The best defense against winter elements is to wash your car as frequently as possible to remove road salt, chemicals, and any other contaminants. Don’t forget the undercarriage wash! Most car washes promote these in the winter. It may cost you a little more to add this, but it’s extremely important. Your undercarriage is where the most salt and grime are going to collect. Due to the chemical nature of water and salt, you do NOT want it on your car. It will corrode the parts of your car over time, and salt speeds up corrosion! Even if your paint is already damaged to the point where you don’t want to spend a lot of money, at least take a power washer to the undercarriage a few times a month to reduce corrosion so your muffler doesn’t fall off on the highway. Many car washes offer a limitless car wash deal where you can pay one price for a month of as many washes as you want. Make sure your car’s paint is really clean and free of contaminants before adding any glazes, waxes, or body coatings. Otherwise, you are trapping the contaminants in!
There are plenty of car washes that will do a quick wax application on your car. Just because they provide that type doesn’t mean it’s the best. Plus, if there are still contaminants on your paint, waxing could rub them around and cause scratches. Even the tiny scratches in your clear coat provide more surface area for contaminants to attach to, so avoid scratches by thoroughly removing any sap, tar, bugs, rust, etc. If you aren’t a pro, just hire one. It is a lot easier, but make sure you do your research and find a company with great reviews.
Want to do it yourself? As far as waxes go, you’ve likely seen a ton of products at the store and don’t know which to choose. According to consumerreports.com, liquid and paste waxes turned out to be rated about the same. Spray waxes, although easy, don’t last long, so I’d skip on them for now. Paste waxes can be more difficult and take longer to apply. It’s cold. You don’t want to spend more time outside than you have to. Go with a liquid wax. Now, should you go with a more natural carnauba wax product or synthetic? I’d chose synthetic, because high quality synthetic polymer sealant will, on a chemical level, provide a better barrier against the road salt and chemicals than a natural product. Another option is getting body coating applied. Paint shops and some detailers can do this. It’s like body armor for your car, but is more expensive than wax.
What you need depends on your individual vehicle. If you have an antique or a super nice sports car, you may not even want to expose it to winter conditions. If you have a nicer than average car with new paint, you may want to go with the body coating. For an older car, like mine, you may want to go with a good quality wax product that you don’t have to apply more than a few times a year. I’m not going to recommend names here, but you can easily find reviews on consumer reports or large online retailer sites. Sometimes, you get what you pay for, but just because a product is more expensive does not mean it’s better. Overall, the best option for most people is going to be a liquid, synthetic wax application. Good luck and drive safe! (Kat Wallace, Vehicledetailing.com)