Wash & Dry

When is It Too Cold to Wash Your Car? Things to Know!

Written by Howell Crist / Fact checked by Sam Howard

when is it too cold to wash your car

Regularly washing your car is a must in taking care of your four-wheel drive. However, to wash your car in the winter is a bit challenging since there are extra precautions that need to be taken to ensure that you’re doing it right.

When is it too cold to wash your car? If the temperature plummets below 34°F, it means the weather is no longer suitable for a car wash. Therefore, to get a car wash below freezing temperature should be avoided.

Read on to find out more about this topic and learn simple tricks on how to get a car wash in cold weather.

What Temperature is Too Cold to Get a Car Wash?

You might be wondering how cold is too cold to wash your car? Well, the ideal temperature to wash car in winter is between 50-89℉ (10-32℃) while the most risky time is below 32℉ (0℃).

Washing your car below the recommended temperature could result in frozen car locks, doors, and windows.

The lowest temp to wash car is above freezing point. However, this should be done efficiently so as to avoid freezing your car’s exterior and harming yourself from extreme cold.

Why is It Important to Wash Your Car in Winter?


Here are several reasons why you should wash your car in the winter:

1. To get rid of salt and dirt

Salt deposits are usually caused by salt mixtures that were put on the road to de-ice it and prevent accidents caused by slipping.

Washing your car in the winter will not only remove the dust and dirt from pollution but will also take off salts that cause damages in metal parts and paint.

Another thing is, salt corrosion (a form of rusting accelerated by salt) can be prevented. In turn, you’ll be able to save a lot of money from possible repairs and restoration.

2. To extend your car tire’s lifespan

The chemicals from road salts wear off your car’s tire as they stay on its surface for too long. The combination of road salt and moisture from the cold weather leads to damage on the tire tread.

Regularly washing your car will keep this chemical reaction under control.

3. To improve your car’s visibility

Your car’s visibility is more likely to be affected because of humidity caused by extreme cold. That’s why it’s important to wash your car to keep your windshield and car windows clean at all times. Doing so will help you avoid such accidents caused by fog.

4. To increase your car’s resale value

Cleaning your car consistently in winter will make your car look brand new even after years of using it. The effort in removing winter-related grime will pay off more than shedding out cash for your car’s reconstruction later on.

This means that your car would be easier to sell or could be sold on a higher price.

What to Do When It’s Too Cold to Wash Your Car?


Before washing your car in the winter, dress appropriately first to protect yourself from frostbite and extreme cold. Wear waterproof gloves and warm comfortable clothing so you can move around easily.

1. Keep your car as warm as possible.

Try to wash your car in 20 degree weather Celsius (or 68℉) since this temperature falls at the middle of the recommended temperature range.

If possible, wash your car in an enclosed area with heating systems to prevent the wind from drying the soap or freezing the water on the car’s surface.

Start the engine of your car 30 minutes before and after the car wash. This will help the car stay warm as usual, thus, will prevent the formation of ice while washing the car and will aid in drying the car quickly after rinsing.

Another good thing is to try washing your car during the afternoon or when the sun is radiating more heat. This will help in keeping your car warm.

2. Use warm soapy water with baking soda.


Dissolve baking soda in warm water with soap that is designed for vehicles. Avoid using harsh detergent and abrasive washcloth as they may damage your car’s paint.

Use warm water instead of boiling water to protect the exterior of your car. Start by using a soft sponge to remove salts from areas of your car more prone to accumulate the deposits. These include the tires, undercarriage, and front of your car.

After removing the salt deposits, begin washing the car from top to bottom in small areas. Through this technique, you will be able to clean the entire car while minimizing the risk of freezing.

3. Dry the car carefully.

Thoroughly dry your car using a microfiber cloth. Using the same technique in washing your car, dry one small area of your car at a time to ensure that no part of the car will freeze.

Also try opening the doors and windows of your car to check if they are not frozen.

4. Clean the inside of your car.


Using a vacuum cleaner, clean the insides of your car. Start by cleaning your car’s mat.

  • Make sure that your car’s mats are dry. It is easier to remove stains and dirt this way.
  • Remove loose dust and dirt by running the vacuum cleaner on it.
  • Gently brush the mats using a mixture of detergent solution and leave it on for at least 30 seconds.
  • Use a moist fabric to wipe off the foam and grime on the mats.
  • Vacuum the mats to take off any excess residue.
  • Spray odor neutralizing spray on your mats then let them dry. (optional)

Remember that humidity and extreme moisture can damage the interior of your car. It may cause visible molds, bad smell, stubborn stains, and damp seats.

To prevent these, consider replacing your carpeted mats with rubber ones and your clothed seat cover with waterproof ones.

Another trick is to place a cat litter-filled sock inside your car as this will help in absorbing moisture.

Also, wipe the car windows and windshield from the inside using a microfiber towel with a glass cleaner. Keep handy antibacterial wipes around so you can always clean the dashboard, compartments, steering wheel etc., when necessary.

If your car interior is too filthy, you should start off by cleaning the inside of the car first. Otherwise, you can leave this part for last.

5. Spray lubricants.


After cleaning the inside of your car, apply a lubricant to your car’s keyhole, windows, doors, locks, handles, and engine compartment to prevent moisture from building up inside.

A good lubricant usually costs $7 on average and is available in local hardware stores and online shopping sites.

6. Put wax on your car.


Putting a wax on your car will create a barrier between the car’s surface and snow and it will also protect your car’s paint from extreme cold.

The ideal temperature to wax your car is between 60-80℉. Waxing it in 50 degree weather is possible too however, the wax would be tough to apply and may take too long to dry.

Do invest in a high-quality carnauba-based car wax. It’s easy to use, dries quicker, and leaves a glossy finish.

7. Cover your car when not in use.

A car cover for cold weather will serve as a protective layer of your car against damage caused by excess moisture through heavy snow, rain, and strong winds. It will also aid in easy removal of the snow from your car as you only need to lift the cover up.

8. Some other methods to clean your car:

If you don’t like washing your car on your own, you may try availing automatic car wash or the use of different machines to clean your car.

However, remember that just like manual car washing, there’s a recommended temperature to do this and to get a car wash below freezing temperatures should be avoided.

For instance, a below freezing temperature like 25 degrees F is considered as too cold for automatic car wash.

The two types of automatic car wash are:

  • Touchless car wash: the process of washing your car without use of any cleaning tools but only using high-pressured water and strong cleaning solution.

This is considered to be milder on cars’ paint since no material will come in contact with your car but only the water and the cleaning product.

However, since this process does not have any scrubbing involved, it does not guarantee that it will be able to eliminate all the stubborn dirt from your car.

  • Soft-touch car wash: it has the same process as the touchless car wash but uses soft brush (or cloth) and gentle friction instead. This method is considered to clean more thoroughly as it has the ability to loosen dirt though friction.

Nevertheless, it is more likely to cause scratches on the car’s surface and may contribute to any worsening pre-existing issues.

How Often Should You Wash Your Car in the Winter?


Some may think that cold season is a good time when not to wash your car, but this is not true.

Generally, it is recommended to wash your car once every two weeks, even in the winter season where your car is more likely to accumulate dirt and salt. Doing so will make your car remain in tiptop shape.

There are several factors to determine when to wash your car. These are:

  • Where you live

If you live in a place where winter is severe, wash your car every 10-14 days to protect your car from salt buildup brought by road salts. On the other hand, if you reside in places with light winter, you may wash your car less frequently.

  • Where you park

If you park in an enclosed area like your garage, your car may be free from snow but not from trapped moisture brought by the extreme cold. And so, frequent washing is still recommended.

On the other hand, if you park your car in an open area, salt and snow exposure is inevitable, but salt corrosion may be prevented in some parts of the car. Nevertheless, regular washing is advised.

  • How cold it is

The colder the temperature in winter, the more road salts there would be. And so, you need to wash your car more often at times like this.

  • How often you use your car

If you use your car every day or most of the time, regular washing is a must. However, if you use it seldomly, a lower frequency of washing may suffice.


It’s important to know when is it too cold to wash your car so you can refrain from doing so. You may wash your car in 40 degree weather and higher; but one the temperature approaches freezing point, you’ll have to clean your vehicle another day.

Remember that you should wash your car regularly and carefully in the winter to maintain your car’s beauty and lengthen its lifespan.

If you find this article helpful, please share it with others who might be interested.

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Our chief editor is Sam Howard. The vast market of car care necessitates extensive research. He entered the market, experienced the service, and reported customer feedback in order to provide the best advice and content to car owners. We have faith in him to turn our website into a reliable resource for all car owners.

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