We’re not complaining, but it’s like we’re in a never-ending early spring here in Toronto. But, if the temperatures haven’t been quite warm enough to spend an afternoon giving your car the cleaning and attention it deserves, they soon will be.
If anyone asked “what are the worst conditions for the body of a car?”, the answer would be “winter”. And it’s not just the salt that we pour onto our roads that’s the enemy, although it’s a big part of the problem. Toronto winters tend to be relatively mild, and that’s not good news for your car.
Even if you keep your car in a garage, winter conditions can wreak havoc with the car’s exterior body panels and, perhaps more surprisingly, many interior parts of your car too, including carpeting and upholstery.
As we said, salt is the root of all winter’s evils for your car, but there are other elements at play that worsen salt’s effects. Primarily, when temperatures fluctuate above and below freezing, it tends to keep your car in a constant state of dampness. And we all know what happens to metal when it comes in contact with water.
While heated garages are known to promote the thawing of caked-on ice and snow, which also contributes to damp conditions for your car, even unheated garages will warm-up enough from engine heat to melt snow and ice, and give the salt it contains the perfect conditions to eat away at your car’s body.
Another problem with the freeze/thaw cycles that Toronto cars experience in winter, both inside garages and outside, is the expansion and contraction of pooled water. Just like the damage it does to our roads, which turns spring and summer into endless sessions of road repairs, water on your car’s body expands and contracts as it freezes and thaws. That has a “push/pull” effect on the body panels, which can eventually deform or separate them. Even if that damage is only slight and difficult to see, it can have long-term effects on the durability of the body panels.
Time to Spring Clean Your Car
Spring is a great time to thoroughly clean your car inside and out and, just as importantly, to inspect it for signs of the damage that winter causes. Here are some tips to help you get your car in great shape for summer:
1. Wax It
Restoring the finish and shine of your car’s body is probably the most rewarding part of washing and cleaning your car. But that’s not just because of how good the car looks when you’re done. Even more than washing, waxing gets you “up close and personal” with every little paint chip and dent that you may have suffered over the winter. While many of them might be inconsequential, some might be signs of more serious damage to come, like if a scratch has removed the paint of the car to the bare metal. Also look at the gaps between body panels to see if the are uneven or separated.
2. Wash and Check the Underside
This includes wheel wells, and underneath the rocker panels and bumpers. You may not be able to clean the entire underside of your car, but the perimeter is where a lot of damaging corrosion can start. If you can, try to at least inspect some of the main frame of your car for signs of rust.
3. Clean the Engine
Make sure it’s cool first! Using plain soap and water and/or a degreaser, clean as many metal engine parts as you can. Use a toothbrush for stubborn dirt and grime. Be sure to avoid getting electrical connections damp, especially around the fuse box and electrical connections near the firewall.
4. Clean Carpets and Upholstery
The salt and snow from your winter boots and clothing can be almost as damaging to the car’s interior as it is to the exterior. Remove floor mats and carpets and clean them with a spray-on carpet cleaner. Steam cleaning works best to remove deep-seated salt and dirt. Use an appropriate leather or fabric cleaner for your upholstery.
5. Check and Clean Interior Door Panels and Foot Wells
As you get into and out of your car, your shoes often brush along the bottom of the doors and foot wells. After cleaning, you can restore the finish of plastic and vinyl panels with a protectant like ArmorAll.
This might all sound like lots of work, but it pays off in extended life and higher resale value for your car. And, hey, have you ever not enjoyed the taking your nice clean and shiny car out for a spin after you washed it?