How To Wash Your Car in Winter

When it comes to washing your car in the winter, there are many cold-weather scenarios you must consider in order to keep your car in tip-top shape. These practical winter car washing tips will help keep your car safe through the snow, rain, frost, hail, or freezing temperatures. Read on to discover how to protect your car from winter elements and potentially dangerous road conditions.

This guide will be helpful to all car owners, from the casual owner to those highly dedicated to maintaining their car. I will go over proper and effective cleaning techniques, as well as a few recommended products. Whether you are washing your vehicle with rinseless products, water, or at a commercial car wash, these car care secrets are equally applicable.

Practical winter care secrets to preserve your car Advertising Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to products at the same cost to you. No company mentioned in this post has paid for endorsement and is mentioned purely because I have found them to be the best in my own personal experience.

Exterior Vehicle Care for Winter

Paint Preservation and Anti-Oxidization

  1. Thoroughly spray your car and undercarriage with water, either at home or at a commercial location. No need for a pressure washer, but you’re going to want to remove as much salt, sand, and grime left over from the road as possible. If you are a waterless wash type, a self-serve bay will do the trick.
  2. For waterless washes: Use a quick-dry wash solution that won’t need to be rinsed off.
    For regular washes: Presoak your vehicle with Carpro Iron X Snow Soap. If you don’t have this available, an All Purpose Cleaner (APC) (Meguiar’s Hyper Wash) car soap will do the trick. Let the soap/foam sit on your vehicle without rinsing.
  3. Proceed with your normal wash routine. Even if you are using water to wash your car, it is recommended to have some waterless wash soap on hand to presoak your bottom panels with. This will add lubrication to the paint, get grime off easier, and reduce scratching of paint. If your vehicle is REALLY dirty, use two wash mitts to clean your car, and utilize the 2 bucket with grit guard method (video below).  One mitt for the top panels, the other for the lower panels.
  4. Dry your car.
  5. Apply a layer of sealant or coated-friendly product, based on how your car was last detailed prior to winter. If your car wasn’t detailed, go ahead and use the sealant.

Two Bucket Method:

YouTube video

Recommended Products:

Glass Windows and Preventing Ice Damage


  1. Use a proper glass cleaner and a high-quality microfiber towel to clean the glass using the box method (video below). Cleaning with the correct glass cleaner as opposed to something like Windex will keep your window tinting safe and is formulated to remove fogging residue.
  2. Add a paint sealant or glass sealant to the exterior. Buff with a fresh and clean microfiber towel. Sealants are safe if they get on your window trim or paint.
  3. If you like to use RainX – Aquapel is a superior product and lasts longer on the windshield and mirrors than RainX. Applicators will be stable through two winters before they go bad.

Box Method:

YouTube video

Recommended products:

Wheels, Tires, and Rims

  1. Wash the wheels and surrounding areas as you normally would (video below). Use an iron-removing product if desired or necessary. Iron removers can degrade last-step-protectants (LSP) (sealants) over time. Be aware of this if using frequently.
  2. If you are waterless, this video and Optimum products (1, 2, 3) is the best method to clean your tires without wasting any water.
  3. Seal the wheels with the LSP Hydro2, and stick it in a spray bottle. Spray on and rinse off. Spraying sealant on your wheels is especially useful in keeping the wheel barrels protected when you can’t reach your hands inside with a regular liquid sealant.
  4. Use a strong and long-lasting tire dressing. Note: Solvent-based tire dressings will damage your tires over time. You can use this same product on interior plastics if diluted.
YouTube video

Recommended products:

Interior Vehicle Care for Winter

  1. Remove all trash and large things before you vacuum (video below).
  2. Clean with a diluted APC and dress all plastics, rubber, vinyl, and other interior surfaces. Remember to get the various angles and undersides.
  3. If you use a fabric protectant, apply another layer. Aerospace 303 is one of my favorite products and can also be used for a lot of things around the house, including outdoor patio furniture.
  4. Rubber mats over your carpet in the winter will make cleaning so much easier and help keep staining mud and grime out of your factory carpet.
YouTube video

Recommended products:

6 thoughts on “How To Wash Your Car in Winter”

  1. Thanks for this! I’m from Texas and I found myself in Wisconsin in the snow, with a car I was responsible for and I had no idea what I was doing. 🙂 I was worried about the windows. I was kinda rough with the ice scraper. Oopsie

  2. WoW thanks for all the tips. As a former Floridian now living in Virginia, I’m not used to really prepping for winters. This is really informative.


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