22 Winter Pressure Washing Tips

Posted on: January 21st, 2021 by McHenry PCS

Yes, the weather outside is frightful. But your machinery and fleet can still be delightful. Despite freezing cold temperatures, at McHenry Pressure Cleaning Systems, we realize many of our customers still need to pressure wash trucks, tankers, and equipment.

Why Should I Pressure Wash In The Winter?

Your vehicles and fleet are a representation of your company. They’re like mobile billboards for your business, seen by current and potential customers. That’s why you always want them to look well maintained and clean.

At McHenry Pressure Cleaning Systems, we’ve been in business more than 25 years. We know a few tricks of the trade, practical recommendations that will save you and your company time and money. McHenry Pressure Cleaning Systems knows how to keep your business up and running through every season.

Problems That Arise In The Winter

Done effectively, pressure washing can be done year-round. No matter what the weather, you may need your pressure washer for your cleaning and maintenance needs. However, pressure washing during winter can present some unique challenges. Snow-covered roads may coat your fleet vehicles with dirt, ice, sand, and salt. Remember that road salt lowers the freezing point of water.

While road salt is critical for safe driving conditions, it can really do a number on your equipment and vehicles. Repeated exposure to salt can cause rust and corrosion. The open underbodies of most vehicles are most susceptible. If ice and snow build up, they can harm your coil springs, muffler, and exhaust systems.

The frame of your vehicle can also be damaged by salt and snow. Removing these winter elements is important, but takes experience and the right accessories. It also requires commitment. You want to keep your vehicle(s) on a regular cleaning schedule.

So, here are 22 pressure washing tips that we have for operating your pressure cleaner during the frigid winter months.

  1. Protect your pressure washer: Frozen water in a pump expands. As we discussed in our previous blog, it’s important to store your pressure washer in a warm and dry place. This protects the fluid, lines, and fittings on your pressure washing machine. Prepare ahead so you don’t damage your pressure washer pump.
  2. Aim for indoors: Whenever possible, try to clean your vehicles indoors, insulated and away from freezing conditions. If you already have a dedicated wash bay, this will be easy. However, at McHenry, we can also design permanent or temporary wash bays for your building. We provide friendly on-site installation for all the equipment we sell. Contact us today to learn more.
  3. Avoid the shade: If you do have to pressure wash your vehicles outside, try to do so in bright sunlight. Why? Direct lights heat surfaces and makes them much easier and faster to clean. Ditch the shade and find a sunny spot.
  4. Suit up: Hypothermia is a very real threat in sub-freezing temperatures. Add layers and take proper precautions. Also, when dealing with high pressure sprays and chemicals in the cold, it’s always best to wear protective clothing. Consider rubber boots, goggles, slickers, gloves, hats, and extra layers. You want to repel the water and ice and stay warm.
  5. Remember to de-ice: If you’re pressure washing outside when it’s cold, realize that your wash water must run somewhere. If it spills across the sidewalk or driveway, you’ve just created an ice arena. For your safety and the safety of others, make sure you apply salt or sand ahead of time. You may also want to try magnesium chloride or calcium chloride to melt the ice. But know that these treatments can leave behind an oily and slippy residue.
  6. Get traction: Even if you’ve de-iced ahead of time, when power washing outdoors, make sure you wear the proper footwear as you navigate across the ice and slush. Spiked shoes or even boot chains are a great choice. Pressure washers pack a lot of punch. The trigger spray force alone could knock you off your feet. And water on top of ice makes it even more dangerous. Plant your feet and watch your step.
  7. Wax on; wax off: Consider applying a liquid insulator wax to your vehicle. Not only will this protect your paint surfaces, it will make help water slide off more quickly during the washing process. The faster the water leaves the surface, the faster the overall drying process. McHenry PCS offers a product called Super Spray Wax that works well for this. Remember you can also apply a spray wax to protect other elements of your vehicle.
  8. Add some salt: After proper cleaning is preformed remember McHenry PCS offers our Salt Guard product to help protect under carriages from salt corrosion. Contact us for information about this product.
  9. Wait until afternoon: It’s tempting to complete tasks like pressure washing first thing in the morning. But if you wait until after lunch, the sun can more effectively warm up the machinery and your vehicles. It will also help with the drying process. Waiting is safer and more efficient.
  10. Check your fittings: In the snow belt region of the United States, it’s common for outdoor water sources to freeze. If this occurs, make sure you have access to indoor fittings. Always use properly sized garden hose extensions.
  11. Chemical imbalance: In cold weather, chemicals are less effective. Therefore, you should plan on using more chemicals in winter months. You can order extra chemicals from us to store or as you need them. At McHenry, we carry a full line of soaps and detergents and you can order in bulk. We also provide free scheduled deliveries.
  12. Keep it warm: Just as you protect your pressure washer, so should you protect your chemicals from plunging temperatures. Liquid chemicals will separate if they freeze. So, save time and stress by keeping your chemicals in a dry, warm location.
  13. Point and aim: In freezing temps, it’s important to carefully aim your spray nozzle. Why? Lots of vehicle parts will freeze shut, including steps, door jams, and door locks. You can try opening and shutting the doors and locks to reduce the chance of them freezing shut.
  14. Wave your wand: Consider the length of your wand when pressure washing. For lifted trucks and large engine bays, a longer wand is more effective. However, if you’re focusing on smaller parts like wheels, switch out your accessory for a shorter more flexible wand.
  15. Grease the wheels: Well, not exactly the wheels, but certainly the door locks and other openings. Use a bit of WD-40 to prime these areas before you ever start pressure washing. Applying WD-40 or another product will ensure that cracks and other openings don’t freeze shut.
  16. Bump up the temperature: Another good way to prevent doors and brake drums from freezing is to use hotter water when you’re pressure washing. How hot? We recommend between 180-200 degrees. At this temperature, the water evaporation will reduce the chance of icing.
  17. Look below: Don’t neglect to wash the underbody, wheel wells, and chassis of your vehicle. Salt, snow, and sand can collect under your machine and cause long-lasting damage. In fact, it’s often the spots you can’t see that can wreak the most havoc. Do all you can to decrease the chance for corrosion and rust. Be sure to direct the pressure washer underneath your vehicle to wash away grit, dirt, and salt. Remember our undercarriage cleaners (found here) make under carriage cleaner a lot easier.
  18. Go with the flow: When you’re working in sub-zero temperatures, things freeze very quickly. To prevent your hoses from freezing, make sure you maintain a steady flow of water. Even if your hose touches the frozen ground, it can freeze almost instantly. Therefore, keep your machinery and water running for the duration of your project.
  19. Try new tools: See that leaf blower over in the corner of your garage? Did you know it can be used for more than leaves? Plug it in and use it to blow excess water off your vehicle. Note: It’s best to do this indoors. If used outdoors, it can increase the freezing rate of surface water.
  20. Check the temperature: Certain cleaning procedures just don’t work as well when it’s bitterly cold. For example, acid cleaning and aluminum brightening are not effective when it’s below 60 degrees. It’s best to avoid these in colder temperatures or to do them indoors.
  21. Keep it running: Some vehicles are easier to clean if you keep them running during the cleaning process. For example, if you keep a reefer trailer unit on it helps decrease icing. So, leave the keys in the ignition and wash away.
  22. Know your nozzles: If you’re trying to remove large chunks of ice from a vehicle, there’s an easier way to get the job done quickly. Simply use your zero-degree nozzle to cut the ice into different sections. Then you can direct your pressure washer to blast away the smaller pieces. Voila!

We hope you’ve found these 22 winter cleaning tidbits helpful. At McHenry, we know that properly maintaining your vehicles will extend the life of your fleet, saving you time and money down the road. Our pressure washers and other cleaning machinery are effective, economical, and high quality.

How We Can Help

If you don’t use pressure washers very often, we also offer convenient rentals. Choose from our popular power washers: portable wheel mounted, tank skid mounted, and trailer mounted models. We can help you decide what machine is the best choice for your cleaning needs. Click here to request a quote.

However, many businesses prefer to buy their own equipment. At McHenry Pressure Cleaning Systems, we offer dozens of cleaning systems to meet all your applications, including custom pressure washers, steam cleaners, waste water treatment systems, wash systems, and truck and fleet wash systems.

If you’re still manually washing your vehicles outdoors in the winter, we’d love to talk with you about our custom truck and fleet wash bays. Our McHenry Pressure Cleaning Systems wash bays are designed to suit your needs. You can choose completely automatic, drive-through, or self-service systems.

If you already have a wash bay, but think it could be improved or expanded, we’d love to help. Our friendly technicians will visit your site, talk with you about your needs, and survey your area and equipment. We’ll make recommendations to increase your efficiencies. All our custom solutions minimize water waste and meet strict environmental guidelines.

Thanks to our preventative maintenance contracts, you’re guaranteed regular maintenance checks. These extend the life of your equipment and allow us to replace any parts or accessories before they’re damaged or cause you down time.

At McHenry Pressure Cleaning Systems, we’re proud to provide both quality equipment and a quality service team. Contact us today to see how our staff members can solve your problems and address your equipment needs. We look forward to meeting you and serving you.