As the days shorten and the temperature drops, the last thing you feel like doing is cleaning your car. But this is exactly the time of year you need to keep it grime-free.
Extreme weather such as ice, snow, wind, rain and fog play havoc with a car’s cleanliness. Added to the grit on the roads, there’s every chance your car will be covered in a permanent layer of filth.
Over time, this will corrode the bodywork, diminishing the car’s value as well as impairing its appearance.
So there is every incentive to give your vehicle a little TLC over the winter months – and here’s our guide to doing it right.
1 Tool up
As with any task relating to car maintenance, it is worth taking the time to gather the right tools for the job
To give your car a decent winter clean, you’ll need two buckets (see below), a decent wash mitten (not a sponge or chamois, neither of which are recommended by professional detailers), a hose (preferably with a pressure washer, although a normal garden hose with an adjustable nozzle will do the trick), a microfibre towel for drying and a microfibre cloth or two for applying polish or wax.
You may choose to wear rubber gloves if you don’t want wrinkled hands, and waterproofs to protect from splashes. Wellington boots are a good idea too – there’s nothing worse than soggy feet on a cold winter’s afternoon.
2 Blast off the grime first
Before you crack on with shampooing, you should give your car’s nooks and crannies a thorough going over with the pressure washer or hose.
Blast off accumulated grime, paying particular attention to wheels and tyres, wheel arches and beneath the sills. These are all magnets for wintry debris, especially road grit that corrodes metal faster than a hungry caterpillar working through a stack of cabbages.
By kneeling down and getting up close to your vehicle’s underside, you’ll be confident of clearing away all the muck.
3 Use a high-quality shampoo – and deploy a brace of buckets
For the most effective clean, use two buckets. Fill one with water and high-quality all-weather car shampoo.
Fill the other just with water. Use warm water in both – it’ll be nicer on your hands, and help lift any grime from the car’s panels.
Rinse your wash mitten in the clean water before dipping it into the shampoo and applying, working from the top of the car down. Repeat the sequence every time you need to recharge the mitten: clean water first, shampoo second.
That way, any grit or grime that gathers on the mitten will come off in the first bucket, meaning you’ll have a nice clean mitten for the shampoo. The result is a sparkling finish, and much less risk of scratching the bodywork.
4 Use wax for continuing protection
Use the hose or pressure washer to rinse the shampoo, again working from the top down. Then give the car a thorough dry. This is especially important in icy conditions as it prevents the doors and windows freezing shut overnight.
Right at the start of the season, and every six weeks thereafter, apply a high-quality protective wax. This will make it harder for grime to attach to the car, ensuring your efforts have a longer-term effect.
5 Remember the interior
With a spotless exterior, it’s worth spending 10 minutes sprucing up the inside too. Clear out any rubbish that’s accumulated during the week, wipe the dashboard plastics with a duster.
Every fortnight or so, use the hose attachment on your vacuum cleaner to suck up crumbs and dry dirt.
Lastly, fit rubber mats for winter motoring. These can be hosed down, and provide much better protection from wet or muddy boots than carpet-style mats.
You should also consider using seat covers, which protect from the additional grime that inevitably enters a car during the cold winter months.