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Ask CATS 1: Protecting your car's exterior.

Guest Contributor November 23, 2015
Close up hand washing tires with soap.
Our Consumer and Technical Services (CATS) team gets a lot of questions every year on topics like car care, buying a new or used vehicle, auto repairs, vehicle inspection services, driving costs and more. Our Ask CATS blog series aims to address some of the most common questions. If you have a question you would like to be answered by CATS, call 1-866-464-6448 or email them at cats@caasco.ca.

Ask CATS #1: How do I protect my car’s exterior during the winter?

Did you know that washing your car doesn’t just clean the dirt away, it also protects it from the elements and preserves its paint finish and beauty? Car detailing expert John Tewogbade from DetailnPlasti shares his knowledge on thorough car detailing and what common road dirt can do to your vehicle. Thanks, John!

CATS: John, isn’t a car wash just cosmetic? Why should we waste money on car washes in the winter? The vehicle is getting dirty anyway.

John Tewogbade: Many people are not aware that a car wash removes more than just dirt. A car wash is very important to the protection of their vehicle’s paint through the cold months. The generous use of rock salt on all of our roads melt down snow embedded with grime, pieces of asphalt, and debris into large puddles. When the vehicle is splashed with this mix of damaging material, a haze of white corrosive salt is what’s left behind. I have seen vehicles that have had their colour completely obscured with thick white salt haze.

Car washes at regular intervals will help with the prevention of road salt accumulation and put the brakes on paint oxidization. Chemical etching, caused by allowing bird droppings to stay on vehicle paint over long periods, can be eliminated by being proactive and having your car washed.

CATS: I get my car washed at a touchless car wash. Isn’t that enough?

JT: To get a car really clean, I recommend coin-operated, do-it-yourself wash bays. All that is required is the power washer with soap, fresh water, and air dryer settings. The primary objective should be to thoroughly remove as much salt as possible with the pressure of the water and water/soap combination.

The touchless car washes that many people use to wash their vehicles are not the ideal method for a thorough clean. Automated car washes do not rinse enough dirt off of vehicles before their heavy-duty rotating cloths repeatedly slap every panel at high speed. The power of the rotating brushes can cause unsightly scratches all over vehicles that can only be removed by professional machine polishing. The vehicle’s wheels are also susceptible to damage from the tracks that pull cars through the wash. It’s not uncommon to see vehicles leaving touchless car washes with salty patches and accumulations of ice still stuck to parts of the body panels.

A good rinse with a power washer can go a long way to preserving a car’s exterior.

CAA: I don’t have time to wash my car regularly. How can I protect the finish during the harsh winter months?

JT: The best way is to protect your car using a repellant coating. Between paint sealants and wax, paint sealants provide the best protection. Sealants are hybrid coatings that contain polymers or acrylics designed to provide a barrier between paintwork and the harsh elements. Paint sealants offer reasonable protection that lasts for months and not weeks like carnauba wax products. They can also be purchased at virtually any automotive parts store and can be applied with as much ease as a car wax.

CAA: What about the weather? Won’t vehicles freeze if they get washed or waxed during the winter?

JT: No, not if you pay close attention to the weather reports to avoid the hassle of dealing with frozen windshield wipers, locks, doors, trunks and windows. You should perform car washes during daylight hours when temperatures are at their warmest. Avoid car washes during the evening or during extremely cold days, especially if you park outside or in an unheated garage.

Visit your local detailer periodically to safely hand wash your car. The hand wash will remove the winter’s damage from your car’s finish without harming your sealant.

To learn more about how to care for your vehicle during all of Canada’s seasons, call our CAA’s Consumer and Technical Services (CATS) team at 1-866-464-6448 or email them at cats@caasco.ca.