It’s that time of the year once again. An uneasy bridge between fall foliage, and the sudden onset of winter cold weather. Images of icy roads, stuck wiper blades, expensive sets of dedicated winter tires, jumper cables attached to a dying battery, and noisy tire chains permeate your vision.
Setting your fears aside, you start to wonder how in the hell you are going to keep your car clean this winter? What’s everyone else doing to make winter washes as painless as possible? The salt spat-out by snowplows is no joke, but frozen wash mitts aren’t very appealing either, and you aren’t even sure how often a car should be washed during colder months anyways.
In search of a solution, we sought the advice of Canadian car detailer and YouTube star, Pan The Organizer, a man who is well-versed in overcoming wintry conditions, and protecting vehicles in colder climates.
So if you’ve ever wondered how Canadians wash their cars in winter weather, today’s your day to find out…
Prep With Purpose
While many of the world’s inhabitants will opt for winter storage for their sports cars and convertibles, their daily beaters must slug it out with Old Man Winter. Everything from slushy gutter grime teaming with de-icer salt and dirt particles, to microplastic pollutants embedded in sheets of ice attack from all sides, and the only way to stop the stuff is to prep and pray.
Luckily, DIY guys like Pan The Organizer have done a damn good job of showing people how to prepare cars and trucks for the winter months. And it all starts with splash of shampoo…
Pan is quick to point out that different kinds of car wash soaps, or car shampoos, do different things, so choosing the right suds for the job is important.
When preparing for winter, a quality prep shampoo is the way to go. This formula will not only remove surface filth build-up and loosen or lift any existing protectants, but it will also help expose any blemishes that may have been hiding underneath all of that nastiness.
No need to blast those rocker panels with a hardcore pressure washer here, as a quality prep shampoo, a large microfiber chenille wash mitt, a two-bucket wash method with a car wash caddy, and a garden hose with a sprayer should be plenty for this sort of DIY car detailing scenario.
Just be sure that you scrub well away from direct sunlight, and skip the bargain bin car shampoo products being sold down at the local auto parts store, as that junk tends to hurt more than help.
Quick Tip: While keeping glass, plastic, and metal surfaces in the shade is important, having a protective, garage-like structure for that freshly coated car to cure in is also quite important.
Clay It Because You Care
One of the most important things you can do for your car on an annual basis, regardless of how harsh the winters may be where you live, is a thorough clay media decontamination. This inexpensive and incredibly effective method of removing deeply embedded grime from a vehicle’s paintwork and plastics is 100% safe for all external components on a car, and will leave you shocked by what it picks up.
We won’t get too deep into the details of this crucial step today, but remember that rust forms at an alarming rate. So check out our article on clay media decontamination for further info on the nitty-gritty of this useful cleaning technique. There’s a reason why professional detailers like Pan The Organizer always insist upon claying a car prior to protecting it with a product.
Quick Tip: Clay decontamination and drying complete, take a moment to inspect the vehicle’s body for any signs of scratches or swirls. Contrary to common myth, nano-ceramic coatings will not hide paint scratches or swirl marks in clear coat, so be sure those blemishes are properly paint corrected before proceeding.
Crack Open a Nice Bottle of IPA
While we definitely enjoy a cold craft brew while detailing a vehicle, the kind of IPA we’re referring to in this step is “isopropyl alcohol,” a product that doubles as an effective method of killing COVID-19. It is this stuff, that when properly blended into an IPA prep spray, transforms into a decontaminating badass that eliminates invisible contaminants and leaves a surface completely devoid of dust and dirt.
Just make sure that you work quickly when using an IPA spray, and always use an ultra-plush microfiber towel to avoid scratching the freshly stripped surface underneath.
Quick Tip: While you can make your own IPA spray, preparation and proper formulation can be tricky. It also does not smell very nice, which is precisely why pros like Pan The Organizer prefer to use AvalonKing’s IPA Prep Spray.
Slap a Ceramic Coating on That Sled
Paintwork, plastics, headlights, taillights, glass, chrome, carbon fiber, stainless steel truck nuts… it doesn’t matter what you are protecting. The nano-ceramic coating application process always relies upon the same principles and practices, so pay close attention to the video embedded above.
Some things worth noting, are that applying the coating in 2x2 foot sections at a time will allow you to maintain the greatest amount of quality control, without sacrificing efficiency. Working in a cross-hatch pattern will help keep even distribution in check, and that rainbow “flash” will tell you when it’s time to buff the stuff away. Also, make sure that you inspect the coated surface from all angles after leveling/buffing to identify any “high-spots” that you may have missed.
Another important tip is to pay close attention to areas like the mirrors and grille on a vehicle, as they are especially prone to collecting winter scuzz. As you go, you’ll discover that matte plastic trim will begin to look darker and richer, chrome will become shinier, and glass is easier to see through. This last perk is especially important in winter, when rain, ice, and snow hit your car’s windshield, causing visibility issues.
Pan recommends that you ceramic coat your wheels as well, as that will help keep damage to a minimum. Aluminum pitting and corrosion does tend to form fastest during winter months when vehicles come into road salt and deicers more regularly, so we wholeheartedly support this statement. Just don’t forget to hit those rollers with your IPA prep spray beforehand to make sure that your wheels are completely decontaminated.
Quick Tip: If you plan on applying a second layer of ceramic coating atop the first layer (which Pan also strongly recommends doing), make sure that you wait about 45–60 minutes after the last of your first complete pass. This will guarantee that the initial coating has been allowed ample time to harden.
Remain Methodical and Maintenance Minded
After your nano-ceramic coating (or two) has hardened for a full 48 hours in a sheltered garage, it is now ready to come into contact with the elements. While the coating will continue to cure for the next couple of weeks, it is completely safe to put it into action, but only when cared for properly.
First of all, Pan warns that nano-ceramic coatings should not come into contact with any cleaning chemicals, including car shampoo, for at least 10 days after curing. The reason for this is that the water within rain and snow is far less likely to cause a negative reaction with a solidifying ceramic coating when compared to man-made chemicals.
That being said, once the coating has fully cured for a couple of weeks, it will make future maintenance washes far easier, and transform wintry washes into a far quicker process. This is because ceramic coatings tend to force contaminants and liquids to either bounce off or float on their surface, which is another reason why they work so well at keeping windshields, windows, mirrors, and other forms of glass clear in winter.
If you are someone who is sincerely concerned about protecting cars from road salt damage, then you washing your car on a wintry day that isn’t too cold is your best bet. It doesn’t have to be a routine weekly occurrence, but impromptu preventative measures such as these can make a huge difference in how a ceramic coating holds up over time.
Oh, and if you are afraid of freezing your hands off, get yourself a telescoping microfiber mitt holder to keep those digits from feeling like they are in the single digits. It’s like having an extended battery warranty for your hands, and one that never runs out of amazing coverage. Ah, dad jokes…
Quick Tip: Hitting all of those ceramic-coated surfaces with a SiO2 Boost Spray after winter comes to a close is never a bad idea, as it will help rejuvenate the coating, which surely has just seen quite a bit of wintry abuse. Silica spray toppers not only boost protection but also improve glossiness and slickness, thus restoring a ceramic coating to near-new status.
Winter driving safety goes well beyond choosing the right tires and knowing how to drive in snowy conditions. From getting winter grime and road salt out of filthy rubber floor mats, to deciding whether or not you should vinyl wrap your ride to protect it from the elements, your winter-related concerns are all well-founded.
Fortunately, thanks to guys like Pan The Organizer and AvalonKing, knowledge about how to protect an automobile’s exterior components from wintry weather is both easily obtainable and affordable. It may take the procuring of a few shop supplies, along with a safe DIY space and a smidgeon of elbow grease, but prepping and protecting a car before winter hits is by no means difficult.
Now let’s not forget the fact that rust forms on all sorts of surfaces. So even if you aren’t fretting over the best way to store your sports car during winter, chances are you’ve got some other personal property in mind. Ever think about ceramic coating your snowblower? You have now.
So regardless as to whether you are winterizing a lawnmower, getting some winter motorcycle maintenance in the books, or just preparing your grill for storage, proper winter prep starts before the first snowflake falls. No matter what your preparation plan might be prior to winter’s initial attack, having a familiarity with the winter car care is everyone’s responsibility.