How to Keep Your Car Clean in the Winter & Prevent Rust


In the winter, depending on where you live, the temperature drops while the snow falls and the wind picks up! We know, not the ideal weather to run out and wash your car. But did you know that keeping your car washed and clean during the wintertime can help make it last longer and retain resale value?

That’s because wintertime road salt, treatments like liquid calcium chloride, sand, snow and moisture can cause rust on a car, and rust can spread across your car over time. Not only does rust not look great, at its worst, it can cause major damage to your vehicle. Keeping your car freshly washed and clean in the winter can help limit long-term damage. We’re sharing some tips on how to keep your car clean during the winter.

Some experts recommend washing your car after every big storm, or when you think your car may have been exposed to salt, sand or other chemicals on the road, but washing your car once every few weeks may be more achievable for many.


Trust the safety and reliability of Safelite

Get quote + schedule 

You can easily wash your car at home and save a few bucks, or utilize a car wash service. A service with a power nozzle is a great option, as it allows you to spray water under your car as well as into the many small spaces where dirt, salt and sand can tend to hide.

Washing Your Car in the Winter

If you’re washing your car yourself, keep these winter-weather tips in mind for washing your car in the winter and how to keep your car clean:

  • Use your hands or a brush to remove excess snow or ice from the car.
  • Use warm water Warm water will not only help keep you warm when it is cold outside, but can help melt away some of the road grime, salt and sand that may still be stuck.
  • Avoid washing your car when the temperature is below freezing. This is because you run the risk of the water freezing directly onto your car. (Trust us, you don’t want to deal with a door that’s frozen shut!)
  • Warm up your car by driving around the block a few times. If you must wash your car on a day when temperatures are less than optimal, consider driving the car around to warm up the hood or turning the heater on high to keep the water from freezing.
  • Pay special attention to the wheels. Your wheels they bear the brunt of winter weather driving!
  • Make sure to dry your car as best as possible in case of dipping temperatures.
  • Wear waterproof gloves, boots, and clothing. You’ll likely get wet, so wear waterproof gloves, boots and any other winter weather to help keep warm.

Another way to keep your car clean and protected during the wintertime is to switch out cloth floor mats for rubber ones, and to vacuum or wipe them clean once a week. Stepping in and out of your car is one of the most common ways to track in dirt, grime, salt, sand and all sorts of things you don’t necessarily want inside your car. Before you step your feet into the car, try to hit them together to see if you can shake any excess dirt off.

How to Stop Rust on a Car

Rust can be a serious issue for your vehicle, and most of the rusting begins in the winter season. Any damage can ruin the body and weaken the rigidity of the vehicle’s frame. The best thing to do is try to avoid rust altogether, but how do you stop rust on a car?

  • Inspect Tires, Bumpers, and Wheel Wells. Rust typically begins to develop in the wheel wells.
  • Look for signs of rust where two pieces of metal meet. If there is potential for rust to form and rub, which wears away the paint, clean that part of the car.
  • Open the doors, hood, and trunk to inspect for rust.
  • Inspect the underside of your car. Salt and other chemicals that are picked up throughout the winter increase the likelihood of rust developing.
  • Clean and clear water away from the car. Don’t let water sit on the car as it can chip the paint and cause rust.

Additional tips: wash the car every few weeks, including the underside, and use baking soda when you’ve driven through road salt. Then rinse the car thoroughly to avoid any stains in the paint, and prevent rust from forming.

Winterizing and Cleaning your Car Before Winter Storms

Winterizing and preparing your car can help protect your car from salt, sand and any other chemicals that can be found on the roads. Give your car a thorough wash, and pay special attention to areas you may not normally, such as behind the wheels, the quarter panels, the undercarriage and the front end. These are places that salt and road debris typically collects, and common areas for rust. Once your car is squeaky clean and dry, apply a coat of wax. This is an important task, as a coat of wax can provide an additional layer of protection from winter grime, and further stop the spread of rust.

Don't wait, schedule your appointment today!

Get quote + schedule