If you’ve got a car like mine that hides dirt incredibly well, you probably go too long between car washes. And what the sudsy, light-up self-serve car washes don’t tell you is that there’s a rhyme and a reason for how often you should wash your car. Whether it’s rain or snow, there’s a rule to follow.
Winter Washes Are a Must
How often you wash your car in the winter depends on where you live. If you live in a snowier, slushier climate where there’s going to be a lot of salt put on the roads, you’ll want to wash your car after every melt. Don’t wait until you’ve accumulated huge salt streaks to break out the suds.
However, if you live in a warmer climate, you can get away with washing your car once a month or less.
The Spring Calls for Weekly Washes
When spring is in bloom, so is every piece of vegetation on the planet. No matter where you live, there will be some pollen build-up. Other than being unsightly, pollen isn't inherently bad for your paint job. But, if you wipe it off with a shop rag or microfiber towel, it might be.
Don’t scratch your finish by not going the whole nine yards when washing your car. So, in spring, washing your car about once a week is a good idea.
Take a Break During Summer & Fall
Because summer is a hot, drier season, it doesn’t affect your car as much as other seasons can. You can turn your weekly car washes into biweekly or longer in the summer months. Simply, the inclement weather that’ll leave deposits on your car isn’t as much of an issue in summer.
The same can be said for early fall when temperatures grow colder, but inclement weather is still a little ways away.
If you live in an area where a wildfire is burning, you should rinse your car daily and dry it thoroughly to remove corrosive ash that can damage your paint job. Wash it during this time as often as you can. Then, when air quality returns to normal, wash your car immediately.
When It Rains, It’s Time to Wash the Car
Much like how you don’t want to scoop snow off the ground and chomp on it for a snack, the rain isn’t all that pure. It can contain pollutants and contaminants that, when left on your paint job, can eat away the finish.
Since you can’t know for sure if your car has been showered in contaminated rain, a good rule of thumb is always to wash it right after the rain clears up.
Follow Frequent Washes With Waxing
There’s a myth floating around that washing your car too often can mess with your paint. So long as you’re using car-safe products, you shouldn’t see any damage from washing your car — no matter how many times you clean it.
However, after a few washes — or about every three months — you should wax your car. Waxing will help keep your clear coat finish in place to block all those corrosive bug guts, salt stains, and bird droppings from accessing your paint.
Always wax after you wash, and remember that a little goes a long way. While you can use a microfiber cloth to rub the wax in, we highly recommend getting an electric buffer — no need to turn your arms to jelly if you don’t have to.
Can't eagle eye when your car needs to be waxed? Time it with every season change.
Preserve Your Car With Properly Timed Washes
One thing the dealership never tells you is how often you should wash your car. Sure, they’ll let you in on the secrets to the trunk tailgate lift, but they won’t say a thing about which signs to look for that your car needs a little TLC. So, as a good rule of thumb, remember that wet months require more washes, and in dry months, you can take your foot off the gas.