There’s nothing worse than being late for work because your car had 10 inches of snow piled on top of it. Having to get out of the house early just to defrost your windshield and unstick your doors is bad enough. But the simple fact is that having a foggy and frosted windshield can really impair your vision and cause you to drive recklessly. So let’s talk about windshield ice prevention and some of the best ways to keep the glass from freezing.
After all, the roads are fickle enough during the winter months — we don’t have to add other problems to the list. Now, before we talk about how you can make sure your windshield never freezes over, let’s talk about why we want to avoid that in the first place.
Why Windshield Ice Prevention Matters
The US is home to many different kinds of climates. However, the continental climate, with its frigid winters and hot summers, is certainly the most prevalent one. If you live with that kind of weather, you’ll probably have a gradual transition into winter. So before you get frost and snow, you’ll probably notice that your windshield is a bit foggy in the mornings.
Generally, you can deal with that kind of mist by simply opening the window or even turning the AC. Doing so will even out the temperature outside and inside the vehicle, which should get rid of the condensation. The rear windshields suffer from the same issue — but that’s why most cars have a defogger system in place. Frost, on the other hand, is a different beast altogether.
You see, ice damage is actually one of the most common causes of windshield leaks. If you regularly park your car outside during winter nights, the raindrops and snowflakes will get into the rubber gaskets around the glass. As the temperature drops toward the wee hours of the morning, those droplets freeze and expand, opening small gaps that will later let water into the car.
Usually, applying a good windshield sealant on the gaskets should take care of that problem. However, there are other reasons to want to prevent ice from forming on your windshield, namely:
- To avoid having to unstick your frozen windshield wipers. Some people even use windshield wipers to clear away the ice — which is a fairly bad idea. After all, wipers are particularly vulnerable to ice and snow.
- To avoid having to get out of the comfort of your home just to defrost your car.
- For the obvious visibility problems you’d have if you were to start driving before the windshield was fully clear.
How to Keep a Windshield from Freezing
Before I give you my tips, I wanted to share a word of caution. Whatever you do, don’t come out of your house to turn the motor on and go back inside while the car warms up. If you do — your car could become a thief’s Christmas gift.
But, I’m sure you didn’t come here to read about things you shouldn’t do. So let’s get into what you can do for your windshield before it freezes.
Use a Commercial De-Icer
When in doubt — go for something tried and true. Commercial windshield de-icers like this one from CRC is one of several I’d recommend. But, you may be wondering, what are de-icers, anyway?
Well, they’re basically ice-melting solutions that usually come in a spray bottle. Obviously, they’re meant to combat frost that has already collected on your windshield. However, they also significantly reduce the chances that the glass will freeze at all.
Most of these kinds of products contain various antifreeze ingredients that actually prevent the ice from forming. However, if you’re crafty, you could create your own solutions.
Still, while you’re shopping for commercial de-icers, you may also want to look into windshield washer fluids. The right product will help you maintain visibility throughout the winter, thanks to its water-repelling and antifreeze properties. These products usually contain either alcohol or ammonia — so the good news is, you can easily make your very own de-icer fluid at home.
Try a DIY Solution
If you’re trying to melt ice off your windshield, there are several de-icer ingredients you could try right now. As I have mentioned, regular rubbing alcohol is the first thing you can reach for. Get a spray bottle and mix one part water with two parts alcohol. Then, shake it up and go to town on your windshield — the alcohol should burn right through the frost and even prevent it from forming for a while.
While you’ve got your alcohol handy, you can also add it to your window cleaning fluid, if it doesn’t already contain it. The result should be a perfectly clear and streakless window.
On the other hand, if you don’t currently have rubbing alcohol in your home, you can always just use vinegar. However, you’ll need to adjust the ratio, using three parts of vinegar for every one part of water. The application should be the same, and you can even keep your spray bottle in the car.
Lastly, you can use a simple saltwater spray — after all, salt is what they use to defrost slippery, icy roads. It’s not even the strangest DIY de-icer I’ve heard of, since some people even rub raw onions on their windows. Now, whether you only have table salt or you’re using road salt, the solution will be just as effective. However, mind that you don’t overdo it with the salt — it may leave residue on your windshield.
Under no circumstances should you use water on its own, especially hot water. That would just be adding fuel to the flame. Not only does hot water add another layer of ice to the top of your windshield, but the sudden temperature spike can even cause the frozen glass to crack.
Use a Windshield Cover Overnight
Perhaps the most surefire way to be certain that your windshield won’t freeze overnight is to cover it with fabric. This heavy-duty polyester one from OxGord is a 75 by 42.25-inch rectangle with longer pieces on the sides. You’re supposed to close the front doors over the excess material on the side to deter theft, and attach the elastic bands over the side mirrors. However, there’s a chance that the ice or snow will still get onto the windshield from the top or bottom of the cover.
If you’d prefer a more secure installation, you can forgo the elastic side mirror bands and rely on magnets to hold the tarp down. The Ice King and the Sunny Color covers are both magnetic, and they have the long sides you can tuck into your car. The magnets should ensure that the cover stays down and hopefully prevent the water from seeping down the windshield.
On the other hand, if you’re in a bind, you can also cover your windshield with a rubber bath mat or even a folded sheet. If they’re thin enough, you can secure them with the front doors as you would a commercial cover. However, if they’re not, you can flip the wipers up and bring them down over the sheet to press it down. When you take the cover off, make sure that you place it into a waterproof bag if you don’t want to have a soaked sheet in your trunk.
I’ve even seen some people attempt to DIY their windshield cover with newspapers. But that’s a pretty bad idea for obvious reasons. The thin scraps of paper will inevitably freeze on the glass. As you can imagine, you wouldn’t be able to drive until they thawed off.
Scrape It Off
If the rest of my tips work, and they will, you should have no need for a scraper. Still, it’s something you should always have in your car. For example, in the event your windshield cover does flip up and let some rain into the vulnerable area around the glass, you may need to get your trusty scraper and get to work.
The RevHeads one has both a spiky and a smooth edge, which are great for breaking chunks of ice. However, if you have one of the de-icing solutions I mentioned earlier, the job will be even easier. Simply spray it on, let it sit a bit, then wipe it off.
A word to the wise, though: don’t put too much pressure on the scraper if you want your windshield to be scratch-free come spring. In fact, if you’re trying not to damage the glass, you may want to look into getting a snow brush. At the very least, they make those little scrapes less likely to occur. If you’re looking for my recommendation, I’d go for the BIRDROCK HOME small car brush.
Ultimately, every car owner should own both a scraper and a brush. Hopefully, you’ll never need to use them. Still, they are as crucial to the functioning of your vehicle in the freezing cold as winter tires are. So stock up!
Final Thoughts on Windshield Ice Prevention
If you take steps to protect your windshield from frost, you’ll save yourself the time you would have spent defrosting it in the morning. However, since you may not always have a de-icer or a windshield cover on hand, you should also have a brush or scraper in your glove compartment as well.
In addition to covering or spraying your windshield, there are other ways to protect your car from harsh conditions. For example, you can protect your rubber seals by spraying them with WD-40 or even cooking spray. Furthermore, you should also make sure that the rest of your car is winter-ready. So you should check your heater, and transition to the appropriate tires and transmission fluid.
But lest we forget, winter isn’t the only season you should pay extra attention to your vehicle. Summertime can wreak its own kind of havoc on it, as well. If you want to read about protecting your car from sun and heat damage — check out this article.