Is there a safe temperature for a car wash? When is it too cold to wash your car? You can wash your car in virtually any temperature as long as you’re able to get the water on your car and back off it without it freezing. The higher the water pressure, the faster the process goes. This means you’re able to do it well below freezing as long as you aren’t using a garden hose in your driveway. If you plan on going to a car wash, as long as the doors are open, it’s not too cold to wash your car.
In the winter (especially in colder climates), it’s safest to get a professional, full-service car wash because your car will be washed by hand and sufficiently dried to prevent freezing. While you can visit an automatic car wash, they often use so much pressure that the water gets forced into door jambs and locks, which can make it difficult to get your doors open after you park the car and come back to it. The only drawback to a full-service car wash may be the expense. Below, we discuss each place to get your car washed in the winter.
When Is It Too Cold to Wash Your Car?
When is it too cold to wash your car? Most people assume that below-freezing temperatures mean they can’t get a car wash, but that isn’t true — and not cleaning the frozen slush and salt off your car may lead to corrosion the moment temps get above freezing again. What matters more than the temperature outside is the type of car wash.
The two most important factors of a winter car wash are the water pressure and the drying method. You will want to use a car wash with low water pressure and preferably a towel drying service. If there are no workers to towel dry your car, you can do it yourself. But a location that towel dries your car in an enclosed space is optimal. If water isn’t properly dried, it may freeze your doors shut, which can be a safety hazard. And high water pressure (versus low water pressure) is more likely to force water into door locks and other components, where it can also freeze.
Now that we’ve explained these important factors, let’s talk about different types of car washes and why you should or shouldn’t use them when the temperature is below freezing.
Best Option: Professional, Full-Service Car Washes
This is the best choice for getting your car washed in the winter. A professional car washing service will wash your car by hand in an enclosed area. Not only will they do a much better job than most automatic washes, but they will also be sure to carefully dry the entirety of your car to prevent any water from freezing. Full-service car washes will also clean the undercarriage — where road salt can accumulate — and interior of your car. The only downside is that a professional car wash is more expensive than an automatic car wash.
Runner-Up: Washing Your Car by Hand and with the Proper Equipment
You can wash your car at home in the winter. But you need serious equipment and dedication. You’ll want a pressure washer and a way to quickly dry the car. A leaf blower can work for that or even some super-absorbent microfiber towels.
3rd Place: Soft Touch Car Washes
Soft touch car washes are the drive-through options that have the “mops” that beat the top and sides of your car. Soft touch is a safer choice than touchless car washes, but they still aren’t ideal. While these don’t typically use high-pressure water, the air blowers used to dry your car aren’t enough to prevent freezing. If you decide to use a soft touch car wash in the winter, be sure to bring plenty of towels so you can dry your car off yourself — paying extra attention to door jambs.
Sometimes it’s too cold for car washes to operate. It’s not because the water would freeze but the equipment can freeze. But if the doors aren’t closed, it usually means it’s not too cold for the equipment to operate.
4th Place: Touchless Car Washes
Touchless car washes don’t use anything but water (and soap) to clean your car. There are no “mops” or sponges, just a chemical cleaning spray and water. During the winter, these types of car washes are not the best idea. Touchless car washes use high pressure to wash your car. This means there is a higher potential for water to get into different components, such as doors and locks, and freeze. Not to mention, the chemicals used in this type of wash do not perform well in the winter, so your car may still look dirty after you exit the car wash.
Loser: Washing Your Car by Hand in Your Driveway with a Just Garden Hose
At temperatures much below freezing, the water will — you guessed it — freeze before you’re able to suds up and get the suds back off. Not to mention your faucet and hose will want to freeze as soon as the water stops flowing. This means you must shake all the water out of the hose the moment you’re done with it so it doesn’t freeze inside, thus expanding the hose and cause the hose to crack and leak. If you see a garden hose in someone’s lawn that has water shooting out of cracks all over it, that person probably tried washing their car in the winter and didn’t drain the hose.
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You can get a car wash in cold weather just fine, as long as you’re not planning on doing it in your driveway with a garden hose and bucket when it’s much below freezing.
Now you know the safe temperature for car washing. When is it too cold to get a car wash? It’s technically never too cold to get a car wash. Just be careful what type of car wash you choose. The most important factors of a winter car wash are water pressure and drying method. The best choice in the winter is a professional, full-service car wash. Professionals will wash your car by hand and make sure it is fully dried to prevent water from freezing.