Winter Wash

Dear Tracy,

I am concerned about the salt that has been building up on my car this winter, but I am reluctant to wash it because I have heard the locks, trunk, and gas cap can freeze. Is freezing a problem or is it okay to wash during winter? I am really worried about the salt damaging my car and my tires!

Rachel B.

Dear Rachel,

It is definitely a good idea to keep your car washed in the winter. While salt is a quick and effective way for municipalities to make roads safer during periods of ice and snow, it is also a very caustic substance that can lead to pitting and rusting on your car’s finish. To prevent lock freezing and other such issues, you can apply WD40 to help water from penetrating these areas.

If you have newer winter tires that have a decent amount of tread, you shouldn’t have to worry about salt damaging your tires. But the metal surfaces of your vehicle, including your wheels, are vulnerable to salt damage. Salt can ultimately lead to rust occurring on the body and underside areas of your car.

Fortunately the process of salt leading to rust takes time. The coatings and paint finishes used today do a very good job of providing protection.  With regular washings during the winter months your car should handle the salt abuse just fine. How often you need to wash the car will depend on how much salt and road sludge you encounter. Since salt is particularly hard on chrome, it may be worth swapping your wheels out it the winter months, if you have really expensive wheels. Also, waxing your car during the autumn months will provide extra protection that will make your winter washes more effective.

Cold Weather & Tire Pressure

Dear Tracy,

I have a new car that has several fancy features, including a tire pressure monitoring system. Since the cold weather has set in, I have been noticing that the TPMS light always seems to be on. A friend told me it’s not unusual for that to happen in cold temperatures, and not to worry. Is this true?

Mara W.

Dear Mara,

Your friend is partially correct, it is common for that light to illuminate in cold weather.  But you should not ignore it. The reason the light comes on is because air pressure decreases in frigid temperatures. Experts say that air pressure in a tire goes down 1-2 pounds for every 10 degrees of temperature change. You need to check the air pressure of your tires, and most likely you will find you need to add air to them.

There are several reasons why it is important to check the pressure of your tires when it is cold outside and keep them inflated to the manufacturer’s recommendation:

  • Low tire pressure can cause a vehicle to be sluggish and hard to maneuver
  • Wear and tear on the tires increases substantially when the pressure is low
  • Low tire pressure has a negative impact on your gas mileage and costs you money
  • When the pressure is too low, your tires could overheat, which could lead to a blowout

It is a good idea to check the pressure of your tires monthly. Make sure the tires are cold when you adjust the air pressure to reach the most accurate pressure level.