Help Your Car Shine Along Winter Roads

Severe weather attacks your car from every angle.

Winter rain, snow and sleet can create lasting damage on the exterior and interior of your vehicle.

How do you help your vehicle survive harsh winter driving?

“The most important thing to do in the winter is wash your car frequently,” said Ron Fausnight of Shell Car Care. “Removing the dirt and grime regularly will make your car look better and prevent corrosion from harsh salt and sand, or other roadway filth.”

Molla recommends spraying the underside of the car as well. Rinsing the undercarriage and around the axles removes dirt and any salt or sand debris that is often used to clear roadways in the winter.

Headlights

Headlights are at the forefront of wet winter driving. They’re exposed to dirt, salt, rain and other factors that cuts their luminosity and your vision at night.

What to do?

Polish the headlights. Removing dirt build-up improves nighttime visibility. If lenses are dull, consider a polishing kit or replacement.

“Washing the lenses works in many cases, but sometimes it isn’t enough,” Moll said. “Plastic lens covers can become dull or yellow over time, so consider a polishing kit or even replacement to restore them to their original lens clarity.”

Glass care

Clean both outside and inside glass. Use a glass cleaner on all glass. This helps prevent streaking or smearing on the outside, and removes the oily film that tends to build up on the inside glass. Consider applying a water-repellent product designed to bead-off water on exterior glass. An anti-fog product can be applied on the inside to reduce interior fogging during the cold weather.

Clean and dry floor mats. Keeping your floor mats dry prevents mildew from forming and smelling up the interior of your car. If shoes or boots have made the floor mats wet or damp, remove them and bring them inside to dry overnight.

Wheel Care

Keeping your wheels clean is about making sure rust and corrosion don’t set in.

A layer of wheel protectant or traditional wax takes on added significance in the winter. Salts, acids and chemicals used to clear snow and ice of roadways are extremely caustic to a wheel’s finishes, causing permanent damage if left untreated.

Slop and road salt is a way of life in winter, especially in the northern states and Canada.

A layer of polish or traditional auto wax provides protection against filthy winter roads.

Clean your wheels every other week, especially if you live in snow. At a minimum, clean wheels every time you wash the vehicle exterior.

Chose a cleaner that is acid-free. A general rule: If it is safe to use on vehicle paint, it is safe to use on wheels.

Interior

Vacuum seats and carpets frequently. Dirt and other particles combine with moisture and embed into fabric strands, making it difficult to remove.

“Routine vacuuming is one of the best things you can do for your interior,” said Jim Dvorak of Mothers, a polish and wax company based in Southern California. "Soil and grit that's stuck to soles of your shoes collects over time and wears down carpet mats.”

Replace worn out fabric mats with durable ones made of rubber or composite material. Make sure the mat can grip the carpet so it won’t slide around during driving.

“Custom-molded liners that fit your vehicle’s floorboards keep dust, dirt and debris out of your carpet,” said Tara Duncan, director of marketing for Husky Liners, a Kansas-based company designing and developing heavy-duty floor mats.

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