Nobody enjoys starting their day by scraping ice off their windshield. It’s tedious work, and it can be tempting to remove just enough ice to see from the driver’s side or pour a kettle of hot water on the windshield to speed things up.
But while these may seem like good ideas when you’re in a hurry, they can cause costly damage to your vehicle and even compromise your safety.
Learning how to de-ice your windshield is essential for all drivers who live in states that get a lot of snow. Here are some tips that can help you complete this task properly.
1. Thaw frozen car doors and locks
Dirty or damaged door seals can allow water to seep in and freeze your car doors shut. If the driver’s door is frozen, check the other doors and see if you can get inside the vehicle. Switch on the defroster from inside and see if that thaws your doors.
Don’t force the door open from the inside—this may damage the weather stripping, which will make it more likely to freeze shut again.
If all doors are frozen shut, you may use a lock de-icer if you think it’s a lock that’s causing the problem. If that doesn’t do the trick, spray a de-icing solution around the car door opening.
Don’t believe any hacks that suggest using a lighter or torch on your car—these are likely to ruin your car’s paint and door lock mechanism.
2. Start the engine and set the heater to defrost
Drivers should allow enough time in the morning for their vehicles to warm up. This makes it significantly easier and quicker to remove ice from the car. Completely de-icing your vehicle should take at least 10 to 15 minutes.
As your vehicle idles, heat from inside the vehicle will help melt ice on the windshield and other surfaces. If you have a heated windshield and side mirrors, this is the time to switch them on.
3. Brush snow off the vehicle
Use a snow brush to remove loose snow on the surface of your vehicle as the inside warms up. Avoid using too much pressure when using hard-bristled brushes as they can scratch your paint job.
Keep brushing the snow away until you get to the layer of ice underneath.
4. Use a windshield de-icer spray
A windshield de-icer solution will help you clear ice off your vehicle faster. Some people opt for a commercially available spray while others prefer to make their own de-icer solution.
You can make your own homemade spray by mixing two parts 70% isopropyl alcohol, one part water, and a little bit of dishwashing soap. This solution will have a lower freezing point than water, preventing melted ice from refreezing.
Three parts vinegar may also be substituted for the alcohol.
Warning: Using vinegar or alcohol-based de-icing sprays can break down your vehicle’s protective coating over time. To minimize the impact of using these sprays, rinse off the de-icer fluid and re-wax the vehicle as soon as the weather gets warmer.
5. Scrape the ice off
Always use a plastic/soft-tipped ice scraper, a rubber squeegee, or a soft bristle brush to remove ice from your windshield. Using a metal scraper or even a credit card can scratch and damage the glass.
Warming up your car from the inside allows water to act as a barrier between the ice and your car paint. This softens the ice so you’re not scratching your vehicle while scraping it clean.
Use the scraper to carve a groove in the softened ice and peel it off in sheets.
Alternate between spraying and scraping until all windows are clear. It’s better to spray a small area and let the de-icer spray sit for a couple of seconds before scraping the ice afterward. Spraying the entire windshield all at once will give the melted ice enough time to refreeze before you can scrape it off.
How to Prevent Ice and Snow Buildup on Your Car
Be smart about where you park
The best way to prevent ice from accumulating on your vehicle is to park in a covered or heated garage. If outdoor parking is your only option, avoid parking under trees that may dump more snow and branches on your vehicle.
Also, try to find a spot that gets a lot of sun in the morning. Park your vehicle facing the east so that rays of light can warm up your windshield as the sun rises.
Cover your windshield
Use a windshield cover secured by magnets or a tarp to prevent ice from forming on the glass surface. However, using a cover is only advisable when light snowfall is expected. Heavy snowstorms can cause the material to freeze on the glass surface, while strong winds can drag the magnets and leave scratches on your vehicle.
Prep your windshield wipers
Lift the wipers off the glass to keep them from getting stuck on the windshield. You may wipe them with alcohol to prevent ice from forming. It helps to have winter windshield wiper blades installed because they are designed to withstand colder climates.
You should also make sure that your washer fluid is rated for cold weather. The summer washer solution must be completely flushed from the system and replaced with a winter solution mixed with fluid de-icer. If not, the washer solution will freeze as it is sprayed on the windshield or in its tank.
Keep your windshield from fogging up
Aside from snow and ice, fogged-up windows can obscure your view of the road. Use commercial anti-fogging wipes and liquids on the inside of your windshield to keep moisture from building up overnight.
There are also a few DIY hacks you can try. Some drivers swear by using shaving cream as an alternative to anti-fogging liquids. Others suggest filling up a sock with cat litter and leaving it on the dashboard to absorb excess moisture in your car overnight.
You can also try to crack a window open for a few seconds to let cold dry air in to de-humidify your interiors.
Must-Haves for Your Windshield De-Icing Kit
Here are some of the things you’ll need to de-ice your vehicle. You should have a kit at home and another one in your car in case a snowstorm hits while you’re out and about.
- Ice scraper and snow brush
- Windshield wiper de-icer fluid
- Commercial or homemade windshield de-icer spray
- Lock de-icer
Can You Pour Hot Water on a Frozen Car?
You could—but you shouldn’t. The drastic difference in temperature could cause the glass to shatter, leaving you with costly windshield and window repair bills. At the same time, it can also ruin your car’s finish. Hot water can cause automotive paint to blister and form ‘spider web’ cracks where the paint will eventually chip off.