It’s been wet. And it’s been cold. For probably 80% of the people reading this, it’s been winter. I’m writing this from rainy Southern California, where it’s been unusually wet and cold. In fact, one report shows that for the season, Southern California has already received more than 140% of its average annual rainfall. Usually when residents of Southern California hear someone say “weather,” we reply with “Whether or not what?”
This is not to seek sympathy for our weather, because we know it’s been crazy and burdensome all over (and because some storms nationwide have created significant loss, this is not to make light of that). But because of this unusually wet weather, Southern California car fans have been faced with—cue ominous music—driving their cars in the rain. For the car-meet faithful, this has created a conundrum—should I stay or should I go? (Cue The Clash.)
Curiously, many Southern Californians can’t drive in the rain, whether—see what I did there?—they’re too fast or too slow. They’ll generally admit it (WE won’t, but THEY will), though it’s understandable when you can only “practice” those skills a few times a year. The reason for the conundrum to which I’m referring is more along the lines of “can I get my car wet?” Or perhaps a more common refrain, “Do I want to deal with getting my car wet?” Which will involve cleaning it, and then drying it.
We know they’ve been built to get wet. There’s even a rumor some of these cars come with windshield wipers, windows, roofs, and floors, keeping the parts that need to stay dry, well, dry. Many of us also treat and prepare the cars especially for those encounters with water. We use auto-care products that boast qualities like hydrophobic water-beading and water-sheeting functions intended to enable a vehicle’s surface to repel water. I suppose we might fall into both camps—not wanting our cars to get wet, but also getting a fantastic sense of accomplishment and pride when we see water beading on the surface or running off the car. I just applied Griot’s Garage’s Ceramic Glass Cleaner to my windshield and then reveled in the catharsis of watching the water sprint off my windshield throughout the duration of a 60-mile round trip in the rain.
In some cases, you might have a car that shouldn’t get wet for a variety of reasons. I’ll admit I have a couple of those. One is a convertible that would appreciate it if I installed its rear-quarter-window seals and another is a 2002 missing its pedal insulation. Little glimpses of the pavement by the pedals bring out Fred Flintstone vibes when I drive it, and I don’t need my feet getting wet (I haven’t treated them with any Griot’s products).
I’m also as guilty as the people you might chide. As I was prepping for a two-hour drive the night prior, my wife asked, “So why aren’t you taking the Shark?” When I told her I didn’t want it to get wet, she replied, “First, it’s a car. And second, if it’s named ‘Shark,’ it can get wet.” Fair points and well played, wife.
Those of us who take pride in having a clean car know that a car driven in the rain takes more effort to wash than a car waiting for its periodic bath that has stayed dry between cleanings. I recently experienced this first-hand after taking my wagon on a ten-hour round trip almost entirely in the rain. After that drive, even the dirt had dirt on it. Dirt was lodged in every crevice of that car, like sand on your towel (and in your hair, and somehow in your sealed beverage) at the beach. After three washings I’m still finding dirt from that drive.
That five-hour rainy return drive brought me right to a car meet—the monthly Sunday Steel in Laguna Hills, California—which was apparently hiding in the eye of the storm as the entire show was dry. At first, I was embarrassed at the condition of my car, but the consensus seemed to be that I was using it for what it was built—driving. If I had tossed in my snowboard, people would have thought my xDrive 5 Series touring had spent the past three weeks buried in mountain snow.
Recent rainy weekends have brought various levels of precipitation to a series of car meets. We’ve seen some folks embrace them and enjoy it and others shy away, even announcing almost proudly that they didn’t make the event because of the rain. Again, I’m not judging; I’m simply pointing out different approaches. Sometimes it depends on the time and resources you might have if you’d like to clean the car afterward. Others see some rain as the actual car wash.
If you’re faced with rain in the forecast, do you base your excursion on whether there will be good weather? —Kyle van Hoften