Eliminating That Ugly Winter Road Grime

Proper car care can prevent winter weather from inflicting lasting damage on your vehicle’s surface.

“The most important thing to do in the winter is wash your car frequently,” said Ron Fausnight, Research and Development Manager for ITW Global Brands in Houston, Texas. “Removing the dirt and grime regularly will make your car look better and prevent corrosion from harsh salt and sand, or other roadway filth.”

Spray the underside of the car as well, especially if you live where it snows. Rinsing the undercarriage and around the axles removes salt or sand spread on roadways by winter highway crews.

Waxing isn’t just for muscle cars on display at auto shows. Laying down a protective layer over clean paint helps your vehicle weather the snow, rain and salty roads of winter.

"Winter always has the harshest elements on the paint itself," said Mike Pennington, a product expert for Meguiar’s, a company specializing in car care products. "A thorough washing and waxing before winter is crucial for the preservation of your vehicle’s exterior. It’s not just a job for summer."

Polymer-based waxes withstand more exposure to rain, snow, salt and magnesium chloride found on winter roadways, he added.

The paint isn’t the only part of the exterior that can be protected. Clay products used to clean a windshield help water repellents work more effectively, he said.

Fausnight offers the following suggestions for maintaining the look of your car this winter:

  • Wash your car frequently. Don’t forget to wash the undercarriage. Removing winter road grime from the underside prevents damage from corrosive salt, sand and other road debris.
  • Clean wheels and tires. Don’t let brake dust accumulate on wheels. Wheels will become stained or pitted if dust isn’t scrubbed off regularly.
  • Polish the headlights. Removing dirt build-up improves nighttime visibility. If lenses are dull, consider a polishing kit or replacement.
  • Clean both outside and inside glass. Use a glass cleaner on all glass. This helps prevent streaking or smearing on the outside, and it removes oily film that tends to build up on the inside glass.
  • Clean and dry floor mats. Keeping your floor mats dry prevents mildew from forming and smelling up the interior of your car. If shoes or boots have made the floor mats wet or damp, remove them and bring them inside to dry overnight.