How Cold Is Too Cold To Detail a Car?

Car owners understand pretty well that care and maintenance practices, along with detailing, play a vital role in increasing the lifespan and performance of every automobile. However, knowing how to wash, polish, and wax your car in the cold is challenging if you live somewhere with harsh winters. Sometimes, it’s just too cold to detail your car.

Man waxing black sedan

It is too cold to detail a car when it is freezing or near freezing. Please do not wash your motor vehicles at 34° F (1.11° C) or lower. While this can be tricky when temperatures plummet to single digits, detailing a car at least once every two weeks comes with many benefits.

So, let’s discuss why it isn’t a great idea to detail your car when it’s freezing outside and go over some tips to help you keep your vehicle clean in sub-zero temperatures. Hopefully, this article will help you get through winter without any issues.

Benefits of Detailing Your Car During Winter

Car waxing tool on black vehicle

If you live in areas that experience very frigid temperatures, detailing your car can be a challenge. Sunny skies can be rarer than you would wish, and when they come, they will always be several days apart.

Yet, it is still advisable to wash your car at least once every two weeks as this comes with a myriad of benefits, including:

  • It prevents corrosion and long-term damage
  • It helps to keep your tires in good shape
  • Increases your vehicle’s resale value
  • Improves the aesthetic value and visibility of your car
  • Keeps you tidy

Why Shouldn’t You Wash Your Car When It Is Cold Outside?

Handheld car waxing tool

Water freezes at 32° F or 0° C. You should NOT wash your car in such frigid conditions.

You shouldn’t wash your car when it is cold outside because the cleaning compounds and water could freeze onto your vehicle. If these stay frozen for a while, they may damage your car’s paint.

There’s little you can do if the water you wash your car with freezes.

If soap or another cleaning compound gets stuck in the ice, it could damage your paint job or leave ugly streaking, swirls, and deposits on the paint. In addition, it’ll likely freeze up your doors and their handles, making it difficult to drive.

Likewise, wax only applies smoothly when it’s warm. Waxing a car in cold temperatures will leave you with clumps, streaks, and lumps that will be challenging to smooth out.

So, when you clean your car, it should be at least 34° F (1.11° C). However, the ideal temperature for detailing is between 50° and 89° Fahrenheit (10° and 31.67° Celsius).

While many people assume that not cleaning their cars during winter is okay, keeping your vehicle clean in the winter is essential. The salt and other minerals in de-icing components are harmful to your car, and leaving them on it will lead to corrosion.

Ways To Clean Your Car in the Winter

Man buffing out car

If you live somewhere where the winters don’t let up, it may seem like washing your vehicle is impossible. However, you can still ensure that your car gets a good wash in the wintertime using the following tips.

Soft Touch Tunnels Washing

This method of winter car detailing is the best method you can use to give your car a good wash. The system uses felt cloths, warm water, and soft foam to wash your vehicle gently. The tunnels get rid of splattered bugs, bird droppings, stubborn stains, and salt, protecting your vehicle from rust and damage.

The soft-touch tunnel car washing mechanisms can effectively reach narrow surfaces, ensuring that every nook and cranny is spotless.

However, you must note that soft-touch tunnels may make your vehicle more susceptible to scratches and abrasion. In addition, dual-wheel trucks and a few other models do not fit in soft-touch tunnels.

Touchless Car Washing Services

Washing your car by yourself can be rewarding financially and emotionally. However, detailing your vehicle by hand may not be possible during winter when temperatures are not conducive.

You may want to resort to your local car washing service provider in such a situation. It could be safer and more convenient, particularly with studies indicating that more car owners resort to pro car washing services in winter than in spring and summer.

Opting for a touchless service will ensure that your vehicle suffers no damage from the wash since it just uses pressurized water to get off the gunk.

Use Heated Garages

If you don’t want to spend the money on a tunnel or touchless car wash, heated garages are an incredible option. They help minimize the effects of cold conditions on your car, ensuring that you can wash it any time, even when the weather is well below zero.

Run Your Car Before and After Washing

If you do not have access to a heated garage but still want to handle things yourself, you can consider running your car to heat it before washing it. However, it’ll take around 30 minutes for your vehicle to warm up, so it’s usually best to do this after a drive.

After washing your car, run it again for at least 30 minutes to keep it warm and prevent the water or wax from freezing. While turning your vehicle back on may seem like a hassle, this is also the ideal time to clean out the interior.

Wash Your Car During Warmer Hours

Finally, you can opt to wash your car when the weather is warm and sunny. This likely isn’t an option for those who live up north, where the cold just doesn’t give up. However, if you live somewhere where you get sunny afternoons, take advantage of the sunlight and use it to keep your vehicle from freezing up.


It is best only to detail your car when temperatures are above 34° F (1.11° C) since freezing conditions can turn your vehicle into a soapy ice cube.

However, you should never leave your car dirty in the winter, especially since salty winter roads lead to rusted vehicles. The above options should come in handy even in the coldest conditions. Once done washing, finish the job by lubricating the locks, hinges, and handles.

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CarCareReport dot com first published this article on Aug 24, 2022..

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