Car washing in winter – More often or No Washing? Which is better?


We answer the most important questions about winter car washing: how often, when, where and how – and what you should pay attention to.

There are many opinions on the right car care in winter. The well-intentioned recommendations range from the tip to send the car through the car wash as often as possible in winter, to the advice to drive as far as possible around each car wash in this season to preserve the paint. So who is right? We answer the most important questions about car washing in winter.

How often should I go to the car wash in winter?

In principle, just as often as in the summer months. It is undisputed that in dirty weather a clean car can be seen better and, above all, in time than its dirty counterpart thanks to its shining light reflections. But since the introduction of bright daytime running lights for cars, this advantage is no longer so decisive. So even in winter, wash freely according to your personal preference of cleanliness: When you have the feeling that a wash is simply good for your vehicle.

Is it true that the car is extremely stressed in winter by road salt residues?

No. The statement that winter dirt – an aggressive, saline lye – has an enormously corrosive effect on the paintwork, i.e. must be removed as often as possible, only applies to pre-damaged paintwork with scratches or spalling. Perfect paint surfaces, however, effortlessly remove these dirt attacks. Even the substructure of a vehicle usually has no corrosion problems: With factory cavity sealing, improved underbody protection and the use of galvanized sheet metal, this is rather a problem of the past.

When should you not go to the car wash in winter?

when it has extreme minus temperatures of below -10 degrees Celsius. Just as the human skin reacts sensitively to extreme temperature fluctuations, similar stresses should not be placed on the paint or the rubber and plastic parts of the vehicle. Avoid thermal shock if the hot water from the car wash (approx. 10 to 30 degrees Celsius) comes into contact with vehicle parts that have just been exposed to the icy cold. Especially pre-damaged or repainted paint surfaces are not always immediately visible to the layman, but suffer from long-term thermal shock. The danger of door locks freezing or rubber seals freezing is also lower at moderate temperatures.

Materials science: The material the brushes are made of

The material used today for the brushes in car washes is called polyethylene (PE). Depending on the type of system, the plastic is usually used in two different forms: either foamed as closed-pore foam or woven as “nailed” polyethylene, which is often referred to as “textile” because of its padded fibre structure. If the vehicle has been pre-washed to remove coarse dirt, the paint remains flawless when polyethylene washing agents are used.

What do I have to consider before entering the car wash in gas station?

How you have to prepare your car is usually indicated in capital letters at the entrance gate. Not always noted, but taken for granted: Close windows and sunroof, lock fuel filler cap and windscreen wipers – especially the rain sensor! And very important: Before entering the car wash, it is essential to remove all snow and ice. Otherwise they will pull the brushes over the paintwork like emery paper – and there will be nasty scratches!

Which washing programmes are recommended in winter?

The following also applies in winter: Good value is good – the main thing is a mechanical or manual prewash for the first removal of coarse dirt particles is part of the washing program. Additional and expensive super programs with hot wax or underbody protection are not necessary from a technical point of view. More important is the inspection by a specialist: Before and after the winter season, damage to the underbody protection can be detected and repaired on the lifting platform – rust then has no chance.

What washes better: automated car was at gas station or a car wash?

In principle, one should prefer going to the car wash to the car wash at gas station. However, this is not due to the brush materials used, because here as there they are made of polyethylene (see above), often also called textile. It is also not due to the chemical detergents or the washing duration, which are similar on average. It is above all the manual prewashing that makes the difference. This is because an employee with a high-pressure lance is usually available in front of the carwash to clean precisely those problematic areas that remain hidden from the brushes of automated wash.

Who is to blame if a vehicle is damaged in the car wash?

When a car is damaged in the car wash, the parties concerned often end up in court. The burden of proof is always on the customer. He must prove that the damage to his vehicle has occurred in the system. The operator must then demonstrate that he has done nothing wrong. In practice, this means that if you want to be on the safe side, you have to take a close look at your vehicle after each wash. Witnesses are extremely helpful. For example, did the driver behind you or another customer see anything? If you have discovered damage that must have occurred in the car wash, report it to the staff and have it confirmed.

“Rear-end collision” in the car wash: Who is to blame?

Occurs again and again: a “rear-end collision” because the front car brakes or jumps off the track. If the system has worked incorrectly or safety precautions fail, the operator is usually liable.


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