Winter weather can leave a big mess. Storms bring snow, sleet and ice. Crews use salt and sand to keep roads safe to drive on. Sooner or later, all of this gets on your car. Keeping the outside of your car clean in the winter requires a little extra effort. But it's not just about looks - it's also a matter of safety.
Newer cars come equipped with systems that use sensors and cameras to warn drivers of hazards. When those devices are obscured by snow, ice, salt or dirt, they may not function properly, according to Consumer Reports.
Automotive safety technology can help reduce accidents and save lives. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends buying vehicles that are equipped with this technology. But since winter weather can interfere with the effectiveness of these devices, it's worth taking a little extra time in the winter to keep sensors and cameras clean and clear.
Here are some areas of the car to pay special attention to this winter:
- Windshield - This one seems obvious, as it's important to be able to see the road in front of you. But lane departure and front collision cameras are usually located behind the upper part of the windshield, a part many drivers don't regularly keep clean. Be sure the entire windshield is kept clean and clear.
- Side mirrors - Cars with 360° viewing systems usually have cameras that are located underneath the side mirrors. Keep the mirrors and their housing clean. Clear out any impacted ice or snow.
- Front grille - Cameras and radar sensors are usually hidden behind the grille. Sometimes a camera may be placed in the front badge that bears the automaker's logo. Clear out impacted ice and snow from this area, too.
- License plate - It's the law to keep your license plate visible at all times on the road. But when you clean the plate, be sure to clean the plate light area, too. This is where backup cameras are often placed.
- Front and rear bumpers - These contain sensors used in parking guidance systems. Keep them clear of ice and snow.
- Lights - Make sure all of your lights are kept clear of snow, ice and dirt.
Keeping your car clean in the winter doesn't have to mean frequent trips to the car wash. You can do it yourself with a scraper, snow brush, sponge and bucket of warm water. Check your car's manual for the exact location of all sensors and cameras so that you know which areas to focus on.
There are a lot of hazards on the road when you are driving. Cars driving in your blind spot, cars making sudden turns in front of you, objects behind or in front of your car that you can't see. It pays to take a little time to make sure all of your safety systems are working properly.