How to defrost a car windscreen: best safe, simple and quick ways to clear your windows in cold weather
Simple steps to clear your car's glass as the temperature drops
The clocks have gone back, the leaves are falling and the mornings are getting colder.
For drivers that means the dreaded prospect of coming out in the morning to find an iced-over windscreen and a struggle to get it cleared as quickly and effectively as possible.
It’s an offence to drive without properly clearing all your windows - think a fine of anywhere from £60 up to £2,500 - so it’s vital you defrost your car properly before setting off.
Here we look at how to defrost your car quickly and safely.
Don’t use hot water
First and foremost, don’t even consider pouring hot or boiling water over the screen. Hot water will melt the ice, yes, but the sudden change in temperature can also cause the glass to crack or shatter, especially if there are already cracks or scratches in it.
You could try this trick, using a food bag filled with warm tap water but just make sure it’s not too hot or you could face the same problem.
Alternatively and most sensibly, use a decent de-icing spray and a purpose-made scraper. A credit card really isn’t a suitable alternative to a proper ice scraper. Not only are they tiny but they’re likely to snap if you’re too rough.
Use the air conditioning
While you’re scraping away on the outside of the window, get the car’s heating system helping from the inside. Warm air from the inside of the glass will help to melt the ice on the outside so set your heater to warm and aim the vents at the glass. If you set it to recirculate you’ll keep warm air in the car but this risks creating moisture and fogging up the inside of the glass, so it’s best avoided. If you’ve got air conditioning switch this on, it helps reduce the moisture in the car so you’re less likely to get condensation inside as you clear outside.
If you find your windows have fogged up while you’re de-icing the car, follow these tips to quickly fix that problem.
Don’t leave your car unattended
Tempting as it is to turn on the heater than head back inside, there are two reasons never to walk away while your car’s engine is running.
The first is that it’s an open invitation to opportunistic thieves and your insurer is unlikely to pay out if your car is stolen after you've left it unlocked and running.
The second is that, depending on where you are parked, it’s illegal to leave a car idling while unattended and you can be fined £20 or £30 for the offence.
Other things to consider
Make sure your wipers are off before switching on the engine. Many cars now feature automatic wipers and it’s easy to forget they are switched on. But if they activate while the blades are frozen to the glass you could risk anything from damaged wiper blades or arms to a burnt out wiper motor.
It’s not just your windscreen that can get iced up in cold weather. A really hard frost can freeze doors shut but a smear of Vaseline or silicone lubricant on the rubber seals can stop the door problem. If you find you locks are frozen give them a quick squirt with de-icer. Warm water can unfreeze them initially but leaves water in them that will just freeze again later.
If it has snowed, you’ll need to clear any loose snow off your car before setting off, otherwise you could end up in trouble with the law. A long-handled, soft-bristled brush is ideal for this, meaning you can reach even the furthest point of the roof without damaging the paintwork.