How to de-ice your car

Last updated March 15, 2021

There’s nothing worse than being in a rush on a cold winter morning and walking outside to find your car is frozen solid. De-icing a car isn’t always a quick fix, especially if temperatures are particularly low. If you’re in a rush, it might seem harmless to head straight for the kettle, ignoring the potential negative side effects of pouring boiling water over cold glass.

However, if you get it wrong you could end up with a damaged windscreen, or find yourself on the wrong side of compliance with rule 229 of The Highway Code. Here’s our guide to de-icing your car windscreen the correct way.

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Best method for de-icing your car

Before you do anything else, check that you haven’t left your windscreen wipers on. If you turn on the engine and they’re frozen to the windscreen, you run the risk of stressing the motor or causing tears in the rubber.

Secondly, turn on your car and switch on your heating. Set the blowers to full and point them at your windscreen (and, if you’re fortunate enough to have a heated windscreen, turn this up to full as well). If you have air-con, be sure to switch this on. Whilst this might seem counterintuitive, it will help to keep the air in your car dry to reduce moisture and condensation.

You should try to reduce any condensation that does occur, but don’t just wipe the windscreen with your fingers or sleeves. This can leave greasy smears on the glass and add minutes onto an already lengthy process. Instead, we would recommend you use a clean microfiber cloth.

Next, once the heaters have had chance to thaw the worst of the ice, use a de-icer product and car ice scraper on your windscreen. It’s best to use a scraper designed for cars, any other could cause damage to your windscreen.

Which de-icer to use

De-icer is straightforward – any product marketed as such should work. During the winter months, you can usually find de-icer at most shops for a reasonable price. If you’re environmentally conscious, you can also pick up eco-friendly de-icers, or even make one yourself.

If you get caught unprepared and can’t make it to the shop, a teaspoon of salt in roughly two cups of water can be used as a homemade de-icer. Simply spray this over your car as you would a shop-bought product.

You can also use vinegar to the same effect. Make your solution with three parts vinegar, to one part water. These solutions can even be used as a preventative measure if you anticipate frosty conditions, as they have a low freezing point.

Things to avoid

As mentioned previously, it might be tempting to boil a kettle to try to de-ice your car quickly, however this is dangerous for a few reasons.

Firstly, the shock of the extreme heat on the cold glass can cause your windscreen to crack and even if that doesn’t occur, any remaining water could freeze over and cause your wipers or door handles to stick.

When you’re in a rush, you might also decide it’s safe to just scrape away a porthole in the ice instead of clearing the whole windscreen. Outside of the risks this poses to you as a driver, you’ll also be in breach of Rule 229 of The Highway Code which states “you MUST be able to see, so clear all snow and ice from all your windows”.

Additionally, bear in mind that you should never leave your car unattended with the engine switched on. If you fancy waiting in the heat of your home whilst your car warms up, you could receive a £20 fine for an idle engine – or worse, you could be the victim of car theft. Some new cars come with the option to turn on your heating from your mobile phone whilst keeping the door locked, which is a handy feature for those icy mornings.

Can an icy windscreen be prevented?

It’s hard enough to get out of bed when it’s cold, never mind having to do it earlier so you can de-ice your car. We have a few tips that may help you reduce the chances of your car freezing over.

If you have a garage, winter is the time to use it. If it’s full of old clutter, clear it out so you can park your car in there. This way you won’t have to de-ice it and will save yourself many mornings of effort in the long run.

If you don’t have a garage, park your car as close as you can to your home as the heat can help to stop ice forming. Additionally, you can use one of the homemade de-icing solutions mentioned above to try and prevent the worst of the ice build-up.