Winter Car Care
Tips from the Expert

Regardless of what part of the world you live, Winter car care is going to become an added concern for any car owner who actually cares about preserving the beauty and resale value of their car.

If you are one such person then continue reading as I lay out some additional tips to help you and your car survive the winter months.

winter car care tips driving in snow

Regardless of the conditions your car must endure during winter months, there are 3 main points to winter car care:

  • Consistency (on a scheduled routine)
  • Frequency (more often, not less often)
  • Protection (apply a good car wax or paint sealant)

It's a Jungle Out There:
Winter only makes it worse!

While those three points will seem obvious to most, I think most people underestimate just how critical each of those points are to actually put into practice.

dirty car in rain

Consistency and Frequency: While consistency may seem the same as frequency, they in fact are different. I could be consistent about cleaning my car as part of my winter car care, but if you are only consistently doing it once every 3 months, this is not the same as being consistent with winter car care and doing it every month!

Which leads directly into frequency. The more frequent you are able to take extra steps of maintenance and protection, the more you can expect to reap the positive effects of your efforts.

Washing Car:
Don't over-think it

Yes; this is a glaring obvious and I know I don't need to tell you but washing your car as often as possible, is your first line in defense for diminishing the harmful effects of the winter months.

car washing tools for winter car care

It is far better to wash your car with methods that are less than ideal rather than allowing the accumulated dirt, snow, and sleet to remain on your car for extended periods of time.

It is far better to find products you like, and a method that you can perform regularly, than to spend valuable time searching for the best car washing shampoo or technique. Your car will only suffer the more you delay this initial step of winter car care.

Car Washing Kit:
Time and money saving kit

Chemical Guys HOL133 Best Detailing Bucket Kit (5 Items), 16. Fluid_Ounces

  • Perfect car washing kit
  • The exact wash mitt I use professionally and the one I recommend most
  • Excellent car wash shampoo
  • Perfect wash bucket (snap on lid is easier than the more expensive screw on lids)
  • Dirt trap insert that captures dirt below, to keep dirt separate from wash water as you are washing (ideal for heavy washing duties during winter months)

Darren's Tips: Your goal is to wash your car as frequently as you can during winter months when you car needs it most. this kit is perfect for the bullet points stated above.

I like this specific kit as it represents the winning balance in quality product and "tools". You could spend hours reading about the separate components of this kit alone. But this will not get you any further to actually washing your car.

Car Drying Cloth:
As good as it gets

Meguiar's X2000 Water Magnet Microfiber Drying Towel, 1 Pack

  • Likely the best drying towel for your car you have ever used
  • Lint free and highly absorbent
  • As soft and friendly on your paint as you can get
  • Perfect size (not too big, not too small)

Darren's Tips: I love this drying towel! I am amazed at how many people I still observe in neighborhoods who still use common bath towels to dry their cars with. These towels might feel soft to your skin, but they really do mar and scratch your car paint when compared to a quality drying cloth like this one from Meeguair's.

Not only is this drying cloth super safe, but highly absorbent and totally lint free! A winning balance when winter car care will prove a difficult task anyways!

Detailing Clay:
Decontaminating car paint

Chemical Guys CLY_113 OG Clay Bar & Luber Synthetic Lubricant Kit, Light/Medium Duty (16 oz) (2 Items)

  • perfect clay bar kit to decontaminate car paint
  • Comes with detailing clay and lubricant
  • Great kit, great reviews

Darren's Tips: You may never have heard of detailing clay until now. There are endless types of pollutants floating around in the air. Some of these dirt particles will attach to your paint and become bonded.

The only way to remove these boded paint contaminants is through the use of a clay bar. Winter car care will only make this worse as you will get road grime of many types kicked up onto your car paint from snow, rain, and salt. 

If you have never decontaminated your car paint you need to do it anyways. it will be something you need to do after washing your car, prior to waxing your car. This will also become part of ongoing maintenance just like many other tasks of cosmetic car care.

Using the clay bar can be as frequent as you determine based on how your paint feels after washing it. Your paint should feel silky smooth.

Best Car Wax:
Easy. Simple. Effective

CSI Q-7 Wax 16oz 62-204-P

  • My "go-to" car wax for over 15+ years
  • Only recently made available through Amazon
  • Non-staining formulation (won't stain black trim
  • Can be used in direct sunlight, on hot paint (not that this would be a problem for your winter car care)

Darren's Tips: The world of car wax and paint sealants is a world filled with endless opinions and endless hype. So many crazy claims made by the endless choices in car waxes.

Most of which are virtually impossible to verify. Because of all this hype, I default and continue to use this particular car wax for some key reasons:

It is super easy to use (spray onto car panel, wipe in, flip cloth and buff to perfection). It is non-staining so I can wax any material on my car without worry of staining black trim or rubber gaskets.

I can use it in direct sunlight on hot paint (obviously more of a concern during summer months than any of your winter car care concerns)

I can use this as often as I want ( I love a freshly waxed car) and know it actually has some legit carnauba wax in it. Some spray waxes are so thin in consistency, I question if they actually have any carnauba wax in the product.

Tire Dressing:
Go from good to great

CSI Nu Tyre Lotion Quart 62-208-Q

  • Another one of my favorite products from CSi I have been using over 15+years
  • No-sling formulation (dries to the touch)
  • Great shine without the hyper-shine and greasy feel of other tire dressings
  • Can be used for all tires, black vinyl trim, and interior dressing

Darren's Tips: I love this tire dressing! It dries to the touch which means no sling onto my car. It is also a perfect dressing for the interior of your car if you like a subtle shine to your hard surface materials in your car.

While many people would consider absurd to apply tire dressing as part of winter car care, but if you are going to take the time and want to do it right, why would you want to neglect your tires when it is pretty easy to apply a tire dressing after you have completed a wash on it.

Dressing Applicator:
Best applicator out there

Kraft Tool PL600L General Purpose Large Turtle Back Cellulose Sponge Box

  • The perfect dressing applicator from a different industry
  • This is a 2 for one deal (cut in half for the perfect tire dressing applicator, and now you also have 2 applicators for the price of one)
  • Perfect ergonomics for your hand when cut in half

Darren's Tips: Often I find myself going outside this industry to find that perfect tool. This grout sponge is a perfect example. I have been using this as my preferred tire dressing applicator for over 15 years.

I cut it in half and I get two for the price of one. It also creates multiple surfaces and edges to finesse the moment based on your particular tire side wall. I don't recommend using this on the interior unless you reserve one half for the interior of your car, and the other half for the exterior.

Use this dressing on your tires and any black plastic trim on your car. Especially useful for your winter car care duties!

Winter Car Care Tips:
Action plan

washing car for winter car care

Finding the right products and tools is a big part of cosmetic car care in general. Certainly a big part of your defense in winter car care.

Having the right arsenal of products and tools will help you perform the requirements of car care during the winter months more often, not less often. After all, winter is a difficult time as people never mind our cars.

You don't need additional excuses and reasons not to perform tasks that are naturally hard and time consuming. Your car needs the cleaning and protection during winter months as much as your car needs it during summer months.

  • Wash car as frequently as possible (this is truly the most important thing you can do if you can't find the resolve to perform any other tasks
  • Never rinse your car off and allow to drip dry (hard water spots are worse than the dirt itself)
  • Use detailing clay initially for a first time, then whenever your paint starts to feel gritty after washing it
  • Apply wax at least two separate times during the winter months to spread out the duration of protection

Some Additional Winter Car Care Tips

I get it...keeping up with normal car care is hard enough during good weather. Winter car care is going to make the requirements of your car 10 times worse. At least if you live in the northern hemisphere.

Which is part of my goal for you with my specific recommendations. You want something that is already naturally hard to be easier, not harder. You will already struggle enough to perform these requirements under the best of circumstances.

I don't want the feeling of dread to be associated with your list of chosen products and tools to add to the natural dread you will likely have when it comes to winter car care.

The main point I am trying to make are these two things:

  • Consistency (follow my tips on a routine basis)
  • Frequency (the more often you cn do any or all of these tips, the better for your car)

The dirtier your car gets, the more harmful this dirt is to your paint. The longer you allow this winter dirt to sit on your car, the worse it is.

Your devotion to the health and beauty of your car will determine how frequently you are willing to do what needs doing.

tire dressing for winter car care

Winter Car Care Summary

My goal has been to help you become a more informed car owner and consumer. I hope I have helped in some small way.

This industry is filled with endless hype and I find that even myself can get overwhelmed easily with the countless choices and options in products.

I wish you much success in your detailing efforts!


Darren Priest

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