Winter is hard on your car. Between deicing chemicals, small rocks and debris on the road and excess moisture, conditions may spell rust or other cosmetic damages to your set of wheels. The season can also produce dangerous conditions, making car maintenance and proper preparation of utmost importance.
Jon Bommersbach, owner of Elite Collision in Hankinson, North Dakota, said one of the most important things to do for your car’s body in the winter is get a car wash that includes a Rain-X or Armor All treatment, which prevents water spots and adds a protective layer of clear coat to your car’s exterior.
“The next time you get dirt on your vehicle, it’ll clean off easier because it doesn’t stick as hard as the ones that don’t have anything underneath them,” Bommersbach said.
Modern car washes typically offer an underbody rinse to remove salt and chemicals from the bottom of your vehicle. Dawn dish soap also works for an at-home treatment, Bommersbach said. The soap leaves a protective film on your car’s exterior. If you prefer to wash your car at home, make sure to rinse the body well before applying dish soap to ensure dirt and grime does not mix in with the soap — the fine particles can damage your paint.
Bommersbach said one of the most common problems he sees in the winter is rust damage. The deicing chemicals that are applied to roadways during the winter take a toll on an unprotected vehicle.
“It’ll start instantly rusting your car if you don’t wash it off. In the winter time, it’s important to wash that brine off. It’s really hard on vehicles all together,” Bommersbach said.
Once a car begins to rust, fixing it can be expensive, Bommersbach said. If you do want to repair your car’s exterior, do it sooner rather than later because the more you let it go, the more costly it will be to fix.
The winter months are some of the most detrimental to a car’s overall performance and appearance, Bommersbach said. It’s important to upkeep maintenance in the winter and pay attention to any changes in your car’s function.
“When it’s 20 below, you don’t want to be trying to do your maintenance on the side of the road,” Bommersbach said.
It’s also a good idea to keep a half tank of gas at all times to keep your heat running in case of an accident or mechanical issue that leaves you stuck while you wait for help, Bommersbach said. Always keep a safety kit in your car with a blanket, water and a flashlight.
Bommersbach recommends an all-season tire for the winter to improve traction on ice or snow. Ensure your tire treads are in good condition.
Most of Bommersbach’s repairs in the winter are due to collisions, whether a customer rear-ends someone on an icy roadway or hits an animal running out into the road. A lot of the accidents he sees are cell phone-related, too. It’s especially important to pay attention to your surroundings in the winter when conditions are harsh and more difficult to maneuver.
“Pay attention to everyone around you. Watch out, be a safe driver. You never know what someone else is doing in a vehicle,” he said.