How to de-ice your car windscreen in frosty weather this winter

How to de-ice a car

The only thing you should use to de-ice your car is a proper ice scraper and/or some de-icing fluid. Some drivers seem hell-bent on destroying their credit cards by using them to clear ice, but this is not advisable for many reasons.

Make sure you have a can of de-icer available and it is at least a quarter full. Spray on the windows and the front and rear screens. Start at the top and let gravity help you – the deicing fluid drips down the glass, melting the ice as it moves. You’ll also need to use a scraper, as deicer rarely does all the work.

When scraping, use firm, wide strokes across the entire glass. Remove any scraped ice and snow and make sure the windshield wipers are not frozen. Don’t be tempted to simply scrape the driver’s side portion of the screen – the police will frown upon this strategy.

Never use boiling water to melt the ice on a car. While windshields are certainly more resilient than they used to be, pouring hot liquid onto frozen glass is unlikely to have any beneficial effects. The same applies to door locks.

Some people suggest using vinegar instead of de-icer. There are no real benefits to this, while among the disadvantages is that it may damage your car’s glass and paintwork, while it also smells like chips. Like credit cards, avoid scratching your windshield with discount cards — you only get a 10 percent discount.

Can I leave the car running and go back inside?

The short answer is no. When your car’s engine is running, you need to be in “control” of it. While the specifics of this requirement could be up for debate, it generally precludes you from having breakfast inside your house while your car ticks by outside.

You could get in trouble with the police if you leave a moving car unattended. Worse, you could find it stolen – leaving a car with the key in the ignition and the engine running makes it very tempting to thieves. You may find that if you leave the keys in the ignition and the doors unlocked, your insurance company won’t cover you.

It’s possible to turn on the heater and wait for the car to de-ice while you’re in it, but that takes time and fuel and may be the least environmentally friendly method.

We recommend a spray can of deicer, a good scraper (ideally with an insulated glove grip) and a 10-minute head start in the morning when the mercury drops well below freezing.

De-icing your car is an important safety check — as well as a legal requirement — that can mean the difference between a safe drive and an accident.

This article has been updated with the latest winter advice.

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