How often should you wash your car?

On the Road 3 min read

In general, it’s a good idea to wash your car every other week or so. Regularly washing your car removes everyday contaminants like tar, road debris, and bird droppings that can ruin your car’s paint job over time. But there’s no one right answer to this question — it depends on factors like your lifestyle, the climate where you live, and how you store your vehicle when you’re not driving it.

Jonathan Ganther, co-founder of Brakes to Go, a mobile brake repair company in Texas, says there are situations where you might want to wash at a different cadence. While you can’t really wash your car too much (as long as you’re doing it properly), you might not need to do it quite so often under certain circumstances.

What happens if you don’t wash your car regularly?

The less you wash your car, the more opportunity there is for long-term damage. Not only does your vehicle endure all kinds of weather, but it also gets splattered with dirt, mud, tar, bugs, bird poop, and anything else you might encounter on the road (or in your parking spot). All these contaminants can eat away at your car’s finish, affecting the paint, damaging the seals and rusting the metal. Keeping your ride clean helps keep it in good condition.

If the weather’s not too harsh where you live, washing your vehicle every two weeks is a good rule of thumb to help your car last longer. However, if you apply a coat of wax at the end of each cleaning session, you may be able to wash it less often. “Waxing your car creates a barrier between your clear coat – the layer on top of the paint – and outside elements, so it won’t be able to absorb and affect the exterior of your car,” Ganther says. Additionally, storing your car in a garage can keep it clean without so many washings. Maintaining the paint job can also help prevent sun damage to your car.

When washing your car, don’t forget about the interior. You should clean it at least as often as the exterior, depending on your lifestyle and how much time you spend in it. Anyone who has kids know that crumbs, dirt, and spills are frequent backseat happenings. One preventative maintenance tip, Ganther says, is to apply a ceramic coating to your seats, which can help stop stains from setting in and dust from collecting.

How often should you wash your car in winter?

More frequent car washes in the winter can keep your vehicle in better shape. “Climate has a major impact on how often you should wash your car,” says Ganther. “When not treated, salt, snow, and rain can eat through the paint and undercarriage of the car, causing long-term damage.” Salt can cause damage to your car that leads to corrosive rust, and car insurance doesn’t typically cover salt damage. Washing your car after the roads are clear of salt and chemicals following a snowstorm can help protect your vehicle’s paint and undercarriage.

It’s not just cold weather that can harm your car’s exterior. If you live in a coastal area, sand and salt from the beach and ocean get caked onto the exterior of your vehicle. Frequent washes can slow the damage that sand and salt can do to your car and its components.

What are the benefits of washing your car?

The immediate result of cleaning your car is, well, a clean car. Who doesn’t like driving a car that looks its best? Aside from preventing harmful substances from damaging your vehicle, keeping it clean also means it’s in better condition should you want to sell your car at some point. A strong used car market means that well-maintained vehicles can net sellers a handsome return.

Can you wash your car too much?

In a word, no. Ganther says that the bigger danger is not washing your vehicle often enough. Substances like tree wax or bird droppings are trickier to see than a layer of salt coating the paint, and people often leave these things on the car for too long. Infrequent washings can also cause brake dust to build up and eat through your wheel finishes. Just make sure you’re washing your car properly so you don’t cause unintentional issues in the process.

What’s the best way to wash your car?

To clean your car properly, Ganther recommends washing your wheels first with a separate rag. A car’s wheels often accumulate the most dirt and grime, and you don’t want to transfer that onto the rest of your car. Once your wheels are clean, you can move on to the body of your car.

If you’re not the DIY type, be mindful about taking your vehicle to a car wash. “Car washes will often use the same rag from car to car, which can transfer dust, dirt, and debris from another car onto yours,” Ganther says.

In general, how you use your car affects how often you should wash it. Cars that are in storage don’t need as frequent washings because they aren’t on the road collecting dirt and grime. Learn more about insurance for a car in storage.

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