Aussie winters aren’t typical for the western world. Our weather is more tropical, so while it gets quite cold (by our standards 10°C is anorak weather), we don’t get snow. In some parts of the country, winter brings torrential rain, but in Sydney, it’s more about cold and fog, since our climate patterns are largely coastal.
That said, a lot of the advice you’ll find online about winter car care is related to countries that receive snow in the winter, with its sub-zero temperatures, blizzards, and snow-ins. It’s also useful to note their winter falls from December to February (which is summer for us), while Aussie winter is June through August.
Therefore, their motoring advice includes stocking up on antifreeze, installing snow tyres, warming up your car before your drive, and washing more frequently to prevent your car components from freezing. None of this really applies to Aussie winters. One thing that happens is dark, foggy / misty drives, so you’ll probably use your headlights in daytime.
Turn up the lights!
To get the most out of them and enhance road safety, it may be a good idea to check your bulbs and possibly raise their wattage. You could even go for white lights that have greater reach and illumination. Similarly, visit or call a car detailer that restores headlights. They can remove the yellowing haze from your lights for better performance.
Another issue with cold weather is condensation. Just like snowy countries, it can be helpful to run the car for a few minutes before you drive, so that it gradually rises to a working temperature rather than shocking it awake. At other times of year, you should do this is early morning and after dark, when it’s more chilly, but over winter, even midday temperatures can sink to 16 °C. Your car will spend much of the season coated in a thin film of moisture.
Over time, this can affect both the inside and outside of your vehicle. The inside could acquire a damp, musty smell and develop a mould problem. The outside might develop rust spots, especially given Sydney’s already humid conditions. Regular detailing can resolve the problem. A thorough interior cleaning including deodoriser will remove excess moisture, as well as the cold and flu germs that accumulate inside your car.
Winter wax job
As for the exterior, wash it, wax it, and coat it with a paint protectant. It generally keeps out ultraviolet rays, but in the winter, it forms a protective barrier between the car and atmospheric moisture, reducing the likelihood of rust. This paint protectant layer also keeps off lime, acid rain, and flying bits of rock from chipped roads and speedy driving.
This is helpful because all those things are abrasive and could scratch off your paint, leaving your car’s frame susceptible to rust. A thorough exterior clean plus polish and protectant will keep the car safe for a few weeks, so you might want to do it three or four times over the duration of winter, even if you intersperse it with a regular domestic car wash.
When you get your car detailed, request a surface engine wash and underbody wash. It removes accumulated moisture that may be causing rust. Inspect both parts of your car more regularly over winter, because they are hotbeds for water damage. It has to be a deliberate effort, so put reminders in your phone if you have to.
Another common piece of winter car advice is to be wary of salt. A lot of it is sprinkled on the road for de-icing purposes. Well, Sydney doesn’t need de-icing, and its wide beach front means the air is salty year round. However, salt is abrasive, and if it rubs against the sides of your car, it might chip at the paint job. Frequent rinsing with fresh water can help, not just in winter, but all year round. If your car does have that tell-tale misty coat, don’t just wipe it with your sleeve, because if the moisture is salty, it could scrape the car. Rinse it instead, to get rid of the ‘salt-water’ then wipe it if you need to. Don’t worry, the droplets won’t freeze.
Whenever you winter-clean, use warm water, both for your sake and the car’s. You could also consider giving the car a winter make-over. You’ve already waxed and sealed the exteriors, now swap out the fabrics on the inside with plastic or rubber. You can shift to vinyl seat covers as well. They’re not as warm, but they’ll help you cut down on mould and damp, and they’re far easier to clean. They’re now available in bright colours and stylish colours too.