that should blow off or melt off trapped water.
  • joe3891joe3891 Member Posts: 759
    I don't think you ever washed a car outside in the winter in Maine,it freezes faster than you think.The drops aren't 1 inch thick like an ice cube.I speak from experience.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Well, no I haven't Joe so maybe I should include Maine on my list of places not to do that. I was thinking normal temperate zone winters like 25-32 degrees.
  • jgmilbergjgmilberg Member Posts: 872
    I take my truck to the drive through car wash, pay the $7 to get the under carriage wash added. If I think the truck needs to be waxed I take it to a detail shop. They pull the truck in and let it warm up, wash it wax it and away I go. Only problem with that is you have to leave the car/truck with the shop to be done.
  • ryanbabryanbab Member Posts: 7,240
    I agree with you. It does freeze up faster than you think

    ANother good idea when your done take an air compressor and blow out the water from various places that hide water
  • urchin34urchin34 Member Posts: 70
    I like that suggestion, but it is the one I like to use when it is 115 degrees in the shade (just last week it was still running over 100). I shudder just thinking about that freezing weather you all are mentioning.
  • joe3891joe3891 Member Posts: 759
    Gee that sounds like summer to me,seriously in the winter when it gets that warm we run around half naked to keep from getting overheated.

    A tip for winter washing if you don't have RKE is to spray the key hole with silicone to avoid a lock out.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    I saw winter once in a National Geographic. Looks nasty. Send me a photo.
  • ryanbabryanbab Member Posts: 7,240
    mr shiftright

    check out


    I have some winter photos. We got zapped with a blizzard last winter drfits were 24-36" high

  • joe3891joe3891 Member Posts: 759
    I met a woman from Alabama in her sixties whos dream it is to spend a winter in the snow belt,I guess she justs wants the experience.Its hard to get bored with the weather when its always changing.
  • scottc8scottc8 Member Posts: 617
    I do my winter washing at the coin-op car wash, occasionally with the temp down around zero. That cold, I leave the car running and turn the defrosters on full blast. At first the water will freeze as it hits the car, but after a couple minutes the sheet metal will heat up from the warm water. Above 20 or so, it's not a problem. Doors won't freeze shut if you lube the seals with silicone every couple months. Window seals are another story, especially fabric ones. Nothing but a few hours in the sun will thaw/dry them out for sure. And be careful trying to open frozen power windows; it's easy to damage the mechanism, even trying briefly.

    The best winter washing tool I ever bought is the California Water Blade. Even in mild weather, 40-50 deg, your hands will go numb trying to use a chamois.

    As for waxing, it's OK down to 40-45, just takes a lot longer to dry. Below 40, forget it. Best thing to do is get several coats on in the fall and hope they last.

    The good news is, the lines at the car wash are really, really short.:)
  • easyrider300measyrider300m Member Posts: 1,116
    is the fact that the water is recylced---I would think that water would hold a lot of salt that is washed off previous cars---just think about all the salt you are spraying into the crevices and underside of your car--I wash my car as infrequent as possible in the winter--but no automatic car washes for me---if its very cold , I will just do a wand wash with no hand rubbing--just get off most of the dirt as best I can--but that salt worries me--comments?
  • mikegold_1966mikegold_1966 Member Posts: 138
    You are right, you are "sandblasting" your clear coat finish with recycled water which is poorly filtered. Salt is a killer in those car washes and you are better off washing the car yourself in a garage.

    If no garage, take a trip to Florida or California to get the grime and salt off.
  • armtdmarmtdm Member Posts: 2,057
    Someone mentioned using hot water! Sorry, I think that is a definite NO NO> Not sure but it may remove whatever wax you have on the finish as well not to mention potential of hot water hitting cold glass
  • scottc8scottc8 Member Posts: 617
    I never considered that car wash water was recycled till I read some posts elsewhere from people in California. Colorado being a pretty dry state, I guess they do it here, too. Do you think the rinse water is the same? It looks clean, anyway.

    No salt is used here, but lots of gravel, so we get nicks instead of rust. In most cities they're using a liquid, potassium chloride, IIRC. Supposedly safe, but very difficult to wash the film off the car.

    If it's not so cold that I can see my breath, I hand wash. Otherwise, I'm hoping that whatever I spray on my car at the coin-op is at least better than whatever crap is already stuck to it. :)
  • bretfrazbretfraz Member Posts: 2,021
    Ask the owners of the coin-op what kind of filtering system they use. If you are not comfortable with one particular facility, find another one.

    When I lived in Chicago I searched around for a coin-op that I liked. I found one that did a good job in filtering and used it exclusively. I did this for five years.

    Now living in Georgia, I still have to use a coin-op. My county has been on water restriction for over a year and my apt. complex has shut off the car wash stalls. It's either go to a car wash or find a coin-op.

    I think the fear of unfiltered water is a bit unfounded. Driving all winter without washing your car is a terrible idea, IMO. The last thing I'd want is road salt, dirt, grease, and tar sitting on my paint for weeks at a time.

    Final point - Hot water is not gonna hurt your car. Most coin-op's use water heaters to help melt ice and snow while washing. But it's not like the heaters are operating at 200 deg. Carnauba wax melts at about 180 deg. but the coin-op's are running at 100 deg or so. Don't worry about it.
  • hondafriekhondafriek Ottawa CanadaMember Posts: 2,984
    If you want to experience a real winter try Ottawa from Jan. to March the mean Temperature is around minus thirty degrees centigrade, minus 50 degrees with the wind chill.

    Cheers Pat.
  • pjyoungpjyoung Member Posts: 885
    Here in America's heartland, I've had the water freeze on the floor of the "spray wash" while I was washing. Sometimes it seemed like I was spending as much on "de-icing" the drive as I was on washing the car.
  • bburton1bburton1 Member Posts: 395
    Have lived in MN and WI for too many winters but here is what I do. Go to one of those coin op wand spray places and spend as much time spraying the undercarriage as the top-particularly the wheel wells. Then I take a big liberated hotel type towel and dry the critter off making certain to get all the water off the door and window gaskets.

    None of the DIY hand wand places I have ever encountered recycled their water. Once went to a big mechanised car wash in S. Mpls and before I got in line went inside. The guy inside assured me they filtered the salt out of the water they recycled. Told him if he can do that we can get real rich quick. He really believed they were filtering out the salt.
  • bretfrazbretfraz Member Posts: 2,021
    Looks like someone beat you to the car washing pot of gold:


  • ryanbabryanbab Member Posts: 7,240
    dont you miss the chicago winters?

    Its nuts right now (im in NW indiana)

    Its in the high 60's this wk very wierd.

    Cant wait for snow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • bretfrazbretfraz Member Posts: 2,021
    nooooo way, partner. You guys in IN get bombed with snow every year. Must have well-developed snow shoveling muscles ;-)

    I moved to Chicago from So Cal, where the weather is the same almost every day. What drove me nuts about Chicago weather was that it would change so quickly and frequently. I'd wash my car and it would be raining, hailing, then steaming within a 20 minute period. That drove me crazy.

    Atlanta has a very nice balance of weather. Not the consistency like L.A. but beautiful 4 seasons. We get ice storms and flurries. But NO ROAD SALT. Thank God.

    - - Bret - -
  • ryanbabryanbab Member Posts: 7,240
    Yea we get alot of snow. Last december we got 24-30" (not including drifts)

    shoveling is alright. Lately i have been pulling out the snow blower
  • wilcoxwilcox Member Posts: 582
    I saw the movie "The Wash" a few days ago. I thought that it was disgusting. Fortunately, I did not pay to sit in there, and half way through I left. I hope it isn't really that way in real life for those people.

    There were a couple of nice cars but that was about it.
  • dhanleydhanley Member Posts: 1,531
    I moved from chicago/milwaukee to new mexico. So winter washign is easy--just use a bit less sunscreen.


  • joe3891joe3891 Member Posts: 759
    Ya but its hard to ice fish.
  • jlkerberjlkerber Member Posts: 6
    I used to have a problem with the locks freezing on our 98 civic. I could use the little lock de-icing canisters, but they cost ya. What I started doing was using the wax-like ear plugs the doctor told us to use while bathing our kid after he had ear tubes put in. I would roll the wax till warm them cover the lock area, wash, take the wax off when done to use it next time. I stored it in the ash try. If you smoke this won't work but you should have a lighter to free your locks any ways.
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