How To Remove Ice From Your Windshield

Winter is upon us. For many, that means removing ice from a windshield. Follow these tips for conquering windshield ice.

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If you’re a diligent DIYer who lives where temperatures drop below freezing, you’ve undoubtedly experienced more than your share of winter driving. One of the simplest but most important aspects of safe driving involves removing ice from your windshield.

Sounds easy enough, but don’t be fooled: Removing ice can be a serious enterprise. Assembling the right tools and materials is the first step. Read on for eight of our best tips and strategies for keeping your windshield clear and ice-free this winter.

Keep Your Wipers Tipped Up

Take necessary steps before the ice appears. If you park your vehicle outdoors instead of in a garage, make sure you flip your wipers up and away from the windshield when you’re not driving. Wipers left in their normal position will almost always freeze to the glass. Freeing them can be difficult, and you risk damaging the wiper blades and mechanism.

Remove Snow First

More often than not, you’ll probably encounter with a thick blanket of snow on your windshield before getting down to the ice. In those instances, my tool of choice is a large, heavy-duty push broom.

Dedicated vehicle snow brushes are fine, and definitely a must-have item for winter driving. But they’re small. When my vehicle is encased in snow, I want to remove it as fast as possible. Push brooms reduce the time from minutes to seconds. Their long handles and wide bristled sections allow easy access to the roof as well as the windshield.

I lean a push broom against the wall outside my front door all winter, and it’s the first thing I grab when it’s time to free my car of snow and ice. Don’t forget to clear the roof and rear windows, too.

Turn On Defroster

As soon as you’ve cleared the snow off your vehicle, get in and start the engine. Turn the heater to maximum warmth and adjust it to the defrost setting. This will start warm air wafting over your windshield from the inside, melting ice and any remaining snow more effectively than all other methods.

If your rear window has heating wires inside the glass, turn those on as well.

Score Ice First

This is where a high-quality snow brush with a scraper end comes in. As your vehicle’s heater melts the windshield ice from the inside, score the ice from the outside with the toothed side of your scraper.

This isn’t necessary if you’re only dealing with a thin ice layer, but it’s a winning strategy if you’ve got 1/8-in. or more. The parallel grooves the scraper’s scoring teeth carve into the ice will melt through faster than the surrounding ice, causing it to fall away in chunks.

Use a Robust Scraper

With the ice scored and thawing from the inside, go to work with the wedge-shaped side of your scraper. If you’re still having trouble scraping the ice away, give your heater a few more minutes to work, or try some spray de-icer (see next section).

Use Spray De-Icer

An alcohol-based spray de-icer can make life much easier when you’re pressed for time. It chemically melts the ice, and the alcohol should prevent the melted stuff from re-freezing.

Spray de-icer is also great for other areas of your vehicle. Car doors often freeze shut in winter. I find spraying a concentrated stream of de-icer into the cracks around my doors often solves this problem.

Check Under Your Wipers

One often-neglected area when removing windshield ice is just below the glass where the wipers are mounted. The design and shape of many vehicles make this spot perfect for catching runoff as you drive. This runoff can quickly re-freeze, causing a thick buildup that can interfere with the function of your wipers.

Tip your wipers upright if you haven’t already, then chip away any buildup with your scraper. Chances are you’ll find some.

Don’t Forget Your Mirrors

Mirrors are small, and it’s easy to forget to clear them of ice and snow before jumping in your vehicle. Driving with obscured mirrors is a major safety issue, so be diligent here.

Gently brush away snow, then scrape away any ice on your mirrors with extreme care. Spray de-icer is a great option for mirrors, too, because it ensures you won’t accidentally knock them out of position.

Robert Maxwell
Robert Maxwell is a writer, videographer, photographer and online strength coach based in Northern Ontario, Canada. He grew up on a rural self-sufficient homestead property where he learned the skills to build his own home from the ground up, do all his own vehicle repairs, and work with wood, stone and metal to find practical DIY solutions to many everyday problems.