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Does Snow Damage Car Paint?

A car soaked with heavy snow.

Yes, snow does damage car paint. However, this is not the only problematic element destroying paint jobs. After I lived in South Dakota for a decade, I learned how to live with this mess stuck and piled on my vehicle.

Road salt used by cities to protect drivers from sliding on roadways also causes problems with paint on vehicles. Ice and sleet also wreaks havoc on the exterior surface of cars, putting dings and dents, as well as scratches, on the paint itself.

If you live in a state where snowfall is heavy, you are more likely to incur consistent snow damage to the paint on your vehicle. Here are some tips I recommend on how to deal with snow damage on car paint. 

Does Snow Damage Car Paint?

According to VEHQ, “Snow does damage car paint. Snow is a composition of tiny ice crystals. If it’s improperly removed from your vehicle, it can damage the paint.”

Additionally, if the snow forms into a sheet of ice, this will freeze the door jambs and make it impossible to open without thawing the ice. To ensure you can get into your vehicle in any situation, including an emergency or natural disaster, keep the snow and ice off of your car. 

Car with melted snow.

This is the best way to prevent snow from freezing as water into the paint on your vehicle. Over time, the overall process will break down the varnish on the surface of the paint on a car. As the shiny protective coating is removed due to snow and ice, the paintwork starts to appear dingy.

Additionally, snow can wear out areas of the paint more quickly, leading to rusting of the metal underneath. The last thing you want to see happen to your car is for a rust ring to form on the engine hood due to snow damage.

Here are some ways the snow-hardened Midwesterners taught me about getting and keeping snow off of a vehicle.

How do I keep snow off of my car?

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Ideally, if you live with a snowy forecast each winter, you will have a heated garage where you can store your vehicle. If not, at least put up a metal carport to cover the top of your car. This will serve you the most benefit in keeping snow off of any vehicle.

Otherwise, consider using a snow proof car cover that slips on the vehicle like a glove. This style of car cover is waterproof and prevents snow and ice from building up. 

Finally, if you do not have a carport or a car cover during a snowstorm, plan on going outside and clearing the snow off of your car every hour or two.

You may also want to crank up the engine and let the car get warm in extremely cold temperatures. This will help melt off any snow or ice building up in and around the vehicle’s cracks and crevices.

How can I protect my car from sitting outside in the snow during winter months?

For apartment renters and homeowners without an auto car garage to cover their vehicle in winter, keeping snow off of your car will become a new side job you do not get paid for doing. Here is a tip from MotorBiscuit.

“If you’re able to avoid parking on the street, then it’s highly recommended to do so. Snow plow trucks that plow the streets could end up pushing snow and salt into your car.” 

Otherwise, keep a brush with a long handle ready to use when snow starts to pile up outside. Plan on brushing away snow every hour or two depending on how fast it is falling.

This way you avoid ice and snow damage due to heavy snow. You also reduce the amount of strenuous work needed to keep your car cleared of snow during a storm.    

How can I protect my car from freezing rain damage?

Damaged car because of snow.

Freezing rain and sleet are some of the worst offenders associated with snow damage. In fact, often snow is soft enough not to cause great damage to paint on its own. The problem is exacerbated by the freezing rain and hard sleet that can also pound the paint in the wintertime. 

If you have hail and sleet damage, the pockmarks left on the paint and dings on the metal surface may leave your car to be a total loss. This is the last issue you want to pay for and deal with, especially in the holiday season.

Therefore, protecting your car from freezing rain damage is paramount. If you are facing a freezing rain storm, sleet, or hail, along with snow, try to find a shelter to park under your car.

This can save your vehicle. Parking decks and auto garages are the best options. You might even find yourself at an airport where there are multiple parking decks. 

Otherwise, in a pinch, you can use a car cover that will protect you from the less destructive balls of ice hitting your car. There are also tents that can be put on vehicles if you are traveling in an area that is without parking, such as the Midwest.

These look like camping tarps for your car, but you install a car tent directly over the top of your vehicle. This will keep sleet, snow, and hail from falling on your car even in a freezing rain storm.

You can use these seasonally and in an emergency anywhere you are to protect your car, especially if you have a soft top roof or a sunroof with glass.

Can snow damage the undercarriage of my vehicle?

Car undercarriage in snow surrounding.

Yes, if you consistently drive through snow, especially deep snow, with a vehicle, your car can be damaged in the undercarriage. This is the area of the car underneath the body.

You cannot see the undercarriage, but it is the first place where snow touches when you start to drive. Having snow and road salt stuck to the undercarriage can cause serious damage over time.

The road salt has a compound that can lead to rusting, and the majority of components in the undercarriage are made of metal. This is precisely why I recommend getting your car washed thoroughly with a spray wash underneath after every major snowstorm. Just wait until the temperatures are above freezing, OK?

How often should I wash my car in the snow?

A car full covered with snow with water sprayed on wheel.

If you are living in a Northeastern or Midwestern state where snow falls quite often in the winter, you will want to wait until the snow plows clear the streets before you wash your car.

If you live in Colorado, you’ll soon notice how often everyone else is getting their car washed–all because of the snow. While most people think snow is clean and pretty, the truth is snow is really just frozen rain. 

Would you drink a cup of rain as it came out of the sky? Probably not, but people are more inclined to eat snow cones with the fresh stuff.

Sure, the snow might be purer because it is filtered at freezing temperatures to not contain bacteria that grow in warm water, but you still have air pollution and bacteria that thrive in cold temperatures. This comes into contact with snowflakes as they fall down.

Therefore, even though the snow is white and looks clean, there is dirt and bacteria that is found naturally in the snow. Keep it out of your cup and avoid having snow sitting on your car for any longer than necessary. This will keep your car’s paint safe and protected even in cold climates.

Can a car wash and wax protect a car from getting snow damage on the paint?

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Yes, you can protect a car’s paint from snow damage with a car wash. How? Start by having the car washed and waxed prior to being hit by this icy precipitation. Once the car’s surface is protected by a wax sealant, it slows snow and road salt from damaging the paint. 

By giving your vehicle a buff with wax, you add a protective coating that will stand up to the rigors of any frozen climate.