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Answered: The Best Weather and Time of Day to Wash Your Car

Are you the type of person who washes your car only when you have a free moment…or when it’s comfortable? In reality, factors like temperature, weather conditions, and time of day do matter if you want to see the best results possible.

But that doesn’t mean you should wait it out for the perfect warm day or ideal condition.

In this guide, we’ll cover a few best practices to get that clean car you want with variables like time of day and weather conditions in mind.

Early mornings are usually the best time of day to wash your car

Early mornings from 7:00 am to 11:00 am is the ideal time to wash your vehicle as a general rule—with colder months the exception. In the early morning hours, you can wash, dry, and even add protection without worrying about inspects flying around or the hot sun drying soap on contact.

Late afternoons before sundown are a close second if you can’t catch the morning rays. In winter months with cold or freezing temperatures in the morning, wait until late afternoon from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm for slightly warmer weather!

What’s the ideal temperature to wash your vehicle?

A cloudy day in the 70 to 80-degree Fahrenheit range is ideal for car washing, especially if you plan to wax or perform paint correction outdoors. So long as it’s not raining, glare and high heat will be minimal.

I like to wash the exterior on the most comfortable rain-free days in the forecast and do my interior detailing in the garage on rainy or hot days.

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Washing a vehicle in hot weather

washing a truck in sunlight

Avoid washing your car in direct sunlight, especially during the summer when soap can dry quickly and leave water spots. Just spraying down your vehicle with water alone can still leave water spots especially if you already have hard water.

If you must wash in the hottest part of the day, find a shady area like a carport and rinse down your vehicle to cool it off.

You can also easily burn yourself if you attempt to wash a dark-colored vehicle when it’s too hot; just wait until the surface is warm…but not hot.

Quick Tip

When it’s hot, wash your vehicle panel by panel (with hose in hand) as opposed to large sections. Soap is less likely to have a chance to dry if you rinse more frequently.

Washing a vehicle in cold weather

washing car in cold weather

You can and should wash your car in winter months so long as temperatures aren’t below freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit). If you deal with winter weather…then you know the potential salt corrosion can have on a vehicle. A quick wash goes a long way.

So long as your vehicle isn’t too dirty in the winter, you can even wash it in your garage. Depending on the time of year, I’ll sometimes use a waterless wash product and stay out of the elements altogether.

Check out our guide on how to wash a car without a hose to learn more about this process.

Warning

Never wash your car when temps are below freezing, as water will obviously freeze on contact and can even crack your windshield (especially if the inside is warmer). Never, ever use hot water to wash or de-ice a car—it’s a great way to crack a windshield.

Do’s and don’ts for washing your car outdoors

Do: Wash your car in the winter

So many people don’t remove stuck-on road salt in the winter because it’s cold and sometimes inconvenient. Over time, neglecting a vehicle all winter can cause premature rusting and corrosion.

At a minimum, you should at least wash or rinse down your vehicle a couple times each month. Even if you can only rinse the undercarriage or wheel wells every few weeks, it’s better than nothing.

Before winter hits, I always recommend beginners learn how to properly apply wax to a vehicle. Even a thin coat of wax will help protect a vehicle’s finish from the elements.

Do: Wash your car during pollen season

It’s a good idea to wash your car during pollen season because pollen is slightly abrasive and can scratch your clear coat if left untreated. While it may seem like a waste, it’s a good idea to at least rinse off pollen to avoid buildup.

Don’t: Wash late at night

Insects like mosquitos, gnats, and bugs can make washing counterproductive and you may wind up noticing bug guts in the morning upon further inspection!

Once the sun goes down, you also won’t be able to see what you’re washing or drying for that matter. Not good.

Don’t: Wash your vehicle in windy conditions

Especially in winter months, wind and dry air can make it nearly impossible to remove soap. In warmer and colder months, strong winds create debris that can easily stick to your car’s exterior when wet.

Don’t: Wash your car in the rain

One misconception I’ve heard (and used to believe) is that rain is just a natural way to wash dirt off your vehicle. But here’s the thing—rainwater isn’t always clean. The chemicals and contaminants in the air often mix with rain and leave water spots. Plus washing in the rain isn’t always safe.

Learn to wash your car at home the right way

Need a few more car wash tips? Check out our post on how to wash your car using 5 simple products.

I’ve learned over the years the detailing industry pushes the narrative that more is better, but in reality, most people only really need a few basic products for a routine wash.

Have fun and happy detailing!

Baxter Overman is the founder of Carwash Country and has been been cleaning up dirty vehicles for nearly 20 years. Since 2017, he's helped thousands of beginners see better results by learning the fundamentals of washing and detailing. He's on a mission to make the car wash process more fun...and way easier.

3 thoughts on “Answered: The Best Weather and Time of Day to Wash Your Car”

  1. Thank you for pointing out that it is a good idea to have your car washed after it rains because it can leave contaminants and chemicals. Many cities use a salt mix to melt ice on the roads in order to prevent cars from sliding around. Keeping your car washed would prevent this salt from building up on the outside of your car.

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