The late Autumn and Winter months bring with them a whole host of challenges for drivers.
There’s long, dark nights to contend with, alongside wet, windy and potentially icy conditions that make concentration behind the wheel even more important.
But there’s another factor too: how dirty your car can get from the dirt kicked up by the road and other cars.
Not only can this dirt damage paintwork and hinder visibility, but it can also bring some unwanted nasties inside your car, and potentially leave you open to a costly fine.
The motoring experts at Scrap Car Comparison have put together some tips for keeping your car clean during the winter.
- Preparation is Paramount
As drivers, we know each and every year that winter is coming, and the motoring challenges the season brings, so we can make sure we’re prepped for it. As the weather turns darker and colder, prepare in advance and consider applying a layer of wax on the exterior of your car, in order to give a protective layer to your paintwork and protect your vehicle against dirt and grime. Modern waxes are much easier to apply than the waxes of yesteryear and should be applied straight after the clean.
- Heat Things Up
When cleaning your car, it’s always best to do so when the weather is more favourable, so hold out for when it isn’t raining, and ideally, when the temperature is above freezing. However, if you’re enduring a real cold snap where you live and need to clean your car, the experts at Scrap Car Comparison would always advise giving your car a drive first and turning the heaters on for 5-10 minutes. This will help to stop the water you’re using from freezing on the bodywork as you are washing your car.
- Come Equipped
If you don’t have the tools for the job, there’s no way you’ll be able to keep your car clean this winter. A good foundation for any car clean will include the following:
- Two buckets, one filled with water, the other with the car shampoo
- Two wash mitts (use one for the bodywork and the other for the wheels. These are much better than sponges and help to avoid scratching)
- Multiple microfibre cloths to help dry paintwork, remove excess polish, wax and more
- A wheel brush to reach the hard-to-get areas of your wheels
- Products such as car shampoo, pre-cleaner, wheel cleaner, polish and the all-important protective wax
- If you own one, a pressure-washer can make the job a lot easier!
In addition to the above, make sure to wear warm clothing that you don’t mind getting dirty, and some cleaning gloves to protect your hands.
- Process Makes Perfect
Automotive bodywork can be prone to unsightly smears and scratches, so while you might want to simply get the job done as quick as possible, it’s a must to follow a tried and tested process. Permitting some tweaks depending on the products you will be using, the following works really well:
- Start with cleaning the wheels: As these are likely going to be the dirtiest part of your car, it pays to get the wheel cleaner soaking in as soon as possible. Be sure to get in the nooks and crannies with your wheel brush too. This will then need rinsing off with either a pressure washer or your mitt.
- Use pre-cleaner on the bodywork: Sort of like using washing up liquid on your plates, this pre-cleaner will help to break up all of the grime and make the cleaning that follows much easier.
- Clean the bodywork: Use your two buckets to clean the car, focusing on a panel at a time, starting with fresh water, followed by the shampoo. It’s important to then thoroughly rinse the car with either a pressure washer or fresh bucket of water afterwards.
- Dry the car: To prevent water mark and staining, use your microfibre cloths to dry off the bodywork
- It’s all about the shine: If you want your car to shine even on the dullest of days, this is when to apply polish or detailing spray!
- Protect with wax: As mentioned earlier, finishing any clean in the winter with wax is essential, to ensure your car has that protective layer for when you get back out on the roads in those harsh conditions.
As the winter months are generally pretty rough when it comes to the weather and the toll it can take on your car, we would recommend cleaning every two weeks.
- Pay Attention to Headlights and Numberplates
There are two areas that require some special attention in the winter too. Namely, your numberplate. By law, this must be visible to Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras and if it is obscured by mud and becomes illegible, you could be running the risk of an on-the-spot fine of £100. However, in some cases, the fine could reach up to £1,000, making cleaning your car during the winter even more important.
You will also need to ensure that your lights aren’t obscured by grime and can throw out enough light to guide your way during the long dark nights. Following the process above will do the job, however if you don’t have the tools, a common household item can help too.
Rubbing toothpaste onto your headlights and rinsing with warm water and a cloth will leave you with a clear headlight. Just be sure as with any clean, to buff with a dry microfibre cloth too!
- Don’t Forget About the Interior
With all this talk about the exterior, it can be easy to forget the interior, but as with everything, cleaning here in the winter becomes more important too. Earlier this year, Scrap Car Comparison ran a study with the microbiologists at Aston University that revealed just how dirty the inside of our cars are.
The study found that every car will be host to harmful E. coli bacteria (in other words, faecal matter) that is usually bought into the car via muddy feet or paws if you own a dog. With winters synonymous with muddy walks, in addition to coughs and colds that can spread further bacteria around the interior, keeping clean inside as well as out is all the more important.
Dr. Jonathan Cox, Senior Lecturer in Microbiology at Aston University said drivers should reach for the anti-bac, clean the interior as often as the exterior and not just to rely on whether things ‘look’ clean/
“It’s important to be aware that there is a difference between being clean visually and being clean biologically.
We generally just focus on the visual element, meaning that if something looks clean or tidy, we do not look to cleanse more deeply. If you were cleaning a kitchen sink or toilet you would clean these biologically with chemicals – it’s unlikely that the majority of car owners would clean their cars in this way. Hopefully people to be more mindful of their vehicle and germs and clean their cars in a more thorough way.”
Dan Gick, Managing Director at Scrap Car Comparison added, “Winter driving requires more care when out on the roads, but also when your car is parked at home. It can be a chore to get out in the cold and clean your car, but you’ll always be thankful for it when it’s ensuring your safety and saving you from potential fines.
Beyond that, we have seen many cars end up having to get scrapped because they haven’t been cared for, and over time have been taken hold of by rust. It is never good to say goodbye to a vehicle because it hasn’t been cared for properly, and a regular clean can be all it takes to avoid it!”