As temperatures continue to drop, you might notice that it’s increasingly difficult to clean your fleet. You may even find yourself using more soap to get an efficient clean – that’s normal.

Fleet washing in winter is tough and it might seem like a waste of time. But if you don’t do it regularly, you risk leaving your trucks vulnerable to rust, corrosion, and clogged fuel lines.

In this blog, we’ll show you how to effectively wash your fleet in colder weather and reveal one of the most overlooked elements of winter fleet maintenance.

Washing Your Truck Fleet in Winter with a 2-Step Wash Process

All fleet washing chemicals tend to become more sluggish in colder temperatures.

If it's possible with your conditions, we recommend you use a 2-step wash system in winter for a more consistent clean. 

However, if washing outdoors or with temperatures near freezing, a single step wash or high pressure rinse may be your only option.

But before you start spraying down your trucks, here’s a step-by-step guide to fleet washing in winter:

  1. Try to wash in a dry, warm area. Preferably covered
  2. Blend your detergents stronger than you do in the summer (if applicable)
  3. Use warm water to clean more efficiently
  4. Knock off any mud, debris, or ice before applying your soaps onto the surface.
  5. Wash in smaller sections so the chemical doesn't freeze between applications.
  6. Apply an acidic pre-soak (making sure to start from the bottom)
  7. Apply your alkaline detergent directly on top of the pre-soak
  8. Rinse for a final time

You don’t need to use a 2-step wash system but it is a much more consistent technique. As winter wears on, it will gradually get more difficult to obtain a clean finish without combining an acidic pre-soak with your alkaline detergent. 

Doing a 2-Step Washing process will also take care of salt on your vehicle as the process itself neutralizes salt without any additional chemicals.

It’s also important to note that the optimal temperature for fleet washing in the winter depends on your climate and the specific weather on the day and time you are washing. 

When it’s cold, but not freezing out, consider increasing the water to about 100-130°F to help clean more effectively and use less soap (in comparison to cold water). 

When it's closer to freezing, you may wish to use cool/lukewarm water at about 70-90 degrees to prevent flash freezing.

Most fleets tend to stop washing when it gets below freezing. They will take advantage of any warmer days, or wash inside to make sure they can keep their fleet clean.

Finally, make sure you apply the alkaline truck wash soap directly on top of the acidic pre-soak.

An Often Overlooked Part of Fleet Washing

Cleaning your undercarriage is just as important as cleaning the rest of your vehicle — and it’s often overlooked.

With winter already here, many cities that experience a lot of snow are forced to use salt, potassium acetate, calcium chloride, sodium acetate, and even beet juice on their roads.

Some predictions are showing a colder, more snowy winter for much of the U.S. & Canada,  extending the corrosion season and increasing the chances of doing damage to vehicle frames and undercarriages. 

To understand how a 2-Step process can remove road-salt from vehicles we must first understand that road-salt generally dissolves in water. 

When it reacts with diesel, oil, and other contaminants from the road, it forms insoluble complexes on the vehicle’s surface. These complexes are not easily removed by water alone.

A 2-step truck wash makes this more efficient and helps prevent rust and corrosion on vehicles by neutralizing road-salt. 

The low pH acid (Step 1) does the heavy lifting, and the high pH alkaline (Step 2) works to neutralize the rest of the material, leaving you with a neutral water run-off.

2-Step can also help to remove salts by simply competing for the vehicle’s surface. 

Whether it’s with an Automated Drive-Thru Wash, 2-Step Washing, or using an undercarriage cleaner, keeping the bottom of your fleet clean all winter can prevent costly repairs, reduce rust, and lower overall maintenance costs. 

Should You Continue to Wash Your Fleet in Winter?

We always encourage people to regularly wash their fleets — even when it’s winter — because it’s not just an image issue, it’s a maintenance issue. 

You want your vehicles to last a long time and be safe enough to drive long distances. 

Washing your fleet properly in winter will help you do that.

Hopefully, this blog gives you the information you need to wash more efficiently and protect your fleet all winter long. But if you have any questions specific to your fleet or you would like more personal assistance, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. 

Our expert advisors will assess all your fleet washing needs and match you with the right HCS solution for the job.