You’re in a hurry and rushing out the door to work, and you realize your windshield is covered in ice.
It’s definitely a nuisance when this happens. It can create a delay in your entire day.
So what’s the quickest and safest method for clearing the ice away? It only takes three steps, and you can get on the road in just a few minutes:
1. Get your defrosters going
You might be in a hurry and want to start scraping away the ice immediately, but getting the car started and hitting the defroster is the best approach. This will soften the ice and make your scraping time much faster. If your car has a remote start, use that before even heading outside.
Turn the heat up to the maximum, direct all the heat to the defrosters and put the blower fan on the highest speed. Turn on your rear defroster as well. Crack the windows slightly for better air circulation. The warmer you can make it inside your car, the faster the ice will soften and melt.
While you wait for the car to heat up, do a quick walk around to make sure that the grille, other air intakes and tailpipes are cleared of snow.
Pro tip: If the car door lock is frozen too, try putting a little hand sanitizer or Vaseline on the key, or spray some de-icer in there. You can also try heating the key up with a lighter, but don’t do this if there’s any plastic on the key. Never force the lock—you could break off the key.
2. Own a good ice scraper
After your defrosters have softened the ice, you can start scraping it off. You want to make sure you have a quality ice scraper. You want one that is made from durable material with a long comfortable handle so you don’t have to lean over your car to reach your entire windshield.
3. Use your wipers only after the ice has melted
It’s tempting to try to just wipe away the ice, but don’t! If the ice is still stuck to the glass, it can damage your wipers to the point that they won’t work well anymore.
Once you have removed the ice and the windshield is warm, get inside and use your wipers and windshield washers to clear any remaining residue. Be sure to use washer fluid that is formulated for sub-freezing temperatures.
Use a de-icing solution
You can purchase ready-to-use de-icing solution spray cans or bottles at your local auto parts store or online.
You can also make your own by mixing one-third water and two-thirds isopropyl alcohol in a spray bottle. Spray plenty of it on the ice, let it react, then scrape the slush off. This mixture will work at temperatures down to five degrees Fahrenheit.
What about when you’re surprised by ice?
If the ice is a total surprise, you might not have any of the tools mentioned above to unfreeze your car. You’re still better off waiting for the defroster to kick in and melt that ice. But if you absolutely have to improvise, you might be able to use a credit card—just be careful not to break it.
What not to do when removing ice
To prevent damage to your car—and your wallet—here are some things you should avoid when attempting to get the ice off:
- Don’t pour boiling or hot water onto your icy windshield—it can crack the glass.
- Don’t use a snow shovel to clear your glass areas—you can easily scratch them.
- Don’t use a key or a spatula to scrape your glass—you will scratch the glass.
- Don’t hit the ice on the windshield or glass with anything to break it up.
- Don’t spray WD-40 on your windshield—you won’t be able to see through it.
- Don’t turn on your wipers until all the ice around them is gone.
How to avoid a frozen vehicle
Like so many things, a little prevention can save you some trouble. Try these tactics to avoid having ice build up on your windows:
- Park in a garage or a carport.
- Cover your vehicle with a car cover or a tarp.
- Cover your windshield and rear window with cardboard, a towel or a sheet.
- Cover your side windows with large plastic bags.
- Cover your side mirrors with plastic bags held on with rubber bands.
You can read about more helpful car tips on our blog.