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Winter driving 101: Why keeping your car clean matters

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Driving through the winter comes with salt, mud and snow that can make your vehicle filthy, and while it can be challenging to keep your car clean, that dirt and grime can cover up cameras and sensors designed to keep you safe.

"All the salt, spray, snow and road grime that gets onto a vehicle in the wintertime can obscure the radars and the cameras and the different sensors that you use for your safety systems," Jon Linkov with Consumer Reports said. "While it doesn't mean that they won't work all the time, they may not be there when you most need them."

Linkov said a dirty car isn't just bad for the vehicle's finish, it can actually be dangerous, so it's essential to give your safety sensors a little extra care in the winter.

"The one you're going to use the most is the backup camera. So take a bucket of water, a little soap and you're just going to want to go underneath and find the exposed camera," said Linkov.

If your car has parking assist, wipe away any debris, snow and salt from the bumper sensors and rear body panels house blind spot monitoring radars so they can continue to detect objects out of your view.

Many new cars have radar sensors behind the front grille, so keep that area clear of impacted snow.

If your car has "forward collision" or "lane departure warning," you'll need to pay extra attention to the windshield where the camera and sensors are usually mounted. If you don't get it clean, those sensors may get triggered with mud and snow while driving.

"So, you're going to want to clean these and make sure that they're clean before you start driving. One final thing to consider, 360-degree camera system are on some vehicles, usually they are on the mirror area so you're going to want to reach under here make sure that these are clean just like the front and rear cameras," said Linkov.

Keeping your car clean in the winter is also important to prevent rust and corrosion. You'll want to wash off any dirt, salt and sand and an occasional trip through a car wash can rinse off the undercarriage of your vehicle to prevent rust there as well.

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