A guide to preparing your car for winter
If you’re reading this article and thinking “what’s the point in preparing my car for winter?”, then I’m about to point out the answer to that very question, and I’m also going to show you exactly how to do it, and what you’ll need.
UK wintertime is harsh on many levels. Over the past few years it’s been utterly unpredictable, with some bringing extreme cold, deep snow and with it traffic chaos.
Other times – such as the 2014/15 winter, most of the UK saw very little snow, with temperatures rarely breaking below 5˚C, and instead we were treated to weeks of lashing rain and heavy winds.
Whatever the case though, the fact is that one way or another throughout wintertime our cars will face an onslaught of elements more extreme than the rest of year, plus the dreaded salt/road grit that rots and corrodes any exposed metal on the chassis and paintwork.
When winter arrives, unless you’re lucky enough to have access to a lovely warm garage, it’s never easy when it comes to trying to lay down some sealant or wax – it’s just too cold or the weather simply won’t allow it.
So, the time to prepare your car for winter is now! It’s really not that hard, and if you’re planning on keeping your car for a good while, keeping it in top condition will add to the resale value.
Rust-proofing the chassis
An area of the car most susceptible to rust and corrosion is the underneath. Unlike the rest of the car, which you can wash off easily with car shampoo and water, the chassis has lots of little areas you can’t really access unless you have a ramp.
That means that over just one winter, the water, and road salt/grit will sit and start to corrode any bare metal parts. Bad news. The answer is to have your car undersealed.
Underseal is a thick, resilient coating that protects from further rusting, stone chips and can even help dampen the road noise coming into the vehicle. Newer versions are wax-based (Waxoyl, for instance), and they are commonly available at most motor stores in either spray or tin form.
Unless you’re prepared to get dirty (it’s a messy substance, and area preparation is essential too), and have access to ramps or jacks, it’s probably best to have a garage do the job for you.
protection for wheels
Your car’s wheels are also highly vulnerable to paint corrosion, as brake dust builds up on them (a corrosive in itself), as well as taking a battering from grit from the roads and all thay salt. Due to not being able to usually wash the car as often throughout winter, this can lead to the surface being ‘eaten into’, and the paint then flakes away.
Here’s the process
- Wash the wheels thoroughly. If yo can do it, that them off completely in order to clean both sides. If there’s heavy brake dust, use a proper wheel cleaner – preferably non-acidic as it’s not good for them. See our Chipex article The Best Products for Cleaning Your Car’s Wheels
- Make sure they are completely dry, and apply either a wheel sealant (paintwork sealant works almost as well), or a good quality wax. For extra protection, apply two layers. Again, the article linked above shows you how to do this, and also which products are best used.
Protecting your car’s paint and bodywork
Washing your car fairly regularly is obviously important throughout winter, but it’s understandably more difficult because of adverse weather. Becuase of this, good paint protection is a must.
Protecting your car paintwork isn’t just about making it look as shiny as possible, but it’s also to protect it from the outside elements; weather, UV rays from the sun (which makes paint fade), industrial fallout, salt corrosion and more.
First off though, let’s very briefly cover the difference between using a polish and a wax as there’s a big difference. Polish has compound in, which removes light scratches from the paint surface. Sure, it makes the car look shiny, but it does little-to-nothing in the way of protecting it.
A polish only needs using once every so often – using a polish a car once a week does little other than remove a minuscule level of the paint or lacquer to make the car shiny – and it’s much harder work than simply using a wax. A car only really needs polishing once every few months at most.
Car wax gives the paintwork protection by adding an invisible layer to the surface, and also obviously a lovely deep shine too. Once a good quality wax is used, it will make the water bead and sheet away, and will make cleaning the car much easier as well.
If you want even more protection, use a car paintwork sealant, as this creates a tough, strong bond with the surface and even helping to less the effect of paint chipping in cases. You can then use a wax afterwards if you want.
As a bonus should it snow, removing any build-up of snow from your roof (it’s a legal requirement in the UK!) or bonnet will be so much easier and quicker when your paintwork has wax or sealant on.
Note: a good quality Carnauba wax will only need applying once every two or three. A good paint sealant can last up to six months, if the car is cleaned and maintained with the correct products.
Keeping your car’s exterior and interior glass clean & clear
There’s several reasons and benefits to why keeping your glass clean inside and out is hugely important in winter, including;
- Low-level sun and a dirty, misted inner windscreen can cause vision through it to be badly impaired, which could lead to an accident.
- A build-up of road grime (oil-based stuff off the road) on the exterior of the screen means that when you come to use the wipers, you’re simply smearing the water across rather than efficiently removing it, never fully removing the dirt and road salt very well, again leading to bad vision out of it and the potential for a collision.
- Using a sealant on the exterior windows (especially the front) means removing snow and ice is exceptionally easier, and it also means that ice can’t form as easily when using your washers either. Instead of taking the time to apply a glass sealant, why not use Chipex Aquaphobic Screen Wash – it has one built in and also includes an anti-freeze! Buy Chipex Aquaphobic Screen Wash here, and read the full article on the product here.
- Cleaning the glass can also aid in keeping it from misting up as easily. It’s an ongoing problem for many throughout winter though, so I wrote this guide on How to De-Mist your Car’s Windscreen Quickly – give it a read!
TIP: In the past, I’ve written a comprehensive guide on the Chipex blog about how to clean and protect your glass, and if you’re doing this stage, give it a good read!
What to do if you paintwork gets chipped
If you cover a lot of motorway miles, your car will inevitably get the dreaded, ugly paint chips. Through winter, these will quickly rust and could easily cause the paint around the chips to bubble, leading eventually to have to have the areas or panels resprayed – expensive!
The best way to deal with these is to use a Chipex paint chip repair system – a quick, straightforward way to make your car look great again, they have a 100% paint-colour match guarantee, and it’ll stop those chips from rusting out too. Buy the Chipex kit here.
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Written and collated by Chris Davies – an award-winning motoring journalist writing for CarProductsTested.com
Image sources: Ice covered car: Endlisnis | Car underbody – Wikimedia commons | Stephen Hennessey White wheels on a Daytona Blue 350Z | TVR Tuscan detail:Some rights reserved by cupra_jamie | Sun Glare Demi-Brooke | Fogged up screen; Reuben Whitehouse |