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When Is It Too Cold To Wash Your Car?

It's time to wash the car. The exterior looks dirty from all the grime it gathered on the road. But, you look at the weather and it's a freezing day. It raises the question, when is it too cold to wash your car? If that's your concern, let's go over the details. 

It's too cold to wash your car when it's less than 32 degrees Fahrenheit outside. If you decide to wash your car anyway, you risk freezing its components. You can prevent this by drying the car entirely. But, we can easily miss wet spots. It's not something we recommend. 

It's risky attempting to wash your car in the cold. Of course, the water won't freeze immediately. What matters is the amount that lingers. If it freezes, it can damage your car. If you'd like to learn more about the situation, keep reading. 

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Power washing the car, When Is It Too Cold To Wash Your Car?

What Are The Risks Of Washing Your Car When It's Cold?all learn in school. Water begins to crystalize when temperatures drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. One concern that comes to mind is movement. Can moving water freeze? 

After all, you'll likely wash the car with a hose. Otherwise, maybe you're using a bucket of water. In either case, the water won't stay still for long. So, it should reduce the chance it freezes. Right?

Man washing his car at a cold weather

Unfortunately, it's still a risk. Regardless of the movement, water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. If the surrounding air is colder than 32 degrees, it will also lower the temperature of the water. 

You can avoid this by drying the car entirely before it drops below 32 degrees. However, how confident are you? Will you be able to dry all the nooks and crannies a car can have? 

Frozen Components

Presumably, you won't be able to dry everything in time. When this happens, surfaces will freeze. Though, some components should concern you more. 

What if you don't dry the locks and handles in time? We've all been there. The situation stings more if it is an error on our part. 

What's more, windows could end up frozen. Essential components like windshield wipers could end up stuck in their position. The last thing you would want is to find out in the middle of the road. 

What To Do When It's Too Cold To Wash Your Car?

A truck moving during a heavy snow fall

Now, we're aware of the risks. However, some parts of the country have weather around the 32-degree range. It might sound as if you could never wash your car in the winter. 

Fortunately, there are other ways you can do it. Some people have had success washing their cars under freezing temperatures. Though, it's usually under certain conditions. 

1. Use Your Garage

One way you can accomplish the task is by doing it in the garage. It's an enclosed area that isn't susceptible to temperature fluctuations. In any case, any location that blocks wind should suffice. 

It's also worth noting that you should be careful with water going down your driveway. If it's freezing outside, the last thing you want is ice forming there. So, throw down some salt or sand to prevent this situation. 

Although, some people might not want to get the garage wet. If that's the case, quickly rinse the car with water outside. Then, when you're ready to dry it, park it in the garage to finish the job. 

2. Wash Under Sunlight

Of course, some of us don't have garages or enclosed areas at our disposal. In that case, you only need a spot with lots of sunlight. Sunlight will aid in the drying process. Also, places with more sunlight will naturally be warmer. 

So, there's less risk of the water freezing. The best time to wash your car would be in the afternoon. It's when the sun is at its highest. 

3. Use Lukewarm Water

If you want to wash your car in freezing temperatures, you should also use lukewarm water. More specifically, ensure the water you use isn't already cold. 

Using lukewarm water slightly reduces the risk of the water freezing. After all, it will take longer to form ice if it isn't near 32 degrees Fahrenheit. But, you might be thinking about using hotter water.

After all, it's going to take longer to freeze. Right? More specifically, what if you just used boiling water? It has a high-temperature difference. 

It could eliminate any potential of freezing before you can dry it off. Still, you want to be careful with the water you use. The temperature difference between the water and the glass can cause your windows to crack. 

So, it's best not to go overboard. 

4. Lubricate the Hinges, Handles, And Locks

If you weren't aware, some components in your car use lubricants. It's what helps them against rusting and general wear and tear. 

Lubricants also help repel water. So, if you want to avoid freezing the hinges, handles, and locks, lubricate them. The two primary lubricants for these areas are white lithium grease and graphite lubricant. 

Click here to see this white lithium grease on Amazon.

People use white lithium grease for areas like external door pulls. It holds up well against rain and snow. On the other hand, graphite lubricant doesn't attract dust and dirt, so it is a good choice for locks.

Click here to see this graphite lubricant on Amazon.

5. Run The Rear And Front Defroster

Since we're fighting against the cold, you will want to turn on the rear and front defrosters. It's typically not recommendable, but you should use your judgment in this case. Other people suggest running your car for half an hour before washing it.  

If you need a demonstration, here's a YouTube video showcasing how you can wash a car yourself in the winter:

Car Wash Alternatives

Sometimes, it's too freezing outside. And, you'll have to work with water. So, the process will be a lot more hectic. The reason is that you can potentially freeze instead of the car. 

Hypothermia is no joke. If you can't wash your car yourself, it's recommendable to go to a full-service car wash. The service personnel will wash your vehicle in a heated area. 

Also, they'll dry it off before you leave with it. Otherwise, go with the soft-touch car wash. Other options, like no-touch, can push water into small crevices.

Some people don't like these options because they can harm the car paint. In that case, look for a coin-operated car wash. Usually, these types let you wash the car yourself with a pressure wash-like tool.

Can I Wash My Car in 50-Degree Weather?

Car owner power spraying his car

Now we know the risks of washing your car in freezing temperatures. Although, people's definition of freezing varies. Some might think 50-degree temperature falls in that category. 

So, it raises the question, can you wash your car in 50-degree weather? Yes, you can. It would fall into the ideal weather range for car washes. It's nowhere near 32 degrees. Hence, there's no risk of the water freezing. 

If you're sensitive to the cold, you'll still want to wear gear that is appropriate for the weather. Otherwise, it's safe to wash your car in 50-degree weather. 

How Often Should You Wash Your Car in the Winter?

Removing snow on the car windshield

It's constantly freezing during the winter months. There's no wonder why people don't want to go out and do things, especially car washes. Still, you might want to avoid leaving your car dirty. 

Professionals suggest cleaning your car every two weeks. That's the guideline for car washes regardless of the season. However, it's essential in the winter season. 

There's a lot of ice and salt on the road. It accumulates quickly in various areas of your vehicle. 

Road salt is corrosive. Once it comes in contact with any exposed metal parts of the car, it can accelerate corrosion. The brakes and fuel lines are two components that will suffer from this heavily. 

They're close to the undercarriage of the car. Therefore, they will take most of the damage. Some people might have to remove the salt every ten days. 

Of course, that depends on how often you drive during winter. In any case, it's always better to practice preventative measures. 

Can You Use Dawn Dish Soap To Wash Car?

When you run out of cleaners, it's time to consider alternatives. After all, who wants to dress up in the winter to get a single item at the store. One option that comes to mind is Dawn dish soap.

It's reliable in various situations. However, is it safe to use for a car wash? Unfortunately, it isn't. It's the opposite case. 

Dawn dish soap can strip off the wax from the vehicle. It won't do anything to the paint or clear coat. But are you willing to strip off one layer of protection? 

It's not worth taking that risk, especially during the winter. Generally, it's always better to use specialized cleaners. This way, you're not harming any part of the car without knowing.

In Closing

Power washing the car

You can wash your car anytime during the season. However, there are risks. As we've found out, 32-degrees and below weather isn't ideal for car washes. Hopefully, you can make adjustments according to your situation. 

Before you go, do you have other winter concerns? If your vehicle is having trouble starting up, check out:

Car Won't Start In The Cold [Only When It Warms Up] - What To Do?

Is your check engine light coming on randomly? It could be because of temperature fluctuations. To learn more, check out:

Can Hot Or Cold Weather Cause The Check Engine Light To Come On?