hands hold sponge for washing car

How Often Should You Wash Your Car? A Not So Simple Answer.

Owning a car comes with its own set of worries. You have to have the vehicle serviced every year, make sure your tires have enough tread, keep the license up to date, and of course, keep the gas, oil, and water filled up, so the car can keep getting you from A to B. But that’s not all.

One thing that many car owners tend to overlook, whether on purpose or by mistake, is keeping their car clean. This might not seem like the most important consideration, at least not to all vehicle owners. But it is. If you ever plan on reselling your vehicle so you can upgrade to a new one, or even if you just care that it has a paint job at all, washing your car regularly is an essential part of car maintenance.

It’s important to wash your car roughly every two weeks, and have a detail twice a year, to keep your car in ideal condition.

Washing your car regularly will keep it rust free, the paint will look like new for much longer, and you’ll feel the pride of driving in a clean car. However, there are some factors to consider when deciding the optimal washing frequency for your particular case.

Storage

Part of a car parked in front of the garage door

If your car is parked in a nice, cushy garage, with no exposure to dust, rain, heat, cold, or sunlight, you can ignore most of what we are about to say, and make yourself a nice, easy routine of washing your car about once a month. Bear in mind, though, that the more time you spend on the road, the less time your car is in its nice, safe garage. If you are a daily commuter, or you don’t have a garage to park your car in, read ahead for the best info on how often you should wash your car.

Location

yellow mini parked on the street

Just about every location has some aspect that will cause damage to the paint job of your car.

  • If you live in the city, your car can be damaged by pollution, polluted rain, dust, bugs, bird droppings, and the list goes on.
  • If you live in the country, take away the pollution and acid rain, and add mud, dirt, gravel, etc.
  • If you live in the desert, your car will be susceptible to heat, sand, and wind damage.
  • If you live in the forest, your problem will be leaves, bugs, bird poop, and mud.
  • Living at the coast will expose your car to humidity, and the ever-present danger of rust.

Depending on where you live and how you use your car, you might need to wash it as often as once a week.

This is especially true in coastal areas, and areas with high rainfall. Coastal areas are particularly prone to causing rust, due to corrosive salts in the humid air.

Seasons

The weather and climate have a greater influence on your car than you may think. Heat, cold, rain, snow, and other environmental factors can all cause damage to your car.

Washing Your Car in The Summer

summer car washing

In summer, your car will be subject to a number of harsh environmental factors, such as stronger UV rays and intense heat.

Heat can soften the paint on your car, allowing dust particles to become stuck in the paint job. This will cause damage in the long run, allowing rust to creep in, and causing your car to look old, and have a lower resale value.

Related: How To Correctly Wash Your Car Without Water In 7 Easy Steps

If you live in a hot, dusty area, or in an area of high humidity and heat, where bugs are plentiful, you will want to wash your car once a week, to make sure you are protecting it from all these factors.

Washing Your Car in the Winter

man washing car in the winter

In winter, if you live in an area with a high incidence of ice and snow, your car will be exposed to the harsh, corroding effects of road salt. This useful substance, that significantly lowers the occurrence of road accidents in winter, unfortunately does the paint jobs and undercarriages of our vehicles no favors.

In areas that use a lot of road salts, you should be sure to wash your car every 5 to 7 days, and certainly no less often than every 10 days, or you will be risking serious damage to your vehicle.

Of course, the weather might not play along, and you should be aware that washing your car in very low temperatures, for example, under 40° F, could cause as much damage as the road salt, since the water is likely to freeze, causing ice damage. So bearing this in mind, wash your car as often as you can, weather permitting.

Washing Your Car’s Undercarriage

View of car undercarriage when lifted on hydraulic lift

The undercarriage of your vehicle is something you most likely overlook when cleaning your car. But, if you think about it, it is even more likely to be easily damaged and worn down by the rigors of the road, and it is significantly more important to your safety than your car’s paint job. If allowed to rust, certain parts of your undercarriage could cost you your life if they broke at the wrong moment.

This doesn’t mean you should be washing your undercarriage every time you wash your car. But it is important to give the underside of your vehicle a good clean about 4 times a year, perhaps at the end of each season.

For people who do a lot of off-roading, or live in the country, it would be better to increase this to 6 times per year. People living in areas where their vehicles are exposed to a lot of salt, such as coastal areas, or places that use a lot of road salt, should also consider more regular cleaning.

Should You Hand Wash or Auto Wash Your Car?

auto car wash

Again, this question has a short and a long answer.

The short answer is, hand wash. Of course, many people live very busy lives, and would prefer not to spend their Sunday washing their car every week or 2.

But is it safe to use an automatic car wash on a regular basis? The answer is no. Using an automatic car wash is quick, easy, and convenient, but it is also not good for your vehicle. It is certainly something you can consider for a quick fix in an emergency, but using an auto wash on a regular basis will almost certainly damage your car’s paint in the long run.

If you’re unsure that you believe what we’re saying, just roll up to the board at the entrance to your nearest auto car wash, and read the fine print about all the reasons that the company will take no responsibility for any damage done to your car. The bristles on the automatic machines tend to be much harder and more abrasive than the sponges and cloths you would use at home, and you have no way of knowing how well the car wash cares for its machinery.

Can You Wash Your Car Too Often?

Yes, technically you can wash your car too often, as even your sponges and cloths, and the soap you use to wash your car, will have some corrosive effects, and the clear coating on your car is more fragile than you think. There needs to be a fine balance when deciding how often you should wash your car. Take into account all the aspects of your location and its weather and corrosive elements, as mentioned above, and weigh the negative effects of those against the effects of washing your car. This will allow you to work out a schedule that works for you, while still keeping your car safe and clean.

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One last piece of advice that we would like to impart is this: even when you have your routine car washing schedule perfected and on the go, you should consider taking your car to a professional cleaner at least once a year, so that they can remove the seats and panels, and give your car the in-depth, detailed clean that it so deserves.