How to Protect Your Car's Interior in Winter

People pay a lot of attention to taking care of the exterior of their vehicles during the harsh winter months. Of course, there is very good reason to do this: the many substances that are used to try and keep ice off the roads can be very damaging to the exterior paint job of cars.

However, it is also important to pay an appropriate amount of attention to the interior of your car as well. Winter can be extremely tough on the interiors of our cars, thanks to all of the dirt, mud, and grime that we track into the insides of our vehicles.

Thankfully, once you have figured out how to clean you car's interior during the winter it's not very difficult to keep this good habit alive all season long.

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Keep The Trash Out

Of course, it is a good idea to ensure that your car does not become a garbage disposal during any season of the year. However, winter is an especially bad time to leave food wrappers, papers, and other debris on the floor of your car. This is because while a mess on its own merit is never pleasant, a mess that is also mixed with slush and snow and mud and wet leaves is even worse.

If you do not have a dedicated place to put trash in your vehicle, now is the time to designate one. There are several products on the market that can hang on the back of your car seats to act as a small trash can. Some people also recommend using plastic kitchen containers with lids as miniature sealable trash cans.

Keep The Inside Dry

Whether it tends to rain or snow more where you live, when you get into the inside of your heated vehicle it’s likely that the exterior of your coat is going to be wet during inclement weather. This dampness is easily transferred onto the upholstery in your vehicle. This becomes especially problematic if you have fabric upholstery as the upholstery can absorb this dampness and this can lead to unpleasant odors in your vehicle.

Much of the time the vehicle can dry out overnight. However, if you find that a musty smell is permeating your vehicle, vacuum out, and nullify any smells with an odor neutralizer. You may also wish to invest in a seat protector if this is a common problem.

Keep the Vacuum Running

Of course, vacuuming the inside of your car should be part of regular maintenance, but the importance of this is paramount during the winter months. Your boots are likely to attract various forms of salt over the course of the winter, and this can be very bad for your carpets and upholstery. Make sure to vacuum underneath any rugs that are in your car as well as under the seats and in the trunk.

Keep Those Wipes Handy

If you happen to have a leather interior to your vehicle, the cold winter air can dry it out. It’s a good idea to have a stash of conditioner wipes on hand to ensure that your leather interiors get exposure to natural oils and conditioners to keep them in good condition.

Additionally, dashboards and car controls happen to be really germy places. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so be sure to keep some antibacterial wipes in your glove box as well. This way you can give these germ hideouts a good wipe down when necessary. Especially if somebody sneezes in your car you want to have these on hand.

Another form of wipe you may want to keep on hand are for your windshield. Foggy windshields are an unfortunate reality of winter driving conditions, and it’s second nature for most people to reach forward and clear out a spot for visibility when this occurs. However, this can leave smears on the window, which can lead to dangerous visibility conditions. If the sun comes down at the exact wrong angle from the sky, streaks on the windshield can result in the driver being blinded by sunlight.

To this end, You may wish you keep a demister pad to wipe your windshield when necessary. It’s smart to clean your windshield once per week with basic window solution to keep your view as unobstructed as possible.

Keep Your Carpets Covered

It is probably no surprise that the biggest focus of how to keep car interior clean in winter is carpets. Particularly if you live in an area with rough winter conditions, it’s likely that you are going to unintentionally track in snow, slush, and rock salt all winter long. This can be very difficult on your carpets.

The best way to prevent your carpets from being ruined by winter is to protect them. Purchasing floor mats for your vehicle is a smart way to protect your carpets. The best kind of floor mats are flexible and rubber and are in a deep tray style. These are impervious to wetness and salt and are very easy to clean.

If you are against rubber mats or are unable to invest in them, you want to keep your car as clean as possible to protect the carpet. Many people who do not have rubber mats actually keep a second pair of shoes in the car that they can change into when entering. This is a very good strategy if you are often alone in your car, but if you happen to travel with a family in tow it can be difficult to realistically enforce this for everybody all the time.

Another strategy is to cover your carpets with either plastic or newspaper to protect them from debris. This can be moderately effective, but you need to switch out the newspaper or plastic pretty frequently to ensure that your carpets remain protected.

In the event that your carpet does become soaked through, you want to remove the carpets from the vehicle and hang them up to dry. Once they are dry, then you can vacuum out the worst of the dirt. Generally speaking, trying to clean carpets while they are still wet is not a very good idea. However, you definitely want to get them out of the vehicle, otherwise they can start to molder and smell.

However, the absolute best thing that you can do for the interior of your car is to get floor mats and liners, so start your research on these purchases today.

Advice, how-to guides, and car care information featured on and AutoZone Advice & How-To’s are presented as helpful resources for general maintenance and automotive repairs from a general perspective only and should be used at your own risk. Information is accurate and true to the best of AutoZone’s knowledge, however, there may be omissions, errors or mistakes.

Be sure to consult your owner’s manual, a repair guide, an AutoZoner at a store near you, or a licensed, professional mechanic for vehicle-specific repair information. Refer to the service manual for specific diagnostic, repair and tool information for your particular vehicle. Always chock your wheels prior to lifting a vehicle. Always disconnect the negative battery cable before servicing an electrical application on the vehicle to protect its electrical circuits in the event that a wire is accidentally pierced or grounded. Use caution when working with automotive batteries. Sulfuric acid is caustic and can burn clothing and skin or cause blindness. Always wear gloves and safety glasses and other personal protection equipment, and work in a well-ventilated area. Should electrolyte get on your body or clothing, neutralize it immediately with a solution of baking soda and water. Do not wear ties or loose clothing when working on your vehicle.

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