An ice-covered windshield is an annoying reality if you park outside each winter and live in snow country. Here’s how to get ice off your windshield.
If you haven’t been hit with a heavy snowfall yet, winter is coming. Even worse than snow is the ice. On the roads, it’s awful. On a windshield? It’s annoying, especially if you’re running late for work or just trying to get home after a long day at the office.
Some Ford models in the United States now come with QuickClear, an electric windshield defroster. The washer jets are heated and a thin heating element is embedded between two layers of glass. While Ford had the initial patent on the technology, they leased it out to other companies like Volkswagen, Land Rover, and Audi, among others.
Of course, preventing ice from forming is always preferred, but sometimes it’s easier said than done. Parking in a garage is one option. Using a windshield cover or car cover is another. Shelter is harder to find in a wide-open parking lot or with street parking, though. So, what can be done to get rid of that ice in a hurry?
Unfortunately, there are no magic solutions here. However, thanks to science, there are some tips on what to do (and also what not to do).
The best way to get rid of ice after it’s already formed a coat over a windshield is to use a de-icer. A little bit of spray can do wonders in speeding up the de-icing process. The chemical agents in the spray work together to melt ice, frost, and snow. It won’t disappear entirely, but spraying a windshield covered in ice can soften the ice, making it easier to scrape the rest of it off.
Rain-X has a de-icer and scraper for under $10 on Amazon. Another de-icer with a scraper built into it is Prestone, available at Home Depot for $3.38. A 32 oz. Bottle of Splash Red Hot de-icer is available at Walmart for under $15.
Various products are sold at auto shops and online, but several people make their own. Some mix a solution of 1/3 part water and 2/3 part isopropyl, commonly known as rubbing alcohol. The solution can be stored indoors or left in the vehicle. The rubbing alcohol has a freezing point of 138 degrees below freezing, so it won’t freeze if it’s left in a car. Take a look at our list of other additional items that should be kept in a vehicle, no matter what season it is.
Other homemade mixes involve three parts vinegar and one part water. Vinegar isn’t directly harmful to paint on a vehicle, but it can deteriorate car wax over time, leaving the finish exposed. Whether it’s a store-bought or homemade solution, the reactions take action pretty quickly. 20-30 seconds should soften the snow or ice up.
Some people do use a saltwater solution as a de-icing agent, but too much salt exposure can actually damage the windshield glass. Salt can technically be used, but too much of it can cause damage. If it’s used, it needs to be heavily diluted. Definitely don’t use road salt or sidewalk salt because that can do more damage than table salt, leaving a cloudy residue on the glass.
Another substance people try to use is water by itself. Hot water can crack a windshield. Sure, the ice melts, but a cracked windshield is a bigger problem than a little bit of ice. Even water at room temperature can do that. Cold water isn’t a good idea either. Pouring cold water over a windshield will only turn it into even more ice.
Though it sometimes takes a while, letting the car do some of the work is always helpful in getting rid of ice. With an electric car starter, it’s important to leave the car set to defrost. Turn the heat up so that it has full effect. Immediately scraping, without defrost, achieves the same end result. It’ll take longer to get there though.
Most scrapers are plastic, but some have metal on them. Avoid those because they can scratch the glass as you’re chipping away at the ice. The same goes for squeegees, wipers, or anything else being used on a car windshield. That means no metal spatulas, keys, crowbars, or other metal makeshift ice scrapers.
For car owners who still have a keyhole, there are a few ways to get into it if the hole freezes over. Squirting de-icer directly into the hole works. Applying hand sanitizer to the key itself can work, too. Hand sanitizer has alcohol, so it’s similar to the rubbing alcohol method for a windshield.
Another way to unlock the door of a car with a frozen keyhole is to take a straw and blow into it. The heat from a breath of air can eventually melt the ice inside the car lock.
Whether it’s with a hand, a hammer, or some other kind of tool, don’t tap the ice on the car windshield with a hammer to break the ice into pieces to pick off the glass. This usually results in an impact hole or a large crack.
Don’t use a hair dryer. Don’t use a blow torch. Don’t use any device that applies heat directly to the windshield. It could be tempting. After all, a hair dryer is used to quickly dry hair or paint. Why not a windshield? That temperature change can cause cracking. If the device is too powerful, it could also even melt the glass itself.
You may see some people recommending using a credit card to scrape off ice if there’s nothing else available to use. In an emergency situation, it could work. It could scratch the glass of your windshield, even though it’s plastic, since a credit card obviously isn’t made for scraping ice off of glass. As the credit card chips away, the sharp edges dig into the windshield, leaving marks.
Mostly, though, anyone who has a sheet full of ice knows that using a credit card would take a long time to ever work effectively. In a pinch, with a small bit of frost, it could work as a backup option. It’s best not to make it the go-to option.
Here’s another one that will require some patience, but is quicker than doing nothing. With the defrost turned on, placing a gloved hand on the windshield can act as a second source of heat. This would be done from inside the vehicle. A bare hand would leave some handprints on the windshield, but at least a bare hand or gloved hand won’t damage the glass. It’s easier to wipe the glass down than repair a crack or scratch.
According to the Farmer’s Almanac, this trick does work. Cutting a clean potato in half and rubbing it over a windshield before it snows, or after, can prevent ice from forming or de-ice the glass. The science behind it is that the sugar from the potato will create a barrier between the glass and any elements that accumulate on top of it.
So, if it works, why is this a ‘Don’t’ use method? Unfortunately, the side effect of using the potato is that starch streaks are left on the windshield. True, those can be wiped off, but it’s harder to clean a windshield in the winter. If you’re trying to prevent ice from forming, you’re probably parking outside. Trying to clean a windshield in the cold, and not from the warmth of a garage, is no fun. Streaks, during sunrise or sunset, make it extremely difficult to drive safely. As a last resort, this could work, but it’s not recommended as a regular solution to de-icing.
Finally, take the time to get rid of all the ice. It’s easy to scrape just enough of the ice off a windshield to see through it, but that can also be dangerous. Just like having a clean windshield is important, having a full field of view is always important when it comes to driving safely. Don’t forget about the headlights, too!
Getting ready for winter can be an entire process, not just when it comes to updating a wardrobe or getting the house ready, but also for a car. Check out our list of things to keep in a car during winter. You can also read our top 10 tips on how to winterize your car as you get ready for snow, ice, and everything in between.