While the summer sun has come and gone, most of Canada is preparing for another long and frigid winter. If you’re Alberta or Saskatchewan, the fluffy white powder has already begun to fall from the sky.

But car experts with Consumer Reports say it’s the perfect time of year to protect your car’s finish.

Just like you should visit your dentist for a dental cleaning regularly, the paint job on your vehicle also needs regular maintenance with a wash and polish.

“[Consumer Reports] suggests you hand wax your car with the change of every season. Waxing your car on a regular basis helps protect the paint from scratches, tree sap, and bird droppings,” said Mike Monticello, Consumer Reports auto editor.

Before you apply the wax, Consumer Reports says you’ll need to first wash your car and then dry it to get rid of any water marks.

“Then apply a coat of wax to the dried, cool surface. Don’t work in direct sunlight because heat can make the wax spread unevenly and clump. Apply the wax in a circular motion, then let it dry and remove it with a microfiber cloth, also in a circular motion,” said Monticello.

If you plan on visiting the drive-through car wash, make sure you opt for a brushless one, as the brushes in the automatic wash can actually strip off some of the car wax on your vehicle.

But if you’re tempted to skip all that elbow grease and opt for a spray-on wax treatment at the carwash, you should first hit the brakes.

“Spray on treatments at car washes give more of a cosmetic gloss whereas hand waxing puts on a protective coat that can last for several months,” said Monticello.

The most effective step at protesting your vehicle is to wash it regularly; and it’s also worth noting that in Consumer Reports testing, premium car wax brands didn’t hold up to the lower-priced alternatives.

There are several types of car waxes on the market, liquid, paste and spray waxes. Liquid waxes are good for cleaning, gloss and durability, but they can be more difficult to apply evenly and buff out; but liquid waxes did clean the best. Paste waxes provide an easy application, but the overall performance is not as good as with liquids, and it can be difficult to remove the wax from the bottom of the container.

Finally, spray waxes are best for new cars and offer convenience, but they’re not as good for cleaning and are poor for durability. They’ll give your car more of a cosmetic glass, while hand-waxing will put on a protective coat that’ll protect your car for months.

Another tip is to avoid using old rags for washing; they can trap dirt and scratch your cars finish. Instead, opt for a micro-fiber rag.

Consumer Reports says that even the best car waxes they’ve tested will only last a few months, so for optimal results, plan on hand-waxing your car three to four times a year.