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Winter Detailing Tips

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winter detailing

Keeping your car clean in the winter is pretty much impossible. From the dirt, grime, water, snow, and dreaded salt, even if you only take your car out for a quick spin, chances are it will come back pretty dirty. Below we will focus on some tips and tricks to help not only get your vehicle ready for the winter, but to keep it clean during these frigid months.

Preparation

This topic is rarely mentioned, but by far the most important. Late in the fall season you are going to want to thoroughly detail your vehicle and prep it for the incoming months ahead. Take a look at this classic article from Blog OG Todd Cooperider, How To Properly Wash and Dry a Car. Proper cleaning is not the main topic here, but if needed this article will help explain this part of the detailing process. After cleaning, here is what is important, protection.

There are three main categories, waxes, sealants, and coatings. Waxes are the least durable form of protection and traditionally will protect for 3-4 weeks. Sealants will protect for 3-4 months and coatings for a year plus. Personally we recommend using at least a sealant and bumping up to a coating if you are willing to care for it properly.

My suggestion of a sealant is due to this form of protection being easy to apply and with them lasting 3-4 months, they will get you through the roughest part of the winter. However, there really is no correct answer and we recommend using what works best for you. If you go with something like a wax, just be sure to clean and protect more frequently. Overall it is very important to apply some form of protection as it will help keep dirt, grime, and salt from sticking to the surface and cleanings throughout the winter will become much easier.

For more tips on winter protection, check out the article, Winter Is Coming! Make Sure Your Vehicle is Protected by Zach McGovern.

Hand and Touchless Washing

This is the part that no one enjoys, washing in the cold weather. Personally I try and wait for a “nice” 30-40 degree day so that my hands do not become a solid brick of ice, but there are a few different options for washing.

  1. Traditional Wash – This is where I wait for a warmer winter day as I will be performing a two bucket wash with a thorough decontamination and rinse. Pro tip, use warm water in your buckets if possible. Your hands will thank you.
  2. Rinseless Wash – I utilize a rinse less wash when it is too cold to rinse the vehicle outside, or if I am only dealing with a lightly soiled vehicle. Using warm water and Optimum No Rinse, I can safely remove most dirt and grime from the surface. Ivan Rajic has put together a great step by step using ONR and you can check out this article by clicking here. I read this article when it was released and pretty much follow every step exactly.
  3. Touchless Car Wash – This is my last resort and one that I only use when my car is filthy or it is too cold out to detail. Let me be clear though, this is not a traditional tunnel wash, those I would avoid at all costs as they are as they say, swirl-o-matics. A touchless wash will help knock off dirt and grime from the exterior of the vehicle and many have bottom blasts to help knock away dirt, grime and salt from the undercarriage. The only thing to keep in mind here are the clears they use are strong, so repeated use can dry out trim pieces if you are not protecting and conditioning them.

Winter Gear

winter washing

Ask-a-Pro Author Jean-Claude Corcoran put together an amazing article outlining some tips on gear that will help make winter detailing more palatable. From areas such as jackets and gloves to shoes, JCC helps walk you through what he recommends and why. Click here to check out this article for a complete breakdown!

Interior

Interior cleaning is something that can be easily done in any season, but while we focus on protecting and cleaning the exterior of our vehicles, many times we forget about the interior. Personally I would make sure you always have good all weather mats, but in the fall I do lay down a layer of protection on my carpets and seats. This way if any dirt, grime or water is not caught in the mats, you will be able to easily clean it up. One of my favorites is the 303 Fabric Guard. Just spray onto the desired again, brush into all of the fibers and let it dry. Application is really that easy an the fibers will not only be protected, but stay natural and flexible.

Check out some of the best winter detailing products for the 2021-2022 season and bonus winter detailing articles below. If you have any other tips or tricks for these winter months please leave them in the comments section below!

Bonus Articles

5 comments on Winter Detailing Tips

  1. Steve Sampson says:

    What do you suggest that makes your dash look glossy and wet looking?

    • Reece @ DI says:

      Steve – I generally avoid anything on the dash that will leave behind any gloss. This is due to increased reflections from the sun, which can cause a safety issue when driving. Instead I go for a dark, matte finish and the Gtechniq C6 is one of my favorites.

  2. Ryan Eyberg says:

    Are there any products for the undercarriage that offer any protection from salt and grime buildup?

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