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Got A Frosty Windscreen?

During winter, frost is one of those annoyances that face drivers after a cold, clear night. OK, we don’t get frosts anywhere as near as hard as they do in, say Canada or Norway, but we still get them here a bit in the southern bits of Australia (OK, you lucky Queenslanders and Northern Territorials, you can feel smug and go off to read something else).  Frost isn’t just a hazard on the roads but it’s a real pain all over your windscreen.  If you’ve had to leave your car out overnight, or if you were parked on the street during that late-night party, then you can come back to a sparkly windscreen that won’t let you see anything except glitter.  Not safe for driving, especially in icy conditions.

So how are you going to get that ice off your windscreen?  It’s all very well to stay that prevention is better than the cure and that you should have garaged your car overnight or at least tried the old trick of putting a cover over the windscreen to keep the frost off (e.g. a tarpaulin or even a flattened-out cardboard box – and those sunshades can do the job, too, giving them a job over winter as well as during summer).  Your windscreen is iced up and you need to get the kids to school on time or get home from the party, and everybody’s sitting there with chilly fingers and wanting you to hurry up.

  • Starting the car and giving it full blast with the heaters. This does the trick but it does take a long time. Glass is pretty slow to warm up, so if you’re trying to heat it up enough to melt the ice from the inside, you’re going to have a long wait, and you may have to have the engine running and/or drain your battery a lot. It’s not the quickest and certainly isn’t the most economical way to do it. This method will, however, work for those odd little corners and the back windows once you’ve managed to clear off the windscreen and can see your way to start driving.  Your passengers will also appreciate the warmth!
  • Scraping off the ice. If you do this, you have to be sure to scrape the ice off most of the windscreen, not just a little patch giving you a tiny glimpse of the road.  You’re going to need good visibility.  You have to choose the right thing to scrape off the ice.  Metal scrapers of the sort you use to remove stickers from the glass are a real no-no, as they can easily leave a nasty and permanent scratch on the windscreen.  Besides, who’s got one of those handy when you need to remove the ice from the windscreen?  Having something plastic is better – a friend of mine once used the edge of a credit card to do the job.  A squeegee doesn’t usually work, as the edge is too soft.  A plastic spatula would work – unleash your inner MacGyver and see what you can find.  Wear gloves if you can while scraping off the ice, as you’re going to get the crystals all over your hands.
  • Commercial de-icing sprays. Again, who actually has these handy when you need them, unless you live in Canada or the like?  You can make your own out of two parts of isopropyl alcohol or any other strong spirits (vodka, for example) and one part of water, with a bit of detergent thrown in for good measure.  You spray it on then get the wipers going, and maybe finish with a bit of scraping.  The smell of alcohol will dissipate soon but if you get any on yourself, this may take a bit of explaining if you’re stopped by the local cops.  (No really, officer, I only used vodka as a de-icing spray and that’s why there’s an empty bottle sitting on the front seat, honestly…).
  • Warm water. The best solution of all.  It’s quick and does the whole windscreen at once. If you have a bit enough bucket of warm water, you can also de-ice the door windows for even better visibility.  All you do is grab a decent amount of water (i.e. a bucket, a saucepan or a jug, not a coffee cup), slosh it over the windscreen and turn on the windscreen wipers.  Job done.  There are two important things to remember, though.  The first and the most important is to use warm water, not hot water.  Don’t grab the kettle that’s just boiled and use that.  If glass heats up too quickly, it will shatter.  All too many people have made this mistake and ended up with no windscreen as a result.  However, warm water – warm enough to stick your hand in comfortably – will be fine and will melt the ice without risking your windscreen.  The second is that you need to take care not to slosh the water over yourself or to stand too close when the windscreen wipers are working or you get wet, which really isn’t nice when the temperatures are low.

And don’t forget to take extra care on the road once you start driving!

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