By on January 26, 2011


TTAC Commentator David Holzman writes:

Sajeev, among the many inconveniences of winter: the frequent need to scrape snow and ice off of the car windows. You should be glad to be down there in Texas where you don’t have to deal with pieces of solidified atmosphere that congeal on the windshield. Is there any device or method that takes the tsuris out of window clearing?

Sajeev answers:

David is right; I have little experience in the matter. But Piston Slap’s forum-a-like format implies I don’t need to know much of anything. Plus, I sneak hidden agendas (anti-late-model-Subaru, pro-Panther) and the Best and Brightest take up the slack. It’s a great system.

So I reommend a car cover (high quality) and hope it won’t rip to shreds upon removal in the frigid Yukon Territory.  But anywhere else, using it or a smart cover looks like a good way to clean up, sans frostbite.  But the path of least resistance lies in your pockets, as a car-savvy Chica in my automotive Rolodex once proclaimed: when you need an ice scraper, grab your driver’s license.

She was a Yupper before she wisely joined me in H-town, so I give her the benefit of the doubt. Sure enough, the license worked nicely when Gulf Coast dew froze on a recent 30-degree morning. Certainly not blizzard savvy, but its free, 100% effective on the first swipe (can’t say that about many ice scrapers) and very convenient.

Send your queries to [email protected]. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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67 Comments on “Piston Slap: Licenses: Not Just For Driving Any More!...”


  • avatar

    If it’s not -20C, you can simply pour water on your windshield from a 2L bottle. It dissolves ice before it freezes itself. It is also possible to modify the liquid (salt is probably not the best idea though).

    • 0 avatar
      Peugeot 504 - the Car for Nigeria

      I did this for the winter I lived in Minnesota. Snow & frost are no problem for the ice scraper/brush, but sometimes I’d come out in February to find a 1/4″ of ice completely encasing the car. Best solution for that was to get a gallon jug of tepid water and pour carefully over the windows. It doesn’t take very much water over a given square foot to get the ice to either melt off or loosen. And the argument in an earlier comment about making a dangerous, dangerous puddle of ice in your parking spot after the water refreezes on the ground doesn’t really apply when there’s already ice everywhere.
       
      IMHO a car cover is not going to do the job. It’s a cast-iron pain in the ass to put on the car when it’s already 15F out because it’s stiff and the car is covered in salt, snow and dirt; and by morning it’s even harder to remove. Also when it’s stiff it’s more likely to crack or break. And when you’re not using it, it’s filling up your trunk. If

    • 0 avatar
      mhadi

      careful you don’t crack the windshield with your tepid water.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      If an ice storm catches you at work without an ice scraper, I’ve found that a pouring large quantities of cold water from a wastebasket slowly and carefully on the windshield melts the ice with little effort.  Don’t use hot water.  I sometime mix in some dishwashing soap from the break room to help clean the windows at the same time.

  • avatar
    PickupMan

    Best tool I found is a heavy brass-bladed ice scraper. Heavy to avoid deforming and to resist nicks and dings in the blade.  This lets you scrape wide swaths in one pass minimizing drudgery
    In an emergency (translation: forgot the ice scraper), the aforementioned credit card/grocery store/club card can work
    Car covers present their own problems and aren’t really useful away from home, IMO.
    /Wisconsin graduate

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      Brass scraper is the way to go.

      If you’re at home, a plastic bag over the windshield (secured by closing the doors / windows) works great at minimizing ice on the glass in the first place.

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    Credit cards work fairly well. They’re flexible enough to match the curvature of the windshield, yet firm enough to actually get it clean.

    Actually, now that I think of it, one of the best scrapers I can ever remember using was sold by Lee Valley Tools. It had a plastic handle with a brass blade (sounds similar to the kind mentioned by PickupMan above). I couldn’t say if they still sell them, though, but it would be easy enough to check.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    A car cover would work, but in extreme circumstances, you’d probably ruin it trying to remove it. Other than that, the windshield is the first order of business, so a large piece of cardboard secured at the edges with blue painter’s tape or by some other method works. Take real care with your wiper blades, too – and by extension the wiper arms. Start the engine and let the defrosters do their work. Enjoy a cup of coffee or tea and stay warm. I fight this every year in Cincinnati winters, especially this year! When the ice begins to loosen up, it can be scraped away in nice, big sheets. One other thing – PLEASE clear ALL the windows so you can see properly when driving. One blind move is all it takes to have a real bad day, plus you’ll be able to see the other knothead who DOESN’T clear his windows and pulls a sudden lane change on you! Oh, yes, buy a good scraper, too. I just remembered 17 years ago, I returned from a business trip in Cleveland and Cincinnati had a major ice storm. My 1990 Acclaim was covered in ice like in the photo. I followed the advice I gave above with the exception of the cardboard – airport parking – it took 45 minutes in below-zero cold to clear the windows enough to drive. Then, because I was in the middle of a kidney stone attack that morning and in considerable pain, I drove myself straight to the hospital. Welcome home!

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Only one vehicle in my household gets garage space (my fiance’s Vibe) so what I do (as do many people in Gallup, NM when greeted by heavy frost nearly every morning) is I place an flattened old card board box under the driver’s side wiper blade when I park for the evening.  Pull it off in the morning, and viola a 2ft by 3ft space of clean windshield.  This gives me enough vision to get the truck off the street and into our long single car driveway so that it may warm up off the street.  (yeah I have two sets of keys and lock one in the truck while it’s warming, but I still don’t feel safe letting it sit on the street while it warms up, even though the doors are locked.)

  • avatar
    Brian P

    Anyone suggesting a credit card hasn’t dealt with a REAL ice storm … Something like that only has a hope if it’s a gentle frosting.
     
    A car cover won’t work, either. If there is an ice or snow storm, it will end up frozen solid *and* stuck (frozen) to the car and it will weigh about three tons with all the ice on it.
     
    Water poured on the car can have a hope if it’s only a gentle frosting, but if it’s a thick layer of ice, it won’t work, and the water will end up on the ground and freeze your driveway into a skating rink. Not a good idea. Don’t be tempted to use hot water, either – that’s begging for a cracked windshield. If there is only a gentle frosting, your windshield washer squirters will work just as well as anything else. Just be aware that if the glass is really cold, the alcohol will evaporate and leave the water portion of the washer fluid in a frozen layer on the glass. If you keep at it, and with the heat on, it’ll eventually clear.
     
    Best solution … an enclosed garage. I have yet to have to scrape my car this winter.
     
    Next best solution … In cold areas, every big store sells ice scrapers for a couple bucks. Buy one and use it. Tip: If you are parking outside in conditions where snow/ice are expected, flip the windshield wipers up (away from the windshield) so that they’re not frozen to the windshield when you come back to the car.

    • 0 avatar
      Philosophil

      Being from Atlantic Canada, I’ve experienced more than my share of ice storms (I remember being without power for a full week one time because of a severe ice storm). Most frost events, however, are not ice storms.
       
      I still recommend the brass scraper for most frost events. Just be careful not to wander off the glass.

      Final note: When the ice is as thick as it is in the picture (which I’ve seen too many times to want to recall), don’t bother with the brass scraper because you’ll only bend the crap out of it. In those cases you can bang away with a heavy plastic scraper, but usually the best thing to do is just be patient and wait for the heater to loosen up the ice on the windshield. Then just slide it off.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    I don’t like enclosed garages in the winter as I tend to believe they exacerbate premature corrosion by letting salts dissolve in melting ice and creep into the car, only to refreeze the next day.
     
    I have a plastic-handled ice scraper with a brass blade.  I wouldn’t say the blade’s heavy, as the corner got bent and reduced the swipe by 1/4″ or so.  I haven’t seen one in years…Mine came from Costco back when they were known as Price Club.  I know this because for years it had the little red sticker with the Price Club item number on it…from back when they keyed in their item number because most items didn’t have UPC codes.  My wife still uses it because she didn’t care for the plastic-bladed thing I bought for her car lacking the time to locate a brass-bladed scraper.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I don’t like enclosed garages in the winter as I tend to believe they exacerbate premature corrosion by letting salts dissolve in melting ice…

      This is definitely true.  If you live in the salt-belt, your best bet is to park outside when it’s freezing and clean your undercarriage when it’s not.

    • 0 avatar
      baabthesaab

      Really only a problem with HEATED garages. An unheated, ventilated garage will do nothing to exacerbate corrosion, while helping the car in other ways – e.g. keeping the sun off. Here in Maine, where we have had several snowfalls of a foot or more this winter, I am glad to have 2 out of 3 vehicles indoors; but UNHEATED!
      Also, I take the photo at the top as a joke, but it is amazing how many people seem to call that a clear windshield. One guy near us rear-ended a stopped school bus a couple of mornings ago, because he had cleared himself a “porthole”, and didn’t see the bus. Hooray!

    • 0 avatar
      mhadi

      Agree  – heated garages are a no-no. Rust will occur only with water, not ice, so ideally parking outside would prevent any rusting. But the car suffers in other ways if parked outside: paint, ice (scrapping will probably cause some scratches), battery life, harsh engine starts, and so on.
      It’s a compromise at the end of the day.
      I haven’t seen the brass blade ice scrapers since the 1980s….over here where ice on the windshield is a daily occurrence in winter, scraping with an ice scrapper and the defroster on is the only way to go. Some may put cardboard on the windshield, but that is not practical if you have to do it for 3 months.

      The idea of a remote started is becoming socially less acceptable – running your car for 15 minutes is unnecessary polluting and wasteful, nevermind illegal in some places.
       

  • avatar
    cfclark

    I lived in Madison for ten years before escaping to progressively warmer climes (Tennessee and then SoCal), and in that time, I learned much about winter driving and winter car preparation for driving. Best ice scraper is remote start and a long warmup period, or non-remote start and a long warmup period in a winter beater that no one will steal anyway. Failing that, there are any number of heavy-duty ice scrapers one can buy–I always liked the molded plastic ones with the scraper on one end and a brush on the other. If it fits in the glovebox, it’s too small. The proper place for the scraper is on the back floorboard. If you care that the melted snow is making a mess of your back floorboard, then you’ve foolishly opted for your “good” car instead of the winter beater, so you need to shut that car off and go get into your winter beater.
     
    Of course, for Wisconsinites of means, the best ice scraper is a winter home in Arizona.

    (Edit: My Subaru, purchased in Tennessee, inexplicably had the “winter package” included, which includes heated side mirrors and a wiper-parking area with heaters to clear the ice–needless to say I used this exactly twice before decamping to LA, where this never gets used. Not even on a trip to Big Bear (yet).)
     
    (Wisconsin grad-school alum here, Go Bucky)

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    A few things I’ve found that help:
    * Park near your house’s exterior wall.  The radiant heat is sometimes enough to clear frost
    * Keep the inside of the car dry.  Heck, consider cracking the windows a little to allow moisture to escape if it’s cold enough and/or not snowing
    * Wiper fluid with teflon can help make exterior windows easier to clear; ice and snow doesn’t 
    stick as readily
    * Fold your wipers up and away from the windscreen when you park
    * Get a block heater and put it on a timer. It’ll help the heater/defroster get going sooner.
    * You will never, ever win if there’s an ice storm, freezing rain or your park near Niagara Falls in February

    • 0 avatar
      Acubra

      Strangely, my experience with teflon washer fluid has always been terrible. To the point when I had to drain it, as it failed to clean anything, leaving a greasy and semi-transparent film instead.
      May be it is because of our lower temps here in AB.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      That film is normal.  The nice part is, once it’s on, water will bead and run off when you’re driving, especially at speed.  It doesn’t seem to crystallize in the cold, either.
       
      I agree that, if you use the wipers often, it’ll streak.  The trick, and the nice part of it, is that you don’t need to use your wipers as much.
       

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @psar: Again, excellent advice. Much of it I use. In fact, I’ve been using the parking near the house trick to keep my 7-1/2 year-old battery going this extremely cold (for W. Mich) winter. I’m trying to get that sucker to last until April. Also, instead of a block heater, I’ve been able to use a 60W incandescent light bulb (old school, not the ‘green’ florescent kind) that’s on my drop light (shop light), just turn it on and stuff it under the exhaust manifold closest to the block. Seems to work pretty well. Depending upon your engine bay, this might be easier with some than others…

  • avatar
    vantucky cajun

    I fill a 1-gallon pump up yard sprayer w/ cheap anti ice windshield washer fluid.  Works great.  You can de-ice all the windows in a couple of minutes.

  • avatar
    brettc

    I’ve been using the Prestone de-icer fluid from Walmart this winter. Works better than the orange Rain-X I bought previously. But the ultimate way to avoid scraping ice? Get a dwelling with a garage, and find a job with garage access. And then don’t go anywhere when it’s snowing. Works well for me.

  • avatar
    Ian Anderson

    I leave every morning for school at 6:43 and start the truck at 6:30. Full defrost/heat (that an s10 uses pretty much the same heater as a Caprice helps). Scrape the ice off if any, and brush the snow off the roof, hood, grille, windows/mirrors and license plate. When I leave I’ll use the windshield washer at the end of the driveway to get rid of the salt on the windshield, since the tip is usually still frozen in snow/ice when I start it.
     
    The best suggestion is a good scraper, cheap plastic ones will probably do for one season. And it might waste gas but just start it about five-ten minutes before you leave.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    For the few times when the Subaru is outside, I turn on the windshield’s electric defroster along the lower portion, and under the wipers.

    Otherwise like the Acura,  turn on the car, hit all the defrosters and it clears up the windows quickly. A shot of washer fluid and run the wipers and we’re good to go.

    Both cars have frameless windows, moisture can get between the window(s) and seals, requiring a firm tug to open the door. It takes single or sub-zero temps for this to happen.

    I usually park in the garage at the airport though. And in the garage at home.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    Defrost and time.
     
    I refuse to get into a 10-degree car anyway; by the time the interior’s up to 65 or so, you can usually just slide the ice off. Yeah, it uses gas, but even if it takes half a gallon per warm-up (which I really doubt – though I’m curious: anyone have any info?), well… I’ve spent a buck seventy five on far dumber stuff.
     
    I’ve got a car port, though, so my car doesn’t ice. One option is to get one of those open-on-both-ends things; they’re relatively cheap, and your car stays cold if you prefer to avoid melting ice during the winter. Deals with snow, too, which I find far more obnoxious than ice – at least, when it’s on my car. Pretty much any other time, snow is better. Except in mixed drinks. Nobody ever asks for a vodka on the flakes.
     
    Also, why does TTAC currently say that I’m “Logged in as Greg Call” and show a facebook ID in the upper right, when I’m certainly not logged into FaceBook and am most definitely not Greg Call? That’s bi-freakin’-zarre. *goes to re-login and paste post again*

  • avatar
    K5ING

    What I used to do was to use a large towel or if that wasn’t big enough, an old bedsheet.  Cover the windshield the night before, open the doors and put the ends of the sheet/towel into the door opening so when you close the door, it locks the sheet in place.  When you come out in the morning, just open the doors and pull the sheet off, along with the snow and/or ice.
     
    When I had my Toyota pickup, I found a “half cover” for it that worked really well too.  It just covered the greenhouse, down to the beltline.  It was a snap to put on or take off, small enough to stuff behind the seats, and protected the interior from UV rays if I let it sit out in the sun all days.  Worked for snow and ice too.
     

  • avatar
    otter

    Remote start is the best defroster ever, if you’re lucky enough to have a car with it.

    My (uninstalled) front license plate made a very good scraper one recent winter day when I had forgotten my regular plastic scraper.

  • avatar
    twotone

    Here in Denver, just park on the sunny side of the street. Solar snow/ice removal at its best. Personally, I park in my garage.

  • avatar
    Highway27

    Something that’s really important, that nowhere near enough people do, is make sure you are clearing all the ice and snow possible off of your entire vehicle, not just the windows.  Brush all that snow off the trunk, roof, and hood, even the bumpers and shoulders.  If it’s not super cold, even ice sheets on the roof or trunk can dislodge and fly up enough to come down when the car behind you is passing through that space.
     
    I agree with the ‘take your time and let the car do a lot of the work with the defroster / heater’ camp, also.  A lot of times in the snow, I’ll work on brushing the roof off while I wait for the windows to heat up.
     

  • avatar
    vbofw

    Agreed.  Solution 1a is to garage (premature corrosion-be-damned — how many keep their rides for the approx. 15 years until true corrosion begins??).  If no garage, the best answer is a cheap scraper + elbow grease.  Wearing gloves will make this much more pleasant.

    Adding chemicals to a windshield seems a bit excessive, no?

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      I think this is more a problem with heated garages where the road salt can still activate and continue the corrosion process as opposed to leaving it outside in -20. 

      Mind you, having the sun beat on a salt-encrusted vehicle sitting outside can’t be good, either.

  • avatar
    Acubra

    Another trick that helped me to avoid scratching off ice and packed snow after a snowstorm:
    When you are approaching your destination in snowstorm, direct hot air off windshield for 5-10 minutes (or less if you are travelling fast and temps are low). This will allow the glass surface to cool down, so when you park and snow starts piling up, its bottom layer will not melt. So when you are back to your car, you just brush the snow off without any scratching.

    Also, if you can step out from time to time (coffe or lunch breaks when at work) – brush off accumulating snow before it packs up.

    Having a bottle of deicer / washer fluid will speed up defrosting too.  

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @Acubra: I found the backing off of the heat on the defroster after a drive has a great additional benefit for me: My sinuses don’t get as dried out. The lesser snow melt on the windshield was a bonus. Once I get the windows defrosted, I turn the heat all the way back down to where the heat and cold starts to blend. Unless my wife or daughters are in the car, then we have to drive with Sahara grade heat on all of the time. I don’t get as sleepy and my nose isn’t as itchy when I get into the office.

    • 0 avatar
      baabthesaab

      The less defroster you can use, the better, at least in snow rather than ice. Dry snow will blow off the windshield when you are moving unless the glass is wet. I agree with directing heat to the floor and cooling it down a few miles before parking whenever possible.

  • avatar
    pgcooldad

    I use a large spray bottle filled with 100% Ethyl Alcohol. Turn the car on, grab the bottle, soak the ice, go back in, turn on wipers … ice is gone.
     
    We really haven’t had ice here in metro Detroit this year. I think I used the spray once so far. Oh, yeah, the car is in the garage overnight and I get the alcohol for free.

  • avatar
    Cerbera LM

    Folks have a heated 3 car garage, set at 45°F. Have had it 10 yrs & the POS ’89 Olds 98 hasn’t turned to rust yet. Best parts is the cars is “warm” so it doesn’t take long for the heater to blow hot and the cars start on the first crank every time.
    Back in my apartment days I had a piece of plastic I put over the windshield. Held in place by windshield wipers and front doors. Also used cold tap water to deice, worked every time.
     
     
     

  • avatar
    jjster6

    This is an easy one… for the guys.  Whip it out and urinate on the windshield.  Works every time!!!

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    I hate it when people post useless quips, but I can’t resist.
    Buy a de-icing rig like they use on airliners.

  • avatar
    ixim

    Nobody has tried using a hair dryer [with a heavy-duty extension]? + a brass-bladed scraper, AFTER you run the engine long enough to get some defroster action. Wipers off the windshield when parking, too.

  • avatar

    If you REALLY don’t want to scrape, you could just have a remote start installed and let the heater do the work for you.

    That said, ice storms like the one in the picture are fairly common here, and I just use a big, heavy duty scraper with a metal edge.

  • avatar

    Credit card?  Car cover?  Oh dear…
    You start the car and put on the defroster… you then go back inside and let the car warm up for 5 minutes…
    Then either using an ice scraper or by this time, the windshield wipers should do the trick with no real effort.
    Its the only way when there is significant ice on the windshield…
     
     

  • avatar
    vaujot

    If you live in a cold region, a block heater is a good idea. Over here in Europe, we have them running on the car’s fuel. Not sure that kind is available stateside.

  • avatar
    Jerry Sutherland

    I live in the sub-Arctic climes but I never really thought about the actual process of cleaning your glass in winter extremes. http://www.mystarcollectorcar.com/2-features/tech-tips/1016-your-windshield-in-winter-how-to-survive-the-cruelest-season.html

  • avatar
    stebrojunior

    The absolute best window scraper is the lens cover from a welder’s helmet.  They are about 4″ by 6″ and are made of Lexan so they last a long time.  I have been using them for about 20 years up here in the Great White North and they work great.  They have eight useful edges and they don’t scratch anything.  I get mine free from some of my friends in the auto manufacturing business, but they are available at any welding supply store.

  • avatar
    ragtopman

    I’m grateful both our vehicles are garaged. NE Iowa winters are not forgiving.
    Until this discussion, though, I had pined away for a heated garage. I guess I don’t need one after all.
     

  • avatar
    seth1065

    be very careful with ice on the car I just put a vollyball size in my volvo moonroof this week in nj, one inch of snow but ice over it I was using a snowbrush when the moonroof just blew up 950 bucks later all is good but from now on only the windows and light get done.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Bunch of good ideas.  Something to keep in mind when I retire in New England.

  • avatar
    Birddog

    Years back I had an 81 Cherokee Chief that suffered frost/ice issues on the inside and out. Even with a block heater “defrost” was more like a request than an action. So I went down to Wally World and picked up a 900w electric “radiator” Menards for a 10-3 extension cord to set up in the back of the truck and issue solved…  Plug it in before bed and made sure I unplugged it in the morning, twice, and the ride to work in the morning was almost pleasurable.
    Before ya’ll jump down my throat.. There was no headliner or carpet past the front seats.
    Practical? Maybe not.. Safe? Borderline.. But it’s a solution that would make Red Green proud!

  • avatar
    mountainman_66

    was a clamp light with an incandescent bulb in the cars interior mentioned? ive seen it done all over alaska, keepe’em nice and toasty , esp when folks hang those red french fry bulbs in them.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    Sajeev. I just got done rebuilding the phase 1 EJ25 in my ’96 Legacy last fall, after I installed new struts and new brakes, now I’ve come to find out that the filler neck to the fuel tank has cracked and is leaking. Got any tips or ideas on how to fix it? I don’t have room for a more reliable Panther based Ford in my already too full driveway.

  • avatar

    You know what I miss, and I’m puzzled by it’s apparent absence in the US? A full heated windshield. There’s nothing like starting the car, pushing a button and being able to wipe off ice and snow off the windshield by the time you’ve cleared the side glass. I never encountered ice like the picture above when I had that car, but it worked just fine in English winters.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    I just read the old review about the Smart Cover, and as a long time Florida resident, I cannot help but laugh at how much better of a problem it is dealing with hot sun than freezing winters.  I only had to scrape ice for one winter I lived in DC, and thank God I dont ever have to do that again!

  • avatar
    dougjp

    Surprised nobody has mentioned this, its an option on some new cars;
     
    http://www.wipershaker.com/

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