When most people hear the phrase “car care” they think one of two things: car wash or oil change. While auto manufacturers make it a point to tell you to swap out the oil every 3,000 – 5,000 miles, they don’t really address the cosmetic health of your car. Naturally the question arises, “how often should I wash my car?” Unfortunately, most manufacturers aren’t listening, and because they don’t invest their time in promoting proper car care, most cars on the road go multiple months without a wash. As you’ll soon see, that’s just not enough…
Car wash frequency depends on:
Location, location, location
Ask yourself “where do I park?” Are you near industrial areas, by the beach, under the train tracks, or in a garage? Every area has its advantages and disadvantages, but if you live in an area with a high amount of dust (eg. San Jose) you’ll want to be washing once a week. Likewise, if you park outside, the dirtying process speeds up. Same goes for those living near large bodies of water. Coastal areas experience salty air, a large amount rain, and a good amount of weather change – think Seattle, Miami, San Francisco – your car requires more washing. If you’re on the oposite of the spectrum and you live in a location with no wind, no dust, and mild weather… chances are you’ll need to wash once a month.
How often and how far you drive
Are you a road warrior? The route you take to work contributes to how dirty your car is getting, especially if that distance is anywhere over 20 miles. Think about it this way: the more you drive your car, the more it’s exposed to the environment – dirt, dust, mud, and the like. This increases your risk of prematurely dirtying your car and usually will result in you having to wash about once a week (on the high end). If your GTO is a garage queen and is locked up on any day that’s not perfect, you will only need to wash it once a month (or less) so long as you have properly protected the paint. If you fall somewhere in the middle and don’t drive too far on a daily basis, the magic number is two times per month.
Weather and climate
Weather and climate are really out of your hands unless you’re willing to up and move. While the garage is the best place to store your car, I realize this isn’t always possible. So, as you’d expect, the weather and climate your car experiences on a daily basis – rain, sun, heat, cold, snow, salt – it’s all going to affect how often you should wash your car. Heat, for example, accelerates damage to your clear coat by further activating the acids in bird droppings, sap, and even bug guts. If you let these things sit on the surface, in heat, for an extend period of time… erosion will begin. Not only does the sun cause damage, it also makes you more susceptible to it by melting your wax right off the car. If you live in an area with a lot of rain and moisture, you’ll be washing more often, too. Moisture attracts contaminants and also reacts chemically to cause harm to your paint, chrome, trim, and more – think about rust. When all is said and done, if you want your car to look good for a really, really long time… you’ve got to regularly wash your car.
The final verdict…
Now I don’t know about you, but I would like any car I own to look as good as it possibly can for as long as it possibly can. While there are many factors that contribute to how often you should wash your car, I can confidently say that in most cases you should be washing your car every 2-3 weeks. As you’ve now read, you must be aware of all the different things that are out there just to make your car look filthy – some people might need to wash weekly where others only monthly. And while that’s what this article is about, I must say washing isn’t even the most important thing to extend the life of your car’s looks.
Sure washing cleans the car, but protecting your car is what keeps the finish out of harms way. A sealant or wax will shield your paint, metal, and trim from etching, pitting, scratches, swirls, discoloration, fading, and more. There are even paint sealants out there that will keep protecting through 100s of car washes so the only thing you have to worry about is driving your beautiful car.
What’s your wash routine look like? Let us know how often you wash your car and what you do to extend the life of your finish for a chance to get it shared on Behind the Detail!