Winter paint protection

Winter car paint protection

It’s not easy to have a clean and shiny car over the winter months.  Especially of you have snow and ice where you live.

But even if you have just cold rain and some frost there are some things you can do to keep your car looking good and to protect its shine for the following spring.

Plus there are plenty of great products that can make it easier to wash and care for your car and protect it’s shine.

I usually apply a fresh coat of sealant and wax to my car in preparation for winter.  I have also tried ceramic coatings.  Ceramic coatings and sealants can give great UV protection.  They make your car easier to clean because of their hydrophobic properties.  But I find a good quality sealant is usually easier to apply.

A full deep wash and decontamination is needed. Here are the typical steps I follow.

  1. Wash car with pressure washer.
  2. Apply thick foam with foam cannon and let it dwell for 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Power wash clean
  4. Two bucket wash with strip wash like Adams Strip Wash to remove existing wax & sealant.
  5. Power wash away
  6. Dry properly
  7. Apply Iron and tar remover spray and wash wheels
  8. Power wash away
  9. Apply clay bar with lubricant or quick detailer
  10. Power wash and dry.
  11. Polish out swirls or scratches with dual action polisher and a quality polish.
  12. Clean surface with IPA solution or Gyeon Prep
  13. Apply sealant or ceramic coating like CarPro CQuartz
  14. Apply wax.
  15. Apply tire shine product.

How to wash your car in winter.

Once I have completed a full wash and sealant application as outlined above, your car will be fully protected for the winter. But of your car gets dirty how should you wash it in a way that protects the paint and it’s sealant?

These washes are called maintenance washes. The goal is to just take the dirt off and top up the protection.  But at the same time to preserve existing protection as much as possible.

Of course you know you shouldn’t take your car to a car wash because it will scratch the clear coat and dull the shine. So if your shine is important to you will need to wash your car by hand, even in the winter months. Here are some tips that will make it easier.

After just an hour on the road my car gets covered in dirt and grease. So by the time the weekend rolls around I can hardly see out of the back windows. It’s time for a wash.

My maintenance wash routine is as follows for heavy dirt.

  1. Foam cannon and power wash which a pH neutral car shampoo.
  2. Spray wheel cleaner on wheels.
  3. Wash wheels with wheel brushes and soapy water.
  4. Wash with two bucket method.
  5. Dry with detailer spray or drying aid spray.
  6. Clean glass cleaner product if needed.
  7. Apply tyre shine product.
  8. Apply wax if I want my car to look extra special.


My maintenance wash routine is as follows for light dirt.

  1. Rinse with hose.
  2. Spray wheel cleaner on wheel rims.
  3. Wash wheels with wheel brushes and soapy water.
  4. Use detailer spray and plenty of microfibre towels if dirt is light.

Tip 1: always wipe in straight lines and not circles. And never scrub!
Tip 2: use warm water in buckets if it’s cold outside to prevent your hands from freezing.

Using a waterless wash on a dirty car.

Waterless washes are very useful if there is a water shortage situation in the summer. But they are great in winter too. But if my car is extremely dirty I will first clean it with a pressure washer and the foam cannon. This will take a lot of dirt off before I finish off with a waterless wash. It’s quick and easy and also it adds protections and wax as it shines.

If you don’t have a power washer consider using a coin wash or jet wash. But only use the pressure washer. Don’t be tempted use the brush if there is one.

If can’t get to a pressure washer and your only choice is the water less wash what should you do? I think in most cases a waterless wash on a dirty car is fine once you are careful with it and you follow the instructions exactly. The most import thing to remember is to use plenty of clean microfiber towels and to wipe in straight lines with light pressure.

Waterless wash tips

  1. Shake the product well
  2. Use plenty of the product
  3. Use a number of high quality microfibre towels
  4. Wipe in straight lines when removing dirt and use one side of the towel for each wipe.
  5. Don’t put too much pressure on the paint.
  6. Buff with another clean microfibre cloth.
  7. Use a separate cloth for the wheels because the brake dust will scratch paint.

Optimum No Rinse deserves a special mention. It’s really only meant for slightly dirty vehicles where as the waterless wash mentioned above can be used on dirtier cars.

You just put some in a bucket and wash with the two bucket method. The second bucket full of clean water for rinsing your mitt as you go.

Optimum No Rinse will lift the dirt from the car and is used in conjunction with a special sponge called the big red sponge but I have used it with a microfiber mitt to great affect. To me, the microfiber mitt is a better choice because of the way it traps dirt in it’s fibers.

Always wipe in straight lines to minimize scratching and it might be worth using a number of different mitts as each one gets dirty. Or rinse the mitt in a bucket of clean water every now and then.

There is no need to rinse off Optimum No Rinse (hence the name). You just wipe off with a microfibre towel in straight lines and with no pressure. Again multiple towels might be need to minimize scratches.

You can use a drying aid or some kind of spray sealant to add more protection when drying off the car. Optiseal from the same company is a product that will work well with it.




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