Car Iced Over - SmallCredit: morgueFile

One dreaded chore during the winter months many drivers have is the removal of ice and snow off the car body and windows.  I think you could say that this is a safety issue because by not clearing your car properly, you run the risk of  your windows refreezing and impairing your visibility or allowing slush to fly into traffic behind you - not a good thing.

This is dangerous because flying wintry debris at highway speeds can cause the driver behind you to lose control as I saw this happen in Georgia Of all places.  

Short story aside, we were driving back to Florida and we saw many cars that almost lost control because the cars ahead of them didn't properly clear the snow off their car.

I imagine some people who are not used to driving in harsh winter conditions didn't realize the danger they were putting others in, and were probably not equipped to clear their vehicle or they would have done so.

However, with a bit of planning, it's easy to prepare for unforeseen circumstances when heading out in the winter months.  Shown below is what I am carrying in my trunk this season:

  • Ice scraper with sweeper for hard ice and snow removal
  • Squeegee to push condensation and melted ice off your windows
  • Portable jump starter so that you don't have to depend on others when you have a dead battery
  • First-Aid kit for unexpected injuries
  • Utility shovel to dig your car out of deep snow
Winter Car GearCredit: Patrick Jenkins

Here are three methods you can try.  Keep in mind that you can use all methods or any combination of them.  Use them to whatever makes the defrosting of your car the most efficient in your situation


Use an Ice Scraper

Anyone who lives in a climate where frosting of windshields is common needs to have an ice scraper.  If there's anything you must buy, this is the tool to have.  

Ice scrapers come in various forms and sizes and even have varying features such as brass edges and dual blades like the Ice Dozer but my favorite is the Mallory 533 SnoWisp Deluxe.  

It only costs around $11 on Amazon and is very strong and sturdy.  It has a very comfortable foam grip with soft bristles but the length seems just right so that you can get good leverage.  

In my opinion, an ice scraper that is too short could make it difficult for you when reaching at extended arm length.  With the longer length, you can cover more windshield in a shorter amount of time.  Also, having too short a handle can cause possible slippage.  Be very careful on the edges of your windows as to not scratch the paint.  Never use the ice scraper on anything but the windows and windshield.  For that matter, never use metal to scrape your windows as this can scratch the glass.  

For snow removal, the soft bristles will prevent scratching on the paint body but remember when removing snow, you don't have to get it completely removed down to the paint.  If there's a thin layer of snow, that's okay.  Just don't drive off with an iceberg on your roof. 

Use the Car Defroster

Car Defroster - SmallCredit: Patrick Jenkins

This is by bar my favorite method.  The car defroster won't necessarily melt all the ice on your windows, particularly the side windows, but it will be so nice to get into a nice warm vehicle when you head out.  

Typically, your car's front and rear (if equipped) defoster can melt most of the ice that has permeated to the windows.  Keep in mind, you may still need to do a bit of scraping and sweeping to clear any ice that remains.

Typically, you want to leave the air conditioner on with the hottest setting available.  Conventional thinking may lead you to turn the A/C setting off, but really you want to dehumidify the air.  Some cars in defrost mode, will control the temperature automatically.  

Newer cars are smart vehicles that take into account the outside temperature and supply the proper amount of heat for defrosting.  On my car, I can't even control the temperature when it's in defrost mode but sure enough, it does its job and the car is very comfortable when I get in.

Depending on your vehicle, it shouldn't take your car very long to do its work.  When I lived in Alaska, my little Nissan could defrost the windows in about 15 minutes tops in very frigid conditions.  

Now, I will say there are varying opinions as to whether you should let your car idle when you first start it up.  Arguments range from unnecessary wear and tear, engine deposit build up, waste of gas and environmental factors.  In my opinion, your car is designed for operation in various conditions and is no more a waste of resources when you are sitting in traffic with your car idling.  

Your car has a defroster so that it can take care of these situations - to defrost your windows.  To me, it doesn't make sense to defrost your windows after you start driving and risk your windows refreezing.  I will leave it at that.  If you prefer not to run your car to defrost your windows, please feel free to scrape away.  Everyone will find a method that works best for them, I guess.

Use Deicing Windshield Washer Fluid or Spray

There are also commercial deicing sprays from Rain-X and Prestone made to aid in melting ice from your windows.  Usually these come in a spray bottle or can but I'm not attracted to these products because I feel they are an unnecessary expense, plus they can get a little messy.  

Of any of these products, I would get the Rain-X Deicing Winshield Washer fluid to help prevent ice buildup during a storm.  During the winter months please ensure you have a non-freezing windshield washer fluid.  When using the windhield washer fluid, never run your wipers over a frozen windshield as this will ruin the wiper blades.

Rain-X Windshield Washer Fluid, De-Icer (pack of 2)
Amazon Price: $19.99 Buy Now
(price as of Nov 14, 2013)

Prestone makes an Ice & Frost Shield window treatment for prevention ice buildup.  However, this solution requires application prior to a freezing event and every time thereafter.

Other Approaches

There are a number of methods that people will suggest but I would not risk or feel it's worth the effort:

  • Three part water and one part vinegar solution - people have had mixed results with this.  Plus, I'm not so keen on putting any amount of vinegar on your car
  • Place cardboard or an old blanket on the windshield - I suppose you could do this but then what do you do with the soggy cardboard or blanket?  There are commercial windshield covers but you have to strap them into the inside of the car
  • Luke warm water - I'm not going to touch this one.  Do not risk cracking your windows please.
  • Salt - No thanks.  We all know what salt can do to the finish of your car.

Hopefully these tips can help make your winter driving more enjoyable.  With a little preparation, you will be armed to handle the biggest winter challenges.