Life in cold climates brings with it certain unique challenges, one of which is coping with cold-weather car care. As a BMW owner, you want to take every precaution to maintain the way your bimmer looks and drives. That can be a little more complicated in upstate New York or Maine than it is in California.

Rain, sleet and snow aren’t much fun to drive in. As if these weren’t enough, road treatment in the form of rock salt and/or coal ash combines with all that water to form a car-killing cocktail. Allow the oxidization to spread, and you could be telling stories of the BMW you once loved. It doesn’t have to be that way though. You can beat the rust.

Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness

It’s true, but more importantly, cleanliness is the opposite of saltiness. Salt is what causes your car’s clear coat to wear down. When that happens, you expose raw paint to the elements and begin the corrosive cycle of oxidization. A thorough wash once a week should be enough to keep salt of your paint, though more may be necessary if you drive in particularly soggy conditions.

When you perform your weekly wash, make sure you clean the car’s undercarriage. You might want to invest in a steam cleaner or power washer to make this simpler. Most BMWs ride close to the asphalt, and it’s easy for rust to begin in an out-of-the-way place and then spread.

Attend to Small Scratches Quickly

Here’s where it pays to have the touch-up paint that came with your car when it was new. Because of the way small scratches can expose your BMW’s finish to oxidization, you’ll want to repair them as quickly as possible. Even if a scratch doesn’t look particularly bad, it can lead to rust if left untreated.

Check your car regularly for scratches. Make sure to use direct light and change angles, particularly on lighter-colored cars where it can be difficult to spot imperfections. Even a rock chip can start the rusting process if it removes enough material.

Apply Paint Sealer

You may have had the option to purchase paint sealer as a dealer-applied option when you first bought your BMW. If you didn’t it’s not too late, so long as the car’s finish is still in good condition.

Paint sealer resembles wax at first glance, but it uses ceramic and metallic compounds that bond with your car’s finish to form a harder exterior layer than a product like wax. These days, it’s possible to apply paint sealant on your own, so you don’t have to rely on a professional.

For BMW owners who live in cold climates where rust can be a problem, sealant can be the difference between a forever car and a long-lost memory. Modern sealants deliver exceptional performance, particularly in keeping rust away. Depending on how big your bimmer is, expect to spend $100 to $400 to apply a quality sealer. The upside is, these products protect for many years.

You can also wash and wax your car’s finish as normal once sealant has set. Sealed paint will retain its factory shine and color depth considerably better than unsealed paint.

You might even want to consider applying a coat if you don’t live in the snow, but for places where rust is a problem, this is a no-brainer. A little work is a small price to pay for a rust-free ultimate driving machine.