How Often Should I Wash My Car?
How often you need to wash your car is not a question with any kind of enigmatic answer.
Washing your car is simply a part of a regular maintenance routine that you should be employing to extend the value of your vehicle. In fact, your car’s outer appearance, finish and paint condition are some of the first things appraisers and buyers look at, and they have a direct impact on resale.
Fair or not, people judge books, and cars, by their cover.
Why does it matter?
A combination of factors, from the frequency of bird droppings (it is a legitimate concern) to the weather, influence how often you need to haul out the suds. You’re not obligated to be the person on your block who pulls up with a perfect wash every Saturday morning, but you can keep your car shiny and protected by understanding when it needs a good scrub.
Let’s take a moment to be grateful that the paint on your car is a remarkable feat of chemistry and product engineering. That doesn’t mean that paint is impervious to environmental damage. It means that when you wash and wax the shine shows off a higher quality finish, has a longer life cycle and is better than ever at protecting the metal body of your vehicle.
Besides the aesthetics, the main purpose of regular washing is to remove contaminants that are either corrosive or abrasive. If you degrade the paint enough by leaving contaminants on the surface, when the paint peels you will have opened yourself up to the potential damage of rust. Here are just a few of the environmental factors that damage your paint:
- Road salt
- Grit and grime
- Sunlight – especially older models that have had UV protection diminish with time
The Icky Things
Let’s begin with bugs, and talk about other animal-centric substances that can hit your car, like bird droppings. During the summer, bugs are all over Western Canadian highways. The acids, sugars and proteins present in insects and animal-produced substances microscopically damage the paint surface, roughing it up and creating better adhesion as the moisture evaporates. This damages the clear coat layer of your paint job. The microscopic damage is also cumulative, wash it off as is soon as you can make it to the wash bay.
And, if you’ve waited and left the insects to harden, it is prudent to take the time to soak off the bugs so you don’t do further damage by power washing away hardened bug guts plus tiny bits of your paint protective coating. In fact there are several car enthusiast sites that recommend using a bug remover product prior to washing your car.
Dirt, Salt, Sun
All year long, dust, debris and general grime are an issue. If you can see it on the surface of your car it’s time for a wash. If you can’t see it and you can’t remember the last time you got sudsy, it’s probably also time for a wash.
The reason is simple. Dirt acts as an abrasive and the friction from the motion of the air grinds the dirt and dust into the paint surface, wearing it down. This is a car wash strategy of maintaining value and halting deterioration.
Municipalities across Western Canada routinely use some form of salt to keep roads clear. This makes winter washing vital. If you live in a town that lays salt, you should be washing weekly, including the undercarriage of your vehicle. Regardless of the protective coating placed on the vehicle, salt will do a good deal of damage.
Sunlight can also be an issue, even for us in the high Northern . If you park outside during the day, it’s a great plan to apply a UV protectant, either a wax or a spray. Detailing websites recommend a solid wash followed by a hand dry to remove trace minerals from your rinse water before you pull out your favourite product. A good car waxing is hard work for an hour or so, but it only needs to be repeated 3-4 times per year.
The Bottom Line
Depending on the season you can reasonably expect to wash your car at least twice a month, with extra washes after road trips that involve insects, salt or a lot of dust.
Check out more of our helpful blog posts for maintaining your car: