Why do cars get so dirty? Explained

How many times have you stepped out of work or home, taken one look at your car and thought: why is my car so dirty?

It’s really more of a rhetorical question, of course. We all know exactly why our cars are so dirty. It’s because of dirt.

Whether it be rain, mud, snow, grit or brake dust, it can sometimes feel like you’re fighting a losing battle with your car. The moment you finish cleaning your car, it’s dirty again.

In this article, we’ll answer some of those burning questions about what is making your car so dirty. Don’t worry, we won’t judge…

Do cars get dirtier in the Winter?

Harsh winter weather is one of the most common causes of a dirty vehicle.

In the winter months, you’ll see lots of cars driving by with thick layers of grime and mud coating the exterior.

When it rains, dirty water on the road gets kicked up onto your car. This also happens with snow and sleet.

Once the rain or snow dries it can leave filthy marks and spots all over your car’s paintwork. Nasty.

Grit and road salt can also make your car dirty.

Lots of countries and local councils use salt to stop the roads from becoming too slippery in the winter months.

Freezing temperatures mean that water on the road turns into ice.

Road salt works by lowering the freezing point of water, making it easier for cars to grip the road and avoid accidents.

However, road salt will get kicked up onto your car and inside of the wheel arches – and it ain’t pretty.

Having a dirty car in those cold winter months is normal. No one will judge you for it.

But please make sure that it’s clean enough to be safe on the road.

You should make sure that your windscreen, registration plates and lights are clean – as this will help you and other road users to be safe.

Do cars get dirty in the Summer?

Great – there’s no more snow or road salt around. Your car should be sparkling clean, right?

Wrong, unfortunately. There are still a number of reasons why your car might get dirty in the summer months.

Whether it’s bird poop, tree sap, dust, dried mud or discarded ice cream from a passerby, you’ll still need to keep on top of cleaning your car during the summer. Sorry!

Can you fail an inspection if your car is dirty?

An inspection (or MOT in the UK) is a formal way of checking that a car is safe to drive on the roads.

A valid inpsection is a requirement if you want to tax, insure and drive your car, and it must be renewed annually.

There is no official item on an inspection checklist that would fail a car for being dirty.

Even if your car is filthy, it should still pass its inspection.

An inspection is designed to check that your car meets the minimum legal standards for driving, not whether it’s sparkling clean.

However – if your registration plates, windscreen and/or lights are obscured by heavy dirt and grime, your car might fail on grounds of safety.

Before you take your car for its inspection, make sure you clean these parts of the car at a minimum:

  • Windscreen
  • All other windows on the car
  • Side mirrors
  • Headlights and brake lights
  • Registration plates (front & back)

Don’t forget – it never hurts to bring your car to an inspection looking clean and fresh.

For an inspection tester, it’s a great first impression. It might reassure them that you take good care of your car!

Why do some people not wash their cars?

Some people just don’t have enough time to wash their cars.

Cleaning a car can be a time-consuming process, especially if you own an SUV or family van.

Car enthusiasts have been known to spend an entire day cleaning a car from top to bottom.

Others might not know how to clean their car properly. Sometimes, cleaning your car incorrectly can be even worse than not cleaning it at all.

It can be quite an overwhelming experience for beginners.

And for some people, they just don’t care how their car looks. They might only see it as a tool to get from A to B.

As long as it works on the road, they don’t mind if it’s dirty or not. That’s fair enough!

Like we said earlier, it’s not really an issue unless it impacts the safety of other road users.

Usually, a dirty car isn’t any reason for concern.

Why is there still dirt on my car after I wash it?

Dirt is sand, dust, snow, mud and pretty much anything else that can make your car look filthy.

When you clean your car, the objective is to remove all of the dirt and restore that shiny paintwork.

Sometimes, incorrectly washing your car can make it look even worse than it did before!

Here’s a step by step guide to try the next time you’re washing your car:

  1. Get two clean buckets and a wash mitt (try not to use a sponge!)
  2. Fill one bucket with car shampoo and water, fill the other with clean water
  3. Thoroughly clean your car with a hose or pressure washer before using the buckets
  4. Use the wash mitt and shampoo bucket to clean one panel at a time
  5. Dip the wash mitt into the water bucket after cleaning each panel to remove debris and dirt
  6. Use the hose or pressure washer to clean all of the soap off of each panel
  7. Dry each panel with a car detailing towel until the car is completely dry
  8. Use a car wax or hybrid wax to protect the paintwork if you wish! (Here’s why you should wax your car)

Most of the issues with a car looking dirty after it has been cleaned come down to the drying process.

If you just let your car air-dry after washing it, water and dirt can dry on the paint surface and leave ghastly-looking water spots.

By following this guide, your car should look sparkling clean and ready for the road!

Final thoughts

We hope that this article helped you to understand a little bit more about why it’s perfectly normal to have a dirty car – especially during the winter months.

However, it becomes dangerous when you pose a risk to yourself and other road users by having excessive dirt and grime covering the important areas of your car.

How often do you clean your car? Let us know!

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