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Old 12-14-2006, 12:42 PM   #7
2nd Gear Member
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Toronto
Posts: 256
How to: Wash your car in the winter

I know many of the detailing pros in the forum may disagree with the content in this article. Winter washing can be a very tricky subject. My main objective when washing in the winter is to keep the salt and other dirt off of my car, and ensure that it stays swirl free. I’m not necessarily looking for the perfect shine.

I’ve come to accept the reality that my car will not stay clean for more than one day in the winter. No sooner do I wash it, it starts snowing, and the salt trucks are out in full force not long after that. With that said, I decided that it wasn’t worth it for me to freeze my pants off attempting to hand wash my car in my garage with warm water. The effort always seemed wasted. I needed to find a way to get the dirt off without damaging my finish in any way. Thankfully, I found it.

Imho, the most effective and painless way I have found to wash my car in the winter is to go through a touchless automatic car wash found at my local gas station. Touchless washes have many advantages:

- They don’t use any brushes whatsoever. No contact is made with your paint.
- They use recycled water. Many believe this is a bad thing. I don’t think it is. Recycled water tends to be softer, thus reducing the potential for hard water spots. Most reputable places will filter the reused water ensuring it is clean prior to reuse on your car.
- Many automatic car washes will also wash the underbody of your car, another area where salt can stick and cause damage.
- The water pressure is not directed at a concentrated area of your car, rather it is dispersed evenly everywhere with the express purpose of cleaning the finish safely.

The biggest key to avoiding swirls from a touchless wash is NOT TO DRY THE CAR AFTER YOU EXIT THE WASH!!!. Let the car dry on its own. Why you ask? Well, as good as touchless washes are, they will never replace a good home hand wash. There will still be a very thin film of dirt present on your paint. Guess what happens if you rub a towel on your paint with dirt on it? That’s right, nasty swirl marks will appear. Not a good thing. As mentioned before, there is no need to worry about water spots, because the water is recycled.

What I would recommend is wiping off your door-jambs and door sills, as water may find its way in there.

Many people advocate visiting a coin operated hand wash place. My question is why?? It’s really no different than hand washing at home. And I’ve already told you why I don’t like that. I also don’t like the high pressure of the spray nozzle. You could potentially push dirt into your clear coat.

I’m also not a fan of the quick detail in between washing, or worse yet, as a replacement for washing. No amount of qd can replace the thick suds of good car wash soap. No qd can lubricate and safely lift winter dirt and salt off your car safely. I guarantee you will create swirls using this method. Remember, friction is the enemy. The less you touch your car, the less micro marring you put in the clear coat. This goes not only for winter washing and drying, but also for year round washing and drying.

Many people have also expressed concern about the aggressiveness of the soap used at touchless washes. Will it dull my paint? Will it strip my wax or sealant? The answers are no, and no. I’ve been taking my cars thru touchless washes for the last few years and have encountered no problems to date. My klasse sealant glaze always sheets water the first time I hand wash my car in the spring. This tells me that there is still SG left on my paint. The fact that there is still a thin film of dirt present on my paint after existing the wash is another indicator that the soap is not as aggressive as believed.

It’s also very important to clay and use a paint cleaner on your paint during your big spring detail. Performing these two steps are the best ways to rejuvenate your finish after a harsh northern winter.

I can vouch for this method 100%. I have not had any issues with it. In my opinion it is the very best and most practical way to care for your car in the winter.


That's it! The entire series in one thread.

1997 318i
Boston Green Metallic with Beige cloth interior
15" Steel Wheels with Plastic Hubcaps

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