7 Easy Ways To Protect Your Car’s Paint During Winter

In this article, I explain how to protect your car’s paint from bad weather and salt on the roads. Different coatings, tips to remove the snow, in-depth comparison of rust prevention tools, and more are all on the agenda.

Here is the list of best paint protection tips during the winter:

  1. Install A Proper Protective Layer
  2. Perform Washing And Waxing Diligently
  3. Don’t Keep A Dirty Car In The Garage 
  4. Be Careful When Removing Snow
  5. Don’t Forget About The Rust 
  6. Consider Buying a Portable Carport
  7. Deep Clean The Car At The End Of The Winter

You’re probably wondering what polymers you can use, how to fight rust, how often to wash and wax the car to prevent the paint color from turning dull? The following paragraphs provide in-depth research, keep reading to get as many as 24 tips about paint protection.

Install A Proper Protective Layer

You can protect the paint during the winter in 6 basic ways. For convenience, I split them into 2 groups:

Paint sealantsPaint Wraps
SealantsPaint Protection Film (PPF)
WaxesVinyl Wrap
Ceramic Coating
Different types of paint protection

Paint sealants are products which you apply directly onto the surface(rub them in), while the coating is characterized by a complete covering (Imagine gift wrapping. The same process but it involves a car and hi-tech polymers)

Here is a short comparison of the various buffing protection methods:

DurationLusterHydrophobic (Anti Water)
GlazeSuper Short TermGood Low to Mid
WaxLow to Mid TermGoodMid to High
SealantMid to Long TermWeak to GoodMid to High
Ceramic CoatingSuper Long TermPerfectSuper High
Comparison of Paint Sealants

Glaze. Super light protection which lasts about 1-2 months. It’s short term protection of the car. Used to enhance the look before selling or showing. 

Wax.More serious protection of the paint. Lasts about 2-6 months, offering water-resistant qualities and solid protection from UV. Wax is excellent against water(snow) due to its repellent properties, which slows down the rusting process. 

Sealant. Actually, it’s the same as the wax with one big difference — sealants are artificial polymers created in the lab. They generally last longer than waxes, up to 12 months. In terms of paint protection, there is no difference compared to wax.

Ceramic Coating. The best method to protect your car’s paint during the winter. Ceramic coatings contain nanoparticles that create an inseparable bond with your paintwork that can’t be washed off as easily as wax or sealant. Ceramic usually lasts about 3+ years offering extraordinary repellent qualities and resistance to UV.

Vinyl Wrap vs Paint Protection Film (PPF)

When you are considering wrapping your car’s paint instead of sealing it, you can choose between a vinyl wrap or a paint protection film, which is also called “PPF”. 

The main difference between a vinyl wrap and PPF is the protection level. Here is a quick comparison:

Longevity 2 to 3 yearsup to 10 years
Cost (average)$2000 to $3000$4000 to $6000
Thickness2 to 3 mil ( less protective)8 mil (more protective)
Comparison of Paint Wraps

Vinyl is made of a brittle material (polyvinyl chloride) which covers all the edges of the car. Customization is the main reason why vinyl is used (you can keep the original color of the car and put colored-vinyl on top. So, you can change the appearance of the car without touching the paintwork every 2-3 years. Vinyl provides extra paint protection.

Paint Protective Film (PPF) is a layer of flexible material put on top of your car’s body. The main reason why it’s used is protection against road debris, rock ships, wear and tear that normally cause permanent damage to your car’s finish. When it comes to protecting your vehicle, nothing works better than paint protective film (I took some information from here).

PPF comes in two forms: gloss and satin. Gloss films are created for glossy painting, satin is used if your car is matte (or you can put satin to change the appearance of the vehicle from gloss to matte). Both types are extremely stretchy and durable (some products have a 10+ years warranty).

The only substantial disadvantage of PPF is cost. Full-body installation can cost you quite a penny, depending on the product used, installer experience, and the car’s size. You may want to consider partial wrap (cover only essential and most vulnerable parts of the vehicle)


The best thing you can do to protect your car’s painting during the winter is to cover the vehicle with a paint protection film. It will save your car from salt, excessive sunshine, weather erosion, rains and snow, some scratches, and bird dropping. 

For additional protection, add a ceramic coat on top of PPF. This way you will preserve the PPF from fading or discoloration (rare case if installed well) The main reason why the PPF may suffer is UV. Adding a ceramic coat resolves the problem, as ceramic has a strong anti UV surface. The combination of the long-term qualities of PPF with the day-to-day appearance of ceramic coating is a win-win combination. 

Regular Washes and Waxing 

Imagine you tailed a salt-plastered heavy truck. What are you going to do? Well, many drivers are swallowed up in panic… going straight to the car wash. A place where aggressive chemicals and harsh brushes rule over your coating.
I have written a well-researched in-depth article about why automatic car washes are not safe for your car. Make sure to read it! 

In the end, it comes down to the following: 

  • NEVER HIT AN AUTOMATIC CAR WASH if you want to save original paintwork
  • The best thing you can do instead is a hand wash. It will help to clean the salt off and remove contaminants from the surface

Here is a tip for you to deal with any salt on your paint: 

First, mix 50% hot water with 50% white vinegar in a spray bottle. Then rinse your car with a good amount of water, Adjust the nozzle to the highest available pressure (usually it’s still gentle enough to treat the paint without worries), and water the car from the top to the very rocker panel. After that, apply vinegar mix on salt spots and wait a little bit. White vinegar contains acid which transforms road salt into a water-soluble substance. The rest of the process is exactly the same as a normal wash. 

Regular maintenance washes free your car from any dirt, grime, and salt that might not only harm the car’s paint, but also the integrity of the frame.
Leaving salt on the car for too long can lead to rust over time, which can require extensive and expensive repairs. 

Waxing your car is one of the easiest ways to prevent rust from forming, as it will coat your car’s paint in a thin layer of wax. Not only is this layer hydrophobic, meaning that it repels water, it also prevents dirt from hitting the paint directly. 

This means that any kind of salt or other harmful dirt will not come in contact with your car directly, preventing rust and other problems in the long run. 

Don’t Keep Your Car In The Garage (if it is dirty)

A garage is an all-year-round paradise for your car. Keeping the vehicle indoors in winter protects it from being clogged with snow or ice. However, most drivers don’t realize that the garage isn’t an all-healing remedy. 

The most common mistake is to park a car in the garage without prior washing. If the car is covered with slush or salt, a few things take place:

  1. Snow with salt doesn’t harm your car until it’s melted (parking a car in the garage causes melting. Not a problem for clean cars though, because there is no dirt to be melted)
  2. Melting involves water, which is the main rust contributor. Thus, the garage may cause even more rust-related damage (keep garage 40F for cold northern states, and 60F for southern states to prevent excessive temperature fluctuation)
  3. If your garage has weak ventilation, you put the car at risk of being eaten by rust. Check the ventilation system, so the dampness won’t hurt your car’s paintwork

Keeping a car in a garage (or covered) is an absolute must, if you want to protect the paint during the winter. But! NEVER KEEP A DIRTY CAR INDOORS DURING THE WINTER as it will be affected by corrosion much worse than if it were parked outside (not so critical for coated or wrapped cars)

Remove Snow In A Timely Fashion

Snow is basically water, which reacts with metal creating rust. Things get even worse if you leave the snow overnight (once you are hitting the road, rock salt and brine may stick to your paint, doubling or tripling the rusting process). If you don’t keep the paint free of snow, you’ll feel the brunt of the consequences in the summer. That’s why I’ve prepared few tips:

  • Use gentle, non-abrasive brushes (not those amazon bristle brushes or local shop dust brooms). Shovels or nylon brushes may cause deep paint scratches
  • Turn on the car before removing the snow. The working engine gives additional heat, making removing easier
  • If you are out of brush, scrappers, use your hands! For example, chamois gloves remove snow better than most brushes
  • Don’t forget about the roof. Snow from the roof has a mocking tendency to slide onto the hood or other parts of the car
  • Diligently car waxing minimizes the chances to scrape the vehicle even with aggressive brushes
  • Leaf blowers work well for fluffy-style snow, for bulk snow consider foam brushes
  • Use consistent and straight hand movements so as not to damage the paint. Also, consider wrapping foam brushes with microfiber

Tip: type “Snow Joe” into Amazon. That’s a great anti-snow tool for just around a double sawbuck.

Treat The Rust (4 tips)

Rust forms on your car because contaminants get on your car and sit on it. These contaminants are basically eating away the body and underbody of the vehicle. If you want to protect your car’s paint from rusting, follow these tips:

  • Wash the vehicle once a week 
  • Apply wax onto the car twice a year 
  • Get rust proofing 
  • Get the rust fixed if you already have it. Rust spreads

Wash the Car

Washing removes most contaminants, dirt, and grime. For colder states, where rock salt or brine is used on the road, it’s an absolute must to remove this salt from the car (as it sticks to the paint while you are on the road). I recommend washing a car 2-4 times a month, depending on how often you use the car.

Apply wax 

Waxing the car is a crucial step to protect the paint from environmental exposure. Consider using natural carnauba waxes, synthetic sealant products or mix of both called glazes. The rule of thumb here is to wax the car regularly. For example, sealants last about 6 to 12 months, depending on composition and brand. This means that applying sealants 1-2 times a year provides the most stable paint protection.

2 Ways of Rust Protection

There are two methods of rust protection to get to grips with:

  1. Electronic Rust Prevention Systems — a special device attached to the battery of the car. The device applies a weak charge to the body of your car. It is supposed to inhibit rust
  2. Protective Anti-Rust Sprays & Liquids — as the name states, those are chemicals in a form of aerosol or liquid to protect the car from rusting 

Electronic Rust Prevention Systems (ERPS)

ERPS issue an electronic charge, which interferes with the reaction between metal and water (prevention of rust forming). ERPS is not effective when it comes to the protection of the paint, but it’s a great option to protect hard-to-reach places on the car (e.g underbody).

Protective Anti Rust Sprays & Liquids

Three main types of sprays exist. Those are inhibitors, removers, and primers. Inhibitors prevent rust on surfaces, removers are applied directly on the rust spot, primers are used to bond the paint well. Anti Rust sprays and liquid solutions are top-notch paint protection tools (from rust).

Get the rust fixed 

Rust can spread quickly (more rust = more expenditures) That’s why you may want to fix the rust as soon as possible. To get rid of rust, apply the removing spray onto a rusty place. Wait a little bit and wash off the residue with soapy water.

This article helped me to understand rust fixing.

Consider Buying a Portable Carport

If you don’t have a regular garage, consider buying a portable carport. A carport is a special structure that usually consists of a metal or cloth roof supported by metal posts. It is a great way to protect your car’s paint from the elements such as rain, snow, hail and ice.

In addition to a carport, the car can be wrapped in a protective cover, then the protection will be even more reliable. The main advantage of this method is its simplicity and versatility.

Deep Clean The Car At The End Of The Winter

As the winter season draws to a close, give your car a thorough wash inside and out. Preferably do the washing by hand so as not to damage the paint. Check the condition of the wax and protective wraps (if any). Spring is coming, which can also damage your car paint. So it’s important to prepare your paint for the dangers that lie ahead.

Related Questions

Can I Apply Wax to PPF? 

You can wax the PPF if the product doesn’t consist of more than 5% of Naphtha or Kerosene (read manufacturer’s label for info). The dyes-based product also is not a good option. In all other cases, Paint Protective Film is similar to paint in many ways. Including waxing. Make sure to spread the wax uniformly, avoiding product residues on the PPF edges (if PPF applied partially). Note that the last thing you want is to polish the PPF.

Should I Coat Ceramic Coating over PPF?

Nano ceramic coating can significantly extend the life of the PPF. You also get enhanced gloss and depth. Ceramics form a mirrored layer that increases the gloss of the paint. Another useful feature is hydrophobic properties. The surface will better repel liquids, dirt, and other contaminants. The structure of the ceramic resists sticking, which will make it easier to clean the machine.

Is It Safe to Get a New Paint Job in the Cold?

It is not advisable to paint your own car in cold weather unless you have experience. Many garages do not have the necessary temperature, it is too cold to paint. This affects the distribution of the spray paint: the layer becomes less even, micro-bubbles occur, destroying the paint. On the other hand, coming from a cold street to a workshop that’s overly heated runs the risk of condensation. If not removed properly, negative consequences will occur. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Proper washing technique affects the paint
  • Year-round car care: waxing, polishing, and sanding on time
  • Complete the season with a deep cleaning
  • Take care of the polymer protection
  • Keep garage 40F for cold northern states, and 60F for southern states
  • Use only mild anti-snow brushes
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge