Tips for Cleaning Your Car After Driving Off Road

By Tim Fox | Car

Feb 12
Tips to clean your car after off-road ride

Driving off-road can be one of the most exciting outdoor activities you can participate in. Off-roading and off-highway activities have dedicated enthusiasts throughout the world, and the unique sport only seems to be rising in popularity.

For example, this study documents off-roading trends and shows that the popularity of off-highway vehicles, driving, and riding activities grew especially fast in the 1990s and early 2000s, at least in the United States.

Unfortunately, whether you're driving on a sandy beach, a desert, or going "mud-bogging" in the mountains, your car is likely to collect quite a bit of dirt and dust.

Here are a few of the best tricks, tips, and things to keep in mind to help you rid your car of mud, dust, and sand after a day of off-roading fun.

Consider Using a Power Washer

While using a standard garden hose will likely be adequate for washing your car, using a power washer can do wonders for initially removing those big clumps of mud and debris. Additionally, using a power washer saves much more water compared to a regular garden hose.

However, you should be careful with a power washer as you may risk stripping paint from your vehicle. Keep your power washer on a lower psi to avoid stripping paint, grease, and wax.

Make Sure to Use Automotive Soap

car soap

When you clean your car, you should only use soaps and detergents that are specifically meant for use with cars and vehicles. Dish soaps and other types of soaps are formulated differently and may strip grease and wax from your vehicle.

The formula of automotive soaps will be specifically designed to avoid stripping grease and wax from your car while handling the specific surfaces and needs of an automobile.

Timing is Everything

If you've taken your car out into the dirt and mud, you may be proud of your car's appearance. Unfortunately, the longer you keep that mud resting on your car, the harder it will be to remove when the time comes.

When mud hardens, it can cause damage to your paint job or engine and internal parts. To avoid damage to your paint job, engine, or other components, you should clean your car as soon as possible after returning from off-roading.

Check Under the Hood

If you've done some serious off-roading, then chances are that dirt has found its way under your hood. The engine bay contains vital electronics that you're not going to want to be soaking wet, so take care with the way you approach this section.

One method of protecting this area is to use plastic bags to cover the electronic parts. You may also want to scrub and clean this area with a sponge rather than spraying it with a hose or power washer.

Don't Forget to Look Underneath

As the spot that is closest to the ground, the undercarriage of your vehicle is likely to be very dirty after off-roading. Be sure to clean underneath your car as well.

One great method of washing underneath your vehicle is to use a lawn sprinkler. Simply set the sprinkler underneath your car for an hour or two and let the water break up any clumps of dirt or sand that are below.

Reach Those Nooks and Crannies

It's surprising where some of that dirt and dust can find its way to after off-roading. Be sure to look in all of the hidden corners of your car to find those spots that can't be reached by regular spray methods.

Check the roof, look behind bumpers, and examine cracks and crevices of doors. Don't forget to check your rims. If your vehicle has a canvas top or plastic windows, you may want to consider detailing those.

Consider Cleaning the Interior

Even when your windows are closed, dust and dirt can sometimes find their way into the interior of your vehicle. Especially if your windows were open or cracked during your off-roading session, you should consider using a car vacuum to give seats, carpet, and hard surfaces a thorough cleaning and smell bitter.


Driving off-road can be an exhilarating experience. By keeping these above tips in mind, you'll be sure to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape. Clean your car thoroughly after going off-road, and you'll ensure that your vehicle will stay in top condition and make it through many more outdoor excursions to come