How to remove winter’s grime

Now that we’re into the last weeks of winter, it’s time to make a plan of action for our vehicles because as tough as the winter may have been on us, just imagine what our cars and trucks have endured.

With all the road salt, sand and abrasives on the roads to aid in traction, your vehicle has had its share of abuse. Even when the temperatures have been relatively mild, melting snow has been sprayed onto your car by passing vehicles and the slushy mixture of salt and sand has affected the tires and undercarriage, getting into every nook and cranny and drying into a crusty mess.

It’ll take an effort to remove this build-up, but with three simple steps you can prevent premature damage to your investment on wheels and extend the life of your vehicle. The steps break down as follows: Clean, Lubricate and Prevent.

Cleaning your car – The first step is a pretty easy one – as easy as taking your car through an automatic car wash. But don’t be cheap and choose the “basic” wash. For an average $9, these really don’t do a thorough job of spraying under the car or the wheels. For only a dollar more you get a more thorough cleaning.

Better yet, take your car to a DIY high-pressure car wash, the type with individual washing bays. Now you can get that strong jet of water under the car, where the salt likes to hide.

Some hand car washes offer a post-winter special that includes a good quality waxing which will help keep your car looking its best.

Lubricating the movable parts – After a long winter of freezing temperatures, slushy salt water and now your thorough cleaning of the chassis, your car is in need of lubrication. Some of this you can easily do yourself with the appropriate oils available in spray cans. Don’t be shy to ask the sales person at the store to help you choose the correct products.

The simple rule is: “If it moves, lube it!” That means the door hinges, the hood hinges and latch, the trunk hinges and so on. You won’t harm anything with some oil.

The suspension also needs greasing but this is a task best left for a professional, unless you’re a well-equipped backyard mechanic with a secure method of lifting your vehicle. When in doubt, be safe and visit your local garage or drive-through lubrication specialist.

Taking preventive measures – Last but certainly not the least important is prevention. Keeping your car as clean as possible through the winter certainly helps, as does a good blast with the pressure washer in the spring, but in Canada’s extreme conditions, nothing beats rustproofing – whether it be by the manufacturer or an aftermarket service.

“Many people forget all about rustproofing until late autumn,” said Jean-Luc St-Onge of Antirouille Métropolitain. “They think it has to be sprayed on at the last moment, but our annual treatments are good for 15 months so you can get it done any time of the year and not wait in line.”

Have you noticed if your car’s headlights don’t shine down the road like they used to? Perhaps they’ve turned yellow and opaque? Antirouille Métropolitain now offers a headlight restoration service using 3M products to buff and polish those plastic headlight covers back to new.

“It’s not unusual to lose 50 per cent of your light with damage from the sun’s UV rays and the sandblasting of the salt and dirt,” StOnge explained.

While we’re on the subject of seeing clearly, St-Onge also described Antirouille Métropolitain’s new window treatment by PPG, the auto industry glass giant. Called Aquapel, this product was originally designed for the aviation industry.

When applied to the windshield of your vehicle, Aquapel improves your visibility by more than 34 per cent in rainy weather, day or night, by easily repelling droplets. This product also facilitates the removal of ice, snow, insects and mud, and greatly reduces glare from the sun and vehicle headlights or street lights at night.

Aquapel is also resistant and durable. It forms a chemical bond with glass, unlike other competitive products that simply coat the glass. Aquapel lasts for up to six times longer than other products. It is also resistant against cleaning products used for glass and even car washes. The treatment should be reapplied every four to six months for maximum effectiveness.

Now treat yourself to a fresh pair of windshield wiper blades. Just think how many times those wipers have gone back and forth across your windshield this winter, their edge getting worn with dirt and sand.

Once that edge is dull, the wipers’ effectiveness is compromised and they will begin to chatter and smear.

Cleaning, lubrication and pre-vention: the three-step plan for rewarding your vehicle after its faithful service during a long and dirty winter.

Photograph by: Brett Gundlock, National Post