Winter Car Care and Why It Matters
Most of you that will be reading this blog entry probably live in New England. For the few of you that may be reading this from warmer climates, around this time of year in New England we get this thing called Winter. It can be a nasty little season with super cold temperatures, lots of snow and ice, and just generally a multitude of daily inconveniences that we all complain about but end up living with them just fine until the thaw in the spring. Temperatures get downright frigid, into the single digits at times! So, you have to shovel the walk and/or the driveway, get the snowblower running again or shell out the dough to the plow guy to be able to leave your house in the morning. You have to turn the heat on which means a bigger bill for the oil guy or the gas company. You have to be careful about freezing pipes and make sure to throw some salt down to melt the ice so you don't face plant leaving the house.
But wait, there's more! Even as numerous as the considerations may be for your home and personal care, the winter becomes a critical time for car care as well.
Most people think of detailing when the weather is nice, and want to get their ride all shined up for the summer. In New England, that's when the majority of detailers get their business. But if we're being honest, it's much more important to take the proper steps leading up to and throughout the winter, which will make that springtime shine-up easier, faster, and provide better results.
Winter brings with it so many assaults on your car's finish that it really can be overwhelming. As the exterior goes, you're dealing with piles of snow on the car and ice needing to be scraped off the windows, which can inflict serious damage depending on the tools and techniques you employ. Then you have a downright nasty mix of sand, rock salt, calcium chloride and god knows what else they're dropping on the roads these days. You've got oil and grease that leeches off of the trucks and plow assemblies, as well as iron and steel filings that get deposited into the road and the snow when the plow blade scrapes against it. Every time you drive your car in the winter, this road-smoothie-from-hell gets thrown all over the outside of your car, and there's (almost) nothing you can do to avoid it. Don't forget about the interior, though. Your shoes pick up this same nasty slurry and all sorts of salt, sand, slush and snow get dragged onto your carpets, sometimes your seats, and can leave the inside of your vehicle looking like a bomb went off.
So, short of holing up inside your house and not going anywhere for 6 months at a time, what can you do?
First and foremost, as many detailing pros will tell you frequent car care is easy car care. This is much more than an attempt to get more business out of you. The more often you keep the car clean in the good weather, the less work you have to do when it comes time to protect it for the bad weather. I'm going to break this down into a four part plan that's so easy, anyone can follow it.
First, you have the preparation phases that should take place in the early to mid-fall, and should be wrapping up right about now in this unusually mild first week of November. I'll break this down into exterior and interior steps:
- Exterior: Full wash and decontamination to leave a clean paint surface. Deep wheel cleaning, paying special attention to the undercarriage of the vehicle. Minor defect correction**, application of a high quality, robust paint sealant or coating to resist winter damages. Don't worry too much about tire shine, it's not going to last anyway. Highly recommend applying sealant or an SiO2 spray sealant to the wheels to protect them as well. Sealant application to exterior glass to assist with icing and snow removal, as well as a high quality windshield washer fluid and booster solution.
- Interior: Deep, detailed vacuuming, including carpets, mats and seats. Decontaminate carpets and mats with upholstery cleaner and brush by hand or machine to remove embedded dirt. Protect carpets, mats, and cloth upholstery surfaces with a quality fabric protectant. Deep clean leather seating and interior surfaces using a quality leather cleaner and horsehair brush, protect surfaces with a quality leather protectant that won't leave a slippery, greasy finish. Highly recommend the purchase and use of all-weather plastic or rubber floor mats, purchase quality items so that the dyes in rubber mats don't alter the carpet! For daily drivers or vehicles that live outside, I highly recommend a seat cover on at least the driver's seat to protect it from falling snow when entering the vehicle.
Those two sections describe a pretty extensive detail prior to the bad weather happening. Doing so will give you a very well protected vehicle for when the snow does start flying. Now, we need to discuss ongoing care and maintenance throughout the winter.
- Exterior: Don't get too crazy, it's not going to last long. Your primary goal should be the most amount of contaminant removal with the least amount of contact possible. For snow removal, no brushes allowed! Brushes create damage in the form of scratches and swirl marks that will need correction in the spring. Use a Sno-Brum foam head tool, much safer. Aim to get all the snow minus maybe 1/4"-1/2" off the vehicle, don't try to get all of it clear down to the paint. Doing so will almost guarantee scratching. Scrape windows carefully being sure to use defrosters and avoid rubber trims and scratching the paint. On days where the sun comes out and it's feasible to do so, run through a self-serve carwash and use only the plain pressurized water to blast the salt, sand and gunk off the vehicle, paying special attention to the wheel wells and undercarriage. Again, NO BRUSHES! Also avoid the use of the soaps they have in these washes, as many contain corrosive/acidic solutions that will reduce the protective qualities of the sealant you just had applied. Remember, remove as much as you can with as little contact as possible.
- Interior: All weather mats (WeatherTech, Husky liners) are a lifesaver here. Well worth the investment! Do your best to empty the salt/sand etc out of them or vacuum frequently. Ensure that carpet, upholstery and leather surfaces don't get wet for too long, to avoid stains and mold. If you have to use your carpet mats, make sure to spray with a good upholstery cleaner and brush them out prior to vacuuming to remove the salt and sand contamination. Try not to let salt sit on carpet for too long to avoid staining.
So there you have it. Winter makes car care a little tougher, but it doesn't mean it should stop all together. Don't feel like doing it yourself? Give us a call or drop us a note to discuss the special Winter Interior-Only packages we can put together for you to keep the vehicle clean and protected inside. For those of our current and prospective customers with climate controlled garages, our garage queen package is available year-round for customers with climate-controlled indoor garage space, should you get the itch for a quick shine-up when it's cold outside.
As always, feel free to use the comment section or contact form for any questions or concerns you may have, including product advice, tips and tricks, or any general questions at all.