How to Defrost Your Car

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How To Defrost Your Car

If your car isn’t sheltered in a garage, you’ve likely encountered frosty windscreens on chilly mornings. Here’s a quick guide to efficient de-icing, ensuring a clear start to your drive.

How do I de-ice a car?

Bitterly cold mornings might tempt you to rush the process of de-icing your car, but cutting corners can compromise safety and potentially harm your vehicle. To ensure you:

  • Avoid causing any damage to your car
  • Maintain optimal visibility for safe driving
  • Stay on the right side of the law

Follow our comprehensive guide for effective de-icing during those chilly mornings.

Plan ahead

Check the weather forecast in advance. If you’re expecting a chilly morning, be prepared for some frost-busting actions. Being proactive can be a real time-saver.

Allow plenty of time

Allocate adequate time to de-ice your car thoroughly. This might take up to 10 minutes, so perhaps set your alarm slightly earlier on predicted frosty days.

Check your wiper blades and start your engine

Before switching on your vehicle:

  • Ensure wiper blades haven’t frozen onto the windscreen. A tip: position them upward overnight to prevent freezing to the glass.
  • Start your engine.
  • Activate your heater targeting the windscreen.
  • Engage the rear windscreen defrost function.

Remember, while it’s good to let your engine and heaters run, never leave your car unattended without turning off the engine and securing it.

With some newer cars, especially electric ones, you can even activate the heating remotely using a smartphone app or schedule it to start warming up automatically.

Sweep the snow off your car

With a soft brush:

  • Gently remove snow from the top, ensuring none might fall onto your windscreen or blow off your bonnet and impede visibility.
  • Ensure the front grille is snow-free to prevent overheating.
  • Check all lights and indicators for clarity and function.
  • Verify that your license plate is clearly visible.

Start scraping while your vehicle warms up

While the car’s internal systems work their magic:

  • Use a quality scraper for the task and consider pairing it with a de-icing spray for efficacy.
  • Never resort to makeshift tools like credit cards; you could end up scratching the glass or damaging the paint.
  • Remember to clear ice from wing mirrors.

Make sure all windows are de-fogged or de-misted before you drive off

Before heading out:

  • Ensure all windows, including front and rear windscreens, are clear of fog and ice. Refrain from using your hand to wipe them; it often leads to streaking.
  • Activate the air conditioning in tandem with the heater. Engaging the A/C while having the heater on dispenses warm, dry air, effectively reducing water vapour inside and deterring fog accumulation.
  • Turn off the air recirculation feature. Drawing in fresh, cold air helps remove moist air faster.

Pro-tip: Some individuals vouch for using non-clumping silica cat litter placed in a sock or cloth bag and left in the car. This can absorb excess moisture, keeping the interior drier.

And voilà! You’re ready to embark on your journey safely and frost-free.

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The don’ts of car de-icing

Defrosting your car is essential during chilly mornings, but there are some actions that can either damage your vehicle or pose safety hazards. Here’s what you should steer clear of when de-icing your car:

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Steer Clear of Water, Especially Hot! 

It’s a well-known fact that pouring boiling water onto a frozen windscreen can cause it to crack due to the abrupt temperature variation. However, a lesser-known fact is that even cold or lukewarm water isn’t ideal for de-icing.

Why? Glass can expand and contract with temperature fluctuations. Introducing water can lead to rapid cooling, causing the glass to flex, and potentially leading to cracks. This risk is magnified if your windscreen has previously undergone any repair.

Don’t Opt for a Peephole Approach

It’s not enough to scrape off a tiny area on your windscreen to see through. Proper visibility is paramount for safe driving. Thus, ensure you clear all windows of frost, snow, and ice. Your view should never be obstructed by lingering frost or hastily cleared sections.

Don’t Overlook the Car Exterior

The Highway Code Rule 229
Image used under the Open Government Licence v3.0

While windows are crucial for visibility, don’t forget about the rest of your car. The Highway Code’s Rule 229 mandates that drivers remove any snow that could potentially dislodge while driving and pose a hazard to other motorists. This means removing snow from your roof, bonnet, and any other areas.

Don’t Be Careless with Your Vehicle’s Security

Never leave your vehicle unattended with the engine on and the keys inside, even if it’s just for a quick return indoors. Apart from the risk of theft, you could also incur fines in some jurisdictions for leaving your engine idling without reason on a public roadway.

Avoid Makeshift Scrapers

While it might seem tempting to use a credit card or other flat objects as a makeshift scraper, doing so might damage the glass or paintwork of your car. Always opt for tools designed specifically for the purpose.

Don’t Neglect the Side Mirrors

Clear Snow And Ice From Side Mirrors

While focusing on the main windows, side mirrors are often overlooked. It’s essential to ensure they are free from ice and snow, as they play a pivotal role in maintaining a clear field of vision, especially when changing lanes or parking.

By keeping these points in mind, you ensure the safety of your vehicle, yourself, and others on the road. Proper de-icing techniques are an investment in safe winter driving.

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Planning ahead for winter mornings

Arm yourself with these handy tips to minimise your defrosting routine, ensuring you stay cosy a tad longer before facing the winter chill.

Shield your windscreen from ice

Use a protective layer like a blanket or a specialised windscreen cover to thwart ice accumulation on your windscreen overnight. Installing the cover in the evening, especially when the car still retains some warmth from the day’s use, is ideal.

The next morning, it’s as simple as removing the cover and brushing off any minor ice patches underneath.

Tackle window fog with shaving foam

A little-known tip shared by the RAC suggests that shaving foam can be your best ally against foggy windows. For optimal results, spread a thin layer of foam on the inner surface of your windscreen and other windows with the aid of a gentle sponge or cloth.

Wipe it clean afterwards. Repeated application not only promises a fog-resistant shield but also bestows your windscreen with a gleaming finish.

Strategise your parking towards the sunrise

Leveraging the natural warmth of the sun can be a game-changer. Since the sun emerges from the east, angling your car so that the windscreen faces the sunrise can provide additional warmth. This tactic might decrease the chances of significant ice formation.

Ensure your car locks remain ice-free

Encountering frozen car locks can be daunting, especially for vehicles still dependent on a manual key. One useful hack is to cover the lock with a magnet (even a fridge magnet might do the trick) overnight, preventing the cold from settling in.

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When you’re ready to leave, simply take off the magnet and stash it in your car for its next use.


Spraying a little WD-40 on the lock can also stave off ice and ensure smooth operation. Remember to check the lock for your trunk if that’s a part of your morning routine.

While de-icer sprays can be effective, always peruse the label to ensure it’s safe for use on locks. Some formulations might corrode or damage metals.

An essential word of caution: Never exert excessive force if the lock seems stuck. This could snap the key, leading to more complications and potential costs.

If, despite your best efforts, you find yourself locked out, your breakdown cover might be a lifesaver.

Breakdown cover providers

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AA breakdown cover

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Frequently asked questions

  1. Turn on the heater: Start the engine and set the heater to defroster mode, maximising its capacity to absorb internal moisture since warm air holds more moisture.
  2. Press the A/C button: This activates a car feature that utilizes the A/C coils to dry the air inside more efficiently.
  3. Turn air recirculation off: Disable air recirculation. Cold winter air, being dry, helps absorb the dampness inside when it circulates in your vehicle.
  4. Open the windows slightly: This promotes a quicker exchange of humid internal air with the dry external air.
  5. Defrost your windows externally: Avoid hot water. Instead, prepare a mix of 2/3 cup Isopropyl or rubbing alcohol and 1/3 cup water in a spray bottle. This solution, which doesn’t freeze due to the low freezing point of alcohol, aids in melting windshield ice and can be conveniently stored in your car.

Use hot and dry air, as it absorbs more water than cold, moist air. For efficient defrosting, activate the heat, use air conditioning, disable air recirculation, and slightly open the windows to maintain dryness.

When faced with a snow-covered car, initiate the heater or defroster immediately in the morning. Let it run for approximately 15 minutes to begin the defrosting process.

Subsequently, you can swiftly scrape any remaining snow from the windscreen.

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