Between the Details : Winter Cleaning

By: Patrick Horrigan

Owner/ Lead Tech at We Care Car Care

Often people put off cleaning or detailing their vehicle in the winter months. Most detailers will tell you proper winter detailing is more important in the cold months than in the Spring for many reasons. Both the outside and inside of your car takes a beating in the winter. Salt and sand is not your friend. More often than not, the effects tend to build up over time. Lets take a look at what happening inside your car first.
Take a look at the floors and mats of your car. The sand is rather obvious but notice those
little white stains on your carpet? Those are from salt. When you get into your vehicle in the winter after storms or walking through salted and sanded parking lots you’re tracking it into your vehicles suspended in water from melting and runoff. As that water dries it leaves the salt behind.  Over time the salt will build up and start to burn the fibers of your carpet to the point it may not be completely reversible.  Also sand gets into the fibimg_0567ers of your carpet and depending on your vehicle maybe really hard to remove. Sand in the carpeting really speeds up the wear on your carpet.  Winter is also the best time of year for fogging of your glass. A dirty glass surface magnifies fogging and often streaking shows the worse in winter between the low sun angles, cold temps, extended time of darkness and glare from wet roadways.
The outside of your vehicle suffers in the cold months as well. The issue of road salt and body corrosion has been discussed over and over again so we will spare you that discussion. The simple solution is a properly washed and waxed vehicle will help resist corrosion effects. But did you know that it also helps when cleaning ice and snow off your car. After a quality detailing with paint decontamination and a clay bar treatment followed by a coating with a high hydrophobic paint coating or wax that your car’s surfaces will be more ‘slick’ making it easier to clean off your car. Ice and snow has less of a surface to stick too. Proper coatings on wheels and wheel well liners can also help snow and i
ce buildup too. In the winter on light colored vehicles in particular, iron deposits turn to surface rust way faster than the rest of the year and show up as small orange dots. Doors sticking from ice can also be prevented with a proper cleaning and coating.
We Care Car Care offers both a winter prep package and winter survival package for our 15622168_1828434367433510_8934200270745226678_ncustomers. We include a whole host of items to battle the winter and help cleaning and reversing of its already taken hold effects.  The tricks that we use to fight winter can be done by anyone who likes to use a fall/ spring full detail schedule or anytime your car is feeling the winter blues.


For the outside of the vehicle we do a full wash, paint decontamination using both specific chemicals and clay then finish with a upgraded  synthetic wax if they are not paying for an advanced paint coating. To clay on your own vehicle, most local auto part stores stock everything you need in one kit, normally from brands such as Mothers and Meguiars.  These kits come with a microfiber towel, the correct clay bar lube as well as enough clay to either clay a few vehicles or extra if you drop the bar on the ground and have to discard it. They also come with simple to follow instructions. If you still need a little of help there is a host of YouTube videos  online to watch.  Once you have properly prepped the surface of your car the next step is to apply a wax or coating to your car. We skip using wax mostly comprised of carnauba in the winter since it does not last as long because of the salt. There are lots of choices that can be found locally at your autopart store for synthetic waxes to use in the winter. Spray waxes tend to be the easiest to use in cold weather since most are a simple spray on, wipe off application. The colder the weather, the smaller the size panel you’ll want to work at a time. Another benefit of a spray wax in winter is it’s very easy to get a coating on areas that snow and slush like to build up like wheel s and wheel wells.

15966178_1843970025879944_3118528837265513720_nLike your paint, your glass can benefit from a good cleaning and a coating. Products such as RainX and Aquapell will help ice from sticking to your windshield and help your windshield wipers perform better. A new pair of wiper blades isn’t a bad idea either.

One of the last areas on the outside of your vehicle that deserves a little special attention is your jambs and sills. Lots of corrosive salt, dirt and road debris can build up in your jambs over the winter. Too much build up can clog areas and channels designed to funnel water away from your vehicle. Pooling salty water is a breeding ground for future headaches.  Dirty door seals freeze a lot easier then clean and treated seals. A good APC (all purpose cleaner) and a few microfiber cloths is all you need to keep them sparking clean. When we do our winter clean-ups we always hit the painted area of jambs and sills with spray wax and then condition and clean all the black rubber seals with tire shine product.

To keep the inside of your vehicle sparkling clean in the winter months16387311_1850281485248798_4488413393817030677_n regular cleaning is also key especially between your professional details. Equipping your vehicle with a quality rubber or plastic form fitting car mats can keep a lot of that winter mess from reaching your carpets and save you a lot of cleaning time. If you have regular mats a good quality shop vacuum with stiff brush attachments are needed to get all that sand out of your carpets.

Pro Tip: A palm sander is a great tool for getting out sand. Use the sander with nothing on it to vibrate the carpet to bring the sand to the top and then just vacuum away.

Salt stains on carpet can be a pain to remove. The best method we have is to use a 50/50 mixture of distilled white vinegar and warm water in a spray bottle. Simply spray on the stain and let it dwell for a few minutes to start breaking up the salt.  Next, while the carpet is still wet, rub in with a stiff bristle brush and that should break up the rest. Wipe the area with a terry towel until dry. The smell will go away in a day or two. If its bothersome a quick spray, agitate and wipe with an APC will get most of it. Or if you are cleaning a mat you can remove them from the vehicle and place in the sun. The UV rays will kill any smell as it dries.

Another area inside of your car that needs a little extra attention in the winter is your glass. A good quality auto-specific glass cleaner is a lot better to use then something you have already for around the house. Auto glass cleaner is formulated to use on the special coatings found on auto glass as well as being safe for window tint. Streaking is always an issues with cleaning car glass. There is a few ways to cut down on streaking. First, avoid direct sunlight as it can dry the cleaner before you can wipe it off. Secondly do not spray the cleaner on the glass. Use a glass cleaning microfiber towel and spray the cleaner on the towel. Start with the outside edges first and work your way in. While the window is still wet flip your towel to a dry side and dry off the glass. With a second dry towel, make another pass over the glass to polish away any remaining haze.  There are products on the market that you can apply to glass to cut down on fogging but I find that plain clean glass and a working defroster works better than any coating I’ve used.

Last thing to talk about may be the most important if you want your car looking nice for a long time. The single biggest cause for scratching in paint in my area is snow removal. It leads to a lot of paint correction work so maybe I shouldn’t give some tips?

Anytime you clear snow off your vehicle your almost guaranteed to put scratches into your paint. Most people use a snow brush. By it self the brush causes micro scratches easily but when you add in dirt picked up by the brush and then spread it over your car the scratching becomes deeper and more plentiful. Most of these are easily corrected with polishing later on. Some Brushes use metal to attach the bristles to the handle. Any contact with anything other then the brush is going to do number on your finish and are often not correctable. Some of the alternatives to brushes such as snow brooms (foam) can also scratch since they can pickup dirt and debris. Never, Ever, Never use a kitchen broom, something we see ALL THE TIME!

So what is safe way to clear snow off your car? Believe it or not one of the best tools to use is a leaf blower. There is nothing to contact your vehicles paint other then air. The leaf blower can be rather impracticable to use when not at home. Cordless models do not have enough power for deep snow and the cold will seriously cut your battery life short. A good on the road solution is to wrap your snow brush in a large clean micofiber towel. This will reduce the scratching if you move the towel slightly after every pass or two so you always have a fresh clean spot of the towel touching your paint.  A few 16×16 towels in the trunk is a lot smaller then a leaf blower. You can toss the towels in the wash after every storm and be ready for the next one.

Remember if you don’t feel like doing any of the above, I know quite a few guys that will do the work for you. And don’t forget to give us a call when its time to fix those snow removal scratches!