Winter has the potential to wreak havoc on the condition of your car, particularly for residents of cold weather states who face the damaging effects of snow, sleet and salt all season. Detailing your vehicle in early autumn can offer significant protection for your car and even prevent some of winter’s worst damage.
Preserving Your Paint Job
Because your car’s finish is its most delicate surface, properly preparing your vehicle’s paint job for winter is particularly important. The first step is throughly washing your vehicle using a cleaner specifically designed for cars; using any other household detergent risks stripping your car’s protective wax. Cleaning helps remove debris that can scratch your vehicle’s finish, and because salt and gravel are more prevalent on the roads in winter, it is important to keep up a regular car wash schedule all season long.
Once your car’s exterior is clean, apply a high-quality paint sealant to protect its finish. The polymers in a synthetic paint sealant form a barrier that will protect your vehicle’s paint job from road salts, water and chemicals used on roads in winter weather. High-quality paint sealants typically offer protection for about six months, allowing you to apply the sealant in autumn and be protected all winter.
Safeguarding Your Interior
Detailing the interior of your vehicle in preparation for winter is also necessary, particularly if your car has leather seats. Leather can be dried out by winter’s cold weather and lack of humidity, and unmoisturized leather is prone to cracking. Moreover, because leather is only porous in relatively warm conditions (typically at temperatures above 50 degrees Fahrenheit), you must condition your car’s leather seats in fall, before winter weather sets in. If you decide to condition your leather interiors in cold weather, the leather will appear supple but will not have actually absorbed the necessary moisture. Look for a conditioner with lanolin and mink oil for the best results.
Protecting Your Tires
Your tires come into the closest contact with the salt and other chemicals on the road in winter. By making use of a high-quality polish–applied at the beginning of fall and reapplied often after washes–you can ensure that your tires both look good and are protected from the winter elements. If you live in an area with particularly hard winter weather, you may want to use a silicone-based dressing in your wheel wells. Although silicone-based products should not be used on painted surfaces, applying such a product to your wheel wells can prevent snow, salt and ice build-up.
In short, by detailing your car in the fall with an eye towards preparing it for winter, you can ensure that your vehicle makes it through the season in top condition.