Should You Wash Your Car Before a Road Trip?


Most travel enthusiasts agree that embarking on a road trip is an excellent way to change scenery and ignite your sense of adventure. However, there’s no similar consensus on whether you should wash your car before a road trip. Opponents of pre-washing argue it’s a waste because the vehicle will get dirty anyway, but is there a benefit to washing your car beforehand?

You should wash your car before a road trip because it limits dirt buildup, enhances visibility, and helps prevent internal odors. In general, washing your car prior to embarking on a trip helps to make the journey a clean and comfortable experience.

In this article, I’ll explain the top reasons you should wash your car before a road trip. I’ll also provide suggestions on some of the problem areas to focus on and steps you can take to protect your vehicle during the journey. 

6 Reasons To Wash Your Car Before Taking a Road Trip

While the debate is ongoing, most car experts and enthusiasts would say you should wash your car before you take a lengthy road trip. Here are their reasons why:

1. Enhances Visibility

Visibility is often an underrated aspect when driving and, therefore, easy to forget when planning your road trip. Remember, foggy and dusty windows can significantly undermine visibility, which will, in turn, negatively impact your travel experience. 

Accordingly, it’s crucial to clean the interior and exterior of your car’s windows, including the windshield, as this ensures you have a clear view of the road throughout the trip. This is backed by the experts at Goodyear, who recommend washing your windows before your trip to enjoy optimal visibility. 

This also helps to eliminate any smears which may potentially inhibit visibility. 

Tip: I recommend refilling windshield wiper fluids while you are at it. 

2. Protects Your Car’s Interior and Exterior

Whether you’re going for a short trip over a few days or an extended cross-country trip, cleaning your car’s interior and exterior is vital to protecting your vehicle. As explained by Motorama, unattended liquid spills could potentially cause corrosion and rust. 

Additionally, dirt and debris buildup on your car’s exterior can potentially damage the paint. According to AutoZone, dirt and debris can build up on your car’s surface, which can be difficult to remove without damaging the paint. 

Accordingly, properly cleaning your car before the trip helps minimize this buildup, which helps protect the paint. 

Tip: After thoroughly cleaning your car’s exterior, add a wax coating such as the WEICA Black Car Wax or The Last Coat Premium Ceramic Coating (both on Amazon) to protect your car’s paint job during the trip. 

3. Optimizes Comfort

A clean environment is generally a more comfortable environment in which to be. But don’t take my word for it. Assume you’ve spilled coffee or any other liquid in your car’s interior. This can be on the upholstery or on the floor mat. Alternatively, imagine you had a snack in your vehicle, and it’s littered with crumbs or leftovers. 

Cleaning your car before the trip provides an opportunity to get rid of these crumbs or clean spills, which could otherwise result in odors. As reiterated by Way.com, these odors in your car’s interior can have a significant and negative impact not only on your moods, but also on your health. 

Tip: After thoroughly cleaning your car’s interior, The Manual recommends buying an air freshener for your car like Meguiar’s Whole Car Air Re-Fresher (available on Amazon.com) to maintain a clean and fresh internal environment. 

4. Maintains a Presentable Appearance

Maintaining a clean car during your trip is not solely for optimizing comfort, but it’s a good way of maintaining a presentable outlook. 

As the experts at WetZone Car Wash explain, because your car will get dirty and messy during the trip due to the snacks and drinks you will likely have on the road, cleaning your car before the trip helps minimize this clutter and dirt. 

Imagine being pulled down by the police or stopping to say hi to a friend, and your car looks like a trash can? Not a beautiful mental image, is it? 

Tip: Carry a trash bag bin such as the Meistar Plastic Car Trash Can and EPAuto Waterproof Car Trash Can (available on Amazon.com) to create a practical trash management approach and maintain a clean environment even while you consume your snacks.

As recommended by Premier Auto Detailing and Wash, it’s also a good idea to get your car detailed after cleaning, to maintain that neat, aesthetic look. There are some handy, easy-to-use tools such as the Dsenfurn Auto Detailing Drill Brush Set (available on Amazon) if you fancy some DIY action.

5. Maintains Good Hygiene 

As previously discussed, maintaining a clean interior car environment is essential for your health. After all, foul odors can cause nausea and other problems. But did you know that dust buildup can also negatively impact your health? 

According to the Manual, it’s essential to clean your car to minimize dust buildup. This includes thoroughly cleaning the floor mats, which are prone to dust buildup, and also cleaning and disinfecting the vehicle’s upholstery. 

Cleaning your car before the trip thus reduces the amount of dust you breathe during the drive, which may cause sneezing, clogging, or even headaches. Imagine breathing in all the dirt that has settled on your floor mats! 

Tip: Consider upholstery care products such as the Chemical Guys Cleaning Kit (available on Amazon.com) to thoroughly clean your car’s upholstery. The kit includes a powerful cleaner and a drill-brush to remove set-in grime and dirt. It’s also a good idea to vacuum your upholstery and clean the floor mats.

6. Simplifies Future Maintenance Work

Your car will inevitably accumulate all manner of dirt and grime during the road trip. However, washing your car before the trip reduces your vehicle’s future maintenance needs. 

Remember, it’s a good rule of thumb to wash your car before and after the trip. Plus, if you wash your vehicle before the trip, the work you have to do after the trip will be minimal. 

If you don’t clean your car before the trip, you’re essentially creating dirt and grime buildup, which may require extensive maintenance work to remove in the future thoroughly. 

Final Verdict 

Contrary to common belief, cleaning your car before a road trip isn’t a waste, and cleaning your car after the road trip isn’t a recommended option. 

Remember, if you leave this dirt, dust, and grime unchecked, they can potentially damage your car’s interior or upholstery, cause paint chipping, result in bad odors, create an untidy and unhygienic driving environment or reduce comfort. 

When prepping for your adventure on the road, remember to give your car a thorough wash. Your car will thank you for it.

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