Top hacks to deice your vehicle during winter's icy grip

By Amanda Schmidt, AccuWeather staff writer

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As temperatures continue to plummet, many may start to find their vehicles' windshields encased in ice.

There are numerous dangers that arise if you can’t see adequately out of your windshield when driving. It creates unsafe conditions that increase the likelihood of being involved in a collision.

At least 11 states have laws that mandate the removal of snow and ice before driving a vehicle.

Michael Calkins, manager of technical services at AAA, provided AccuWeather with numerous tips in case you find your windshield frozen with ice and snow during the winter.

ice scrape

Dusty Stehl scrapes ice off his car, Monday, Feb. 2, 2015, in Omaha, Neb., after a winter storm dumped around 9 inches of snow over the weekend. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)


Make sure your car is prepared with adequate winter equipment:

  • Ice scraper with a brush
  • Traction aids, such as sand, salt, non-clumping cat litter or traction mats
  • Snow shovel – compact folding designs are easiest to store
  • Blankets to keep warm if your car breaks down. Mylar emergency blankets are lightweight, easy-to-store and reflective. Microfleece is another option.
  • Warm clothing, such as gloves, hats, scarves, etc.

Take proactive measures to reduce the likelihood of having to deice your car:

  • Park in a garage, if possible.
  • Cover the windshield with a tarp, large towel or old sheet folded a few times or purchase a commercial windshield cover, as long as any snowfall is expected to be light. Heavy snow can make removing a cover difficult. Make sure to hold the cover in place with weights, magnets, bungee cords, etc. so it will not blow off.
  • Cloth covers can be pre-soaked in a saltwater solution (1 tbsp. salt to 1 quart water) to aid in ice prevention. Store the damp towel in a plastic bag for reuse.
  • Pre-treat the windshield the night before with a commercial ice and frost “shield” product, although these can be expensive at around $15 a quart.
  • Some also recommend a homemade pre-treatment with a mixture of three parts white vinegar to one part water. However, glass professionals caution that vinegar can cause micro-pitting of the glass over time.

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Steps to take if you come out to a windshield cover in snow and ice:

  • Before the weather turns cold, fill the windshield washer reservoir with a winter fluid or a “de-icer” fluid that will not freeze in colder weather and can aid in ice removal.
  • When freezing weather is expected, place a piece of wood or other object under the wiper arms to hold the rubber blades off the windshield. This will help to prevent them from freezing to the glass and make snow and ice removal easier.
  • First off, start the engine, set the heater to defrost, allow the airflow to recirculate and move the temperature control to maximum.
  • Some cars offer optional electrically-heated windshields that can clear ice very rapidly. If your car has one, use it.
  • Apply a commercial glass deicer spray to the windshield. These products generally contain methanol, which is the best alcohol for deicing. However, they are expensive, around $15 per quart, and some contain ethylene glycol, which is poisonous to pets.
  • Use a plastic scraper, soft bristle brush or squeegee to remove the ice as it melts.

Do not use:

  • Any type of metal scraper, which can scratch and gouge the glass.
  • Hot water, which can crack the glass by causing thermal shock and will refreeze as it cools.

Examples of homemade solutions:

  • A mix of isopropyl alcohol (1/3) and water (2/3) in a spray bottle. Isopropyl alcohol ranges from 50 to 90 percent purity. The higher the number the better the deicing capability.
  • Some people suggest adding a few drops of dish soap to the mixture.
  • Some people suggest keeping the solution indoors so it will be warmer when used, which helps in melting ice.

Homemade solutions versus commercial:

  • Commercial deicers typically use methyl rather than isopropyl alcohol, which is a superior ice melting product. They can also contain additional ingredients to help expedite ice melting and removal.
  • While not directly harmful to the vehicle’s finish, alcohol-based products can remove car wax and leave the finish exposed to the elements and chemicals such as road salts.
  • Glass professionals caution that vinegar pre-treatments can cause micro-pitting of glass over time.


For more safety and preparedness tips, visit AccuWeather.com/Ready.

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