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.