Tips for Tackling Windshield Ice & Snow

4 October 2016
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Winter is nearly upon us. Depending on where you live in the US, you could soon be dealing with freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall. When it comes to removing the resulting ice and snow buildup from your car's windshield, you'll want to play it safe to avoid cracking or even breaking the windshield altogether. Here are a few tips to keep in mind this winter:

Use Plastic Scrapers Only

When dealing with ice and snow on your windshield, the last thing you need is a metal tool that could potentially leave scratches and other marks in your windshield. This means you should steer clear of shovels, rakes or any other improvised metal tool that could be used for clearing snow and ice. Instead, you'll want to stick to plastic. Plastic ice scrapers are hard enough to effectively remove ice from a frozen windshield, but soft enough to avoid leaving behind unseemly scratches and scrapes.

To effectively use your plastic scraper, you'll want to move it across the windshield from left to right in a sweeping motion. For stubborn, hard-to-remove ice, you'll want to use your car's defroster to soften up most of the ice and then break it apart with the scraper.

You should also refrain from chipping away at severe ice buildup, as the stresses could eventually cause chips and cracks in the windshield surface.

Don't Use Hot Water

Pouring hot or boiling water over your windshield sounds like a quick and easy way to get rid of ice and snow buildup. What you probably don't know is that cold glass is under tremendous thermal stress. When there's a big enough temperature differential between the glass surface and any object that comes into contact with it, the end result could be a cracked or even shattered windshield.

Instead of going for the quick and dirty method of deicing your windshield, you should let your defroster do most of the work for you. Unlike that pot of hot water, the defroster gradually increases the glass surface temperature without causing thermal shock. It may take a bit longer to defrost your windshield this way, but you won't run the risk of completely destroying it in the process.

What About Chemical Deicers?

There are plenty of products out there that claim to prevent snow and ice buildup on windshields and other surfaces. These deicing treatments usually contain methanol, ethylene glycol and a host of other chemicals that are not only poisonous to humans, but also detrimental to the environment. If you have to use these products, use them sparingly.

In the meantime, you can make your own windshield deicer out of natural ingredients and solutions commonly found throughout your home. One recipe calls for the use of 70-percent isopropyl alcohol and a few drops of ordinary dish detergent. Another calls for a mixture of ordinary household white vinegar and water (preferably distilled water, since all of the minerals have already been filtered out).

These remedies won't hurt your glass, but they have the potential to damage your car's paint, chrome and plastics. If you happen to spill any homemade deicer on your vehicle, make sure it's wiped up as soon as possible.

Keep Your Windshield Covered

Needless to say, it's much easier to keep your windshield clean by keeping it ice-free in the first place. That means keeping your vehicle in a garage, carport or any other covered area during times of heavy snowfall or ice buildup. A garaged car is less likely to have frozen water on the windshield.

If you don't have a garage or access to a covered space, the next best thing is to cover the windshield with a window cover or an ordinary tarp. If you're on a tight household budget, you can also make your own set of windshield covers from cardboard, plastic or any other appropriate material.

For more information on maintaining your windshield, go to websites hosted by local car companies.