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Cleaning your car in the winter months can be a real test. Freezing temperatures, icy cold water in your wash bucket, numb hands and driveways turned into ice rinks, to name a few!
We've compiled our Top Ten Winter Car Cleaning Tips and even called upon some of our favourite pro detailers from around the UK for their tips and tricks.
First, we consider why cleaning your car in the winter is essential.
Winter road conditions make for a detailer's worst nightmare. Road salt is incredibly corrosive to our vehicle's paintwork and undercarriage. Still, the real problem comes once the salt has melted the snow and ice, turning in to a slushy solution which is easily picked up by our vehicle's tyres and deposited down the side or back of the car. Cleaning your vehicle during the winter months is often looked upon as one of those jobs you would rather miss but with our top ten tips, we aim to change how you think about and approach your winter car cleaning.
1 Pre-wash! Pre-wash! Pre-wash!
As mentioned above, your cars or vehicles are likely to be much dirtier through the winter due to weather and driving conditions, so we need to emphasise even more importance on the pre-wash process than we would at any other time. The pre-wash stage and it's dedicated products to match are designed to enable us to remove as much surface dirt and grime as possible before we make contact with any of the vehicle's surfaces. Nitty Gritty is our 'go-to' pre-wash product and what we use for the initial product hit, especially if the car has a thicker layer of traffic film on the surface. This also has other uses, such as a fantastic engine bay cleaner thanks to its excellent degreasing properties and easy removal of bug splats.
2 Warm water in your wash and rinse buckets
Dunking your hands into ice-cold water isn't fun by anybody's standard, especially during the winter. It might seem like an obvious thing to do during the colder months but is something that is overlooked by many. Using warm water will make your winter car wash much more pleasurable. However, it is essential to note that the water must be warm instead of boiling. Alex Betsworth from AB Detailing, based in Sheffield, gave us his top tip for winter car care. Alex recommends using a submersible bucket heater to keep the wash water at a comfortable and safe temperature. Alex added, " If you are a pro, working right through the winter, these heaters will be a massive help."
3 Choose suitable clothing and footwear
Again, this may seem like a no-brainer, but dressing appropriately will ensure you enjoy your winter car cleaning. You won't enjoy your winter detailing if you're cold and wet. Frankie Birdsall from Outkast Detailing, based in York, gave us his advice for the winter months in one word, THERMALS! We couldn't agree more.
Frankie's list of essentials is,
- Good thermal base layers
- Layered warm clothes
- Waterproof trousers and jackets
- Waterproof gloves
- Waterproof footwear
4 Ensure your winter protection, or sealant product is applied before the winter.
Naomi Talbot from Formula 77 Detailing gives us her thoughts on this one. "During the winter, I want to spend as little time doing any exterior cleaning work as possible, so with this in mind, I always ensure that any application of a paint sealant or longer-term protection is applied to the vehicle before the colder periods begin, Element Hybrid Wax is perfect for this. Then I can concentrate purely on the cleaning and maintenance of the cars.
5 Choose sacrificial protection layers that are quick and easy to apply.
With time being a decisive factor here in winter detailing, we want to get the desired results in as little time as possible. If we have followed the tip above (4), our primary sealant or form of protection has already been applied ahead of the winter. Now you may wish to use some extra or sacrificial layers of protection, so we recommend looking for a solution that is not only easy to apply but also fast and as effortless as possible. For this, we recommend FLEX Polymer Spray Sealant. FLEX is a polymer sealant constructed from reactive polymers applied using a snow foam lance, providing maximum performance, ease of use and exceptional results.
FLEX will secure a deep, glossy finish with the added benefit of a hydrophobic coating that will display water sheeting and beading. This highly durable water-repellent finish will protect your paintwork and glass for a minimum of 6-8 weeks at only 77 pence per application.
6 Don't wash your car in freezing temperatures
This is a surefire way to turn your driveway into an ice rink and your car into an ice sculpture. If the temperatures are below zero, leave the wash buckets in the garage!
Any water used will freeze, and the same goes for products. It's simply not worth your time cleaning your car in freezing conditions.
7 Efficiency is key
There are a few tips and tricks to being efficient with your processes, some applicable to winter car cleaning and others to any time of the year.
Ensure all necessary equipment and products are out, ready and to hand. You want to avoid running back and forth to the garage or shed each time you need a product.
If any products in your routine require dilution before use, ensure these are diluted and ready to use before you begin cleaning. We recommend our Professional Dilution Bottle And Chemical Resistant Trigger for easy dilution of products.
Applying a product such as FLEX will speed up your drying time. Rinse off the vehicle with low pressure or an open hose. Because of the sealant properties of FLEX, the water will sheet off, leaving behind a dry surface. Only a few remaining spots will require some attention with your drying towel.
Using a quick detailer as a drying aid will also speed up the drying time whilst adding superb gloss to the vehicle. That's two steps taken care of in one, saving you time and effort.
8 Outdoor taps, keep them turned off and covered until you need them to stop freezing.
Imagine the scene you've decided to brave the cold, gathered up all of your equipment and products ready to clean your vehicle, plugged in your pressure washer, connected the hose to the tap, turned the tap on and....nothing. No detailing today! The tap is frozen.
Turn off the water to your outdoor tap and invest in an insulated tap cover to stop your tap from freezing.
9 Find the sun!
This goes against everything we know as detailers. During the warmer months, we tend to avoid direct sun as this prematurely dries products onto the vehicle's surface. However, in the colder months, when the sun is at its highest in the sky, it is still not strong enough to cause us any concern over drying any products, but it will undoubtedly help to lift the temperature of the panels just that little bit which will aid our cleaning process. Try to wash around mid-day during the winter when the sun is at its highest.
10 The use of a forced warm air blow dryer machine.
A bit of a detailing luxury if you aren't a full-time professional, but something that will help you through the winter months especially, is a forced air drying machine, such as the BLO Air GT.
We've all been there, the car is frozen over, and your door or door handle is frozen shut. This is caused by excess water behind the door seals that freezes. We can utilise these BLO machines to force any water out of door jams, handles and just about anywhere where water can be trapped and potentially freeze. The air produced by these machines is slightly warmer than the ambient temperature, so great for getting a little extra heat in the hands!