A clean car lasts longer, looks more attractive, and provides a more satisfying driving experience for you and for others on the road.

Keeping a car clean during wintertime, however, is not an easy task. This is because most car washes are closed during the winter time and trying to do it yourself can lead to some serious complications if not done the right way.

Luckily, this article has been put together to solve problems that come with finding car washes in winter and also provide tips for maintaining a clean car during this season.

are car washes open in winter pin

The Winter Car Wash Dilemma

What makes keeping a car clean during winter a challenge is mainly the damage that comes from constant exposure of the car to snow, slush, and road salt.

The best way to keep your car clean during winter time would have been to get it to the nearest car wash but some car wash facilities may close or operate with reduced hours during extreme winter conditions.

If your nearest car wash is not open, you will want to consider the next best option but driving your car around to find a suitable car wash can lead to accidents because of the icy and slippery roads. 

These roads are often treated with salt and chemicals to melt snow and ice. These chemicals can lead to corrosion and serious damage if not removed quickly from the car’s body.

If you do find a good car wash, you might still encounter problems with the water used as this water can freeze quickly on the vehicle’s surface and cause ice build-up. This ice build-up can, in turn, freeze door seals and locks, causing difficulties in opening and closing doors.

How Available are Car Washes in Winter?

Car washes are typically in high demand during the winter months as drivers seek to remove the road salt and snow that accumulate on their vehicles.  

The operations of different car washes vary from one region to another. It is also affected by how severe the weather conditions are.

In regions with milder winters, car wash facilities may operate regularly all year round in regions with milder winters. However, in regions with harsher winter conditions and freezing temperatures, car wash facilities might close temporarily or reduce their operating hours to protect their equipment and employees.

To find out about the availability of car washes during winter, it’s best to check with individual car wash businesses in your area. Many car wash facilities nowadays have websites or social media pages where they post updates regarding their operating hours and any closures due to weather conditions.

Certain car wash facilities offer heated bays to cope with cold weather conditions. Some self-serve car wash facilities also have automated systems installed and working throughout the year to give easy access to people who prefer to wash their cars by themselves. 

What is important, however, is to call or check the websites and social media platforms of your local car wash business to find out real-time information that will help you determine their winter operating hours and the changes they have implemented during the season.

Types of Winter Car Washes

There are several types of car washes available during winter to make your car wash process easier and faster. They include:

1. Automated Car Washes 

In automatic car washes, the vehicle is driven through a conveyor system, and machines equipped with brushes or soft cloth materials clean the car automatically.

Some automatic car washes have heated bays to prevent freezing during winter, making them a viable option in colder climates

Automated car washes however have some limitations, including car surface scratching and incomplete cleaning

2. Touchless Car Washes

Touchless car washes use high-pressure water jets and detergents to clean the car’s exterior without physically touching it. 

They offer convenience while reducing the risk of potential surface scratches caused by brushes and are suitable for freezing weather conditions.

Note, however, that touchless car washes may not be as effective in removing heavy dirt and stubborn stains when compared to other car wash types that require physical contact. They also require a significant amount of water, take more time, cost more, and may cause damage to delicate parts of the car.

3. Hand Wash services

A hand car wash service is a type of car wash where skilled professionals clean your car using their hands and various detailing tools instead of automated machines.

The items needed for a hand wash include; water, soap, and sponges or mitts. Techniques like hand washing, hand drying, and hand waxing are employed to give your car a thorough and personalized cleaning. 

These factors and more are what make hand wash service perfect for winter weather.

Hand wash techniques can however be time-consuming, tedious, and quite expensive.

4. Self-Service Car Washes

Self-service car washes are automated facilities where car owners can wash their vehicles themselves. 

These car washes typically have different stations for each step of the cleaning process. Each station comes with various equipment such as coin-operated machines, high-pressure water spray wands, cleaning brushes, and vacuums.

Self-service washes are a convenient option for those who prefer to control the time and resources they employ in cleaning their cars. An added advantage is that they are often open year-round, including during the winter season.

Take note that self-service cars require certain skills and can be time-consuming. It also doesn’t offer additional services like hand wash services do.

Precautions for Using Car Washes in Winter

Here are a few steps you can employ to protect you and your car from freezing during and after the wash.

  • Park your car in a covered area or a heated indoor space.
  • If you’re washing the car at home, make use of warm water for the cleaning process.
  • Wear warm, insulated, and waterproof clothing to stay comfortable and dry during the car wash.
  • Pay attention to parts of the car that water can freeze, such as locks, door seals, and handles during and after washing. 
  • Apply a silicone-based lubricant to prevent car parts from freezing.
  • Minimize the risk of creating icy patches around the car wash area by not overusing water.
  • Ensure the car is thoroughly dried immediately after washing using clean and soft towels.
  • When choosing a car wash, consider selecting touchless car washes that utilize high-pressure water jets and air dryers.
  • Use eco-friendly car cleaning products to minimize environmental impact during winter when washing the car at home.
  • Check the weather forecast for extreme cold or inclement weather before washing the car and avoid doing so during 
  • Apply a layer of wax or sealants to protect the car’s paint from salt and other contaminants.
  • Pay special attention to cleaning the undercarriage, as it’s prone to salt accumulation.

Alternative Car Cleaning Methods

In the absence of car wash facilities, here are alternative car cleaning methods you can employ:

1. Mobile Car Wash

A mobile car wash is a service where a team of professionals bring their water, equipment, and cleaning supplies to wash your car at your preferred location.

It offers convenience, and flexibility and helps you avoid the dangers that come with driving during winter periods.

2. Waterless Car Wash

A waterless car wash, as this name implies, involves cleaning a car without using water. 

Waterless car wash products employ special cleaning solutions that require minimal or no water to remove dirt and clean the car’s exterior.

They are environmentally friendly compared to other traditional car washes that require large amounts of water.

3. DIY Car Wash

This method of car wash involves washing your car by yourself, using your equipment, and cleaning products at home or in a location of your choice. 

DIY Winter Car Wash Tips

If you do decide to wash your car yourself, here are tips you can employ to clean your car effectively without risking damage from freezing water.

The first thing you need to do is to gather all the necessary car wash supplies, including car wash soap, hose, microfiber or soft sponges, wash mitts or brushes, wheel cleaner, glass cleaner, and microfiber towels for drying. After that;

  • Park your car in a covered area or a heated garage. 
  • Use warm water for the cleaning process.
  • Wash the car in smaller sections rather than wetting the entire vehicle at once.
  • Ensure your car washing process is quick and minimize the time that the car’s surface is wet.
  • Use a hose with a nozzle to ensure targeted rinsing and remove loose dirt and debris before washing.
  • Wash one section of the car before washing another to prevent freezing.
  • Use a grit guard in the bucket to trap dirt and debris at the bottom, preventing them from getting back on the cleaning tool.
  • Rinse the car thoroughly with the hose after washing to remove soap and dirt promptly.
  • Use a glass cleaner and microfiber cloth to clean the windows and mirrors.
  • Thoroughly dry the car immediately after washing using a clean, soft towel and focusing on areas where water can accumulate, such as the door handles, locks, and trunk, to prevent freezing.
  • You can apply wax to protect the car’s paint and give it a shiny finish.
  • After washing and drying, check door seals and locks for any moisture and apply a silicone-based lubricant to prevent freezing.


The best way to keep the road salts away from your vehicle during winter is to wash it properly.

Whether you are making use of a car wash service or you are doing it yourself, it is important to take extra steps and care to work effectively and keep the car dry immediately after the washing process.

Also, remember to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for each cleaning product you use and avoid using harsh chemicals that may damage your car’s exterior.


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About the Author

Larry Cruise


I know a lot about cars, man. I can look at any car's headlights and tell you exactly which way it's coming.

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