By on January 19, 2018


winter car

TTAC Commentator Arthur Dailey writes:


As I look outside a the terrible weather, I felt it was opportune to ask you (and the B&B) a relatively simple yet timely question about preventing car door freezing: door handles, windows, etc, during the freeze and thaw cycles that we are increasingly experiencing.

On Sunday our temperature reached a record low of – 22C but on Thursday we had driving rain and a record high of + 10C melting all the snow. Friday we are dropping to – 13C with high winds and freezing rain/sleet/snow. All of these freeze thaw cycles play havoc with our autos. 

The high temperatures combined with the salt used to keep the roads less icy results in rusting. Perhaps less serious but just as frustrating are the freezing of windows, doors, door locks and door handles.

Historically I have used a number of different types of lubricants and sprays to combat this.

  • For frozen door locks, lock de-icer, powdered graphite, silicone spray and even in an emergency Vaseline.
  • For “hidden” hinges, white lithium grease, now replaced by “green” Rust Check.
  • To prevent doors from freezing, spray silicone or Teflon spray on a rag, applying it to the door sills, ledges and the rubber seals.
  • Prevent windows from freezing by rolling down the windows and applying silicone or Teflon spray to the inside top ledge.
  • Spraying silicone or Teflon spray into the door handle’s hinges, after I broke a frozen one.
  • About once per year use the straw that comes with the silicone spray can, insert it into the outer part of the door frame and spray down to help prevent the windows and door handles from freezing.

My questions are:

  • Are these practices beneficial?
  • If not what should I do?
  • Is the silicone spray safe or will it eventually damage the rubber?
  • If so, what other lubricants would work better?

Sajeev answers:

Son, why you gotta take this Houston kid outta his comfort zone? But aside from Vaseline being a dirt magnet, I agree with your regimen to prevent car door freezing.

Consider that plastic door handles, window regulator bits, and all rubber items age. So having less resistance means a lower chance of broken mechanisms as the years go by.

Definitely use silicone-based lubricants on door handle mechanisms, weatherstrip and just about every other rubber-based door component, even window channel runners. Silicone sprays are made specifically to prolong the life of rubber parts. Avoid WD-40 or similar oil-based penetrating fluid as they can leave a gummy residue, thus making things worse. (Not to bag on WD-40, they have a full range of lubricants.)

Using a dry lubricant (usually graphite) for keyholes and latches is ideal to keep things slick without attracting dirt. And give the door/trunk/hood hinges a shot of white lithium grease to keep them moving like new, too. 

Now is Teflon spray any better than Silicone? I’d like to know! I’ve been happy with silicone’s non-stick demeanor and rubber conditioning qualities (and squeaky door silencing on E39 M5s) exclusively for 10-plus years, so that’s a question for the B&B.

[Image: Shutterstock user S_Photo]

Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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28 Comments on “Piston Slap: Portal Protection for an Erratic Winter? ...”

  • avatar

    I’ve used a product called “Gummi Pflege” for keeping door seals, weatherstripping, and other rubber bits soft and pliable. My BMWs back in the day had a terrible problem with door and trunk seals sticking and cracking, especially in the winter. It also eliminated many squeaks and pops coming from door and window seals on cold days.

    • 0 avatar

      I have a container of that stuff and have used it on door weatherstripping. Seems to work well from my experience.

      • 0 avatar

        Polydimethylsiloxane is the same stuff as all the other silicone sprays so it should work fine. I prefer the silicone grease and manually massaging (giggity) into the rubber. Keep the mating surfaces clean, and you get leak free sunroofs…

  • avatar

    I drive an FCA product, my doors are sometimes frozen shut when it’s 75 & sunny.

  • avatar

    the only potential problem I’ve faced in the winter was the lock on my hatchback freezing shut. Luckily I’ve never had to get anything large out at the time, and the problem always fixes itself when the weather warms.

    Other than that, I’ve solved stuck doors the old fashion way – applying brute force from the inside. (After getting in through an unstuck door.)

    I guess most of TTAC’s readers have not experienced the delights of -40 weather and having your engine and transmission howl and make various noises as it (hopefully) starts and warms up. Having your transmission and other fluids make your car operate in slow motion is an interesting experience!

  • avatar

    A few weeks ago, both of the doors on my wife’s MINI froze shut. You could squeeze the door handle but nothing worked. The only way to get into the car was through the hatch. But opening the hatch requires moving the backseat to get to the emergency release.

    A little heat gun action on the lock mechanism finally did the trick.

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    Sajeev, thank you! Somehow I had never seen that page on M5board. I knew about adding velcro to the body side door latch, but not this.

  • avatar

    A friend of mine bought a rubberized magnetic sheet (the kind they use to make magnetic signs). He puts it over the whole handle area. If the car is icy, a bit of pressing about cracks the ice, and when the sheet comes free the whole lock/handle area is clear.

  • avatar

    Very timely, I’ve broken two door handles on my 98 accord so far this winter (Canada), Only two more to go and I’ve got a whole new set.

  • avatar

    Buy a house with a garage.
    Problem solved.

  • avatar

    Way back in February of 1990 my wife (then girlfriend) and I took a weekend trip to DC.
    We had managed to get a tour of the White House and on the way in we got frisked/patted down etc.’
    Unfortunately I had forgotten that I had a little canister of lock de-icer in my coat pocket.
    I was quickly pulled aside by security and grilled about the what it was and why was I carrying it on me.
    Luckily that was the end of it – but I can’t imagine what would have happened in today’s post 9/11 security.

  • avatar

    PB BLASTER! is still my favorite lubricant, although WD-40 is pretty good but doesn’t penetrate as quickly. One of the back windows on my Mustang was frozen in the “UP” position and I would periodically hit it with WD-40. I thought it was having no effect but after a few years of doing that I finally got the mechanism working.

    • 0 avatar

      PB Blaster is some potent stuff, I’d avoid getting it on anything that isn’t rusted hardware or old bushings and such that are being replaced anyways. It’s purpose is that of a penetrant rather than lubricant, at least I’ve never seen it marketed as such. Or maybe you’re talking about a lubricant WD-40 type spray made by the PB Blaster company (I think I’ve seen that at Lowes), whose classic product is the penetrating fluid.

  • avatar

    I used to work for one of the major heavy truck companies. We did constant durability testing which included salt spray. One of things that they tested while I worked there was which door lock cylinder lubricant was “best.”

    The winner by a mile? WD-40. So it’s the only thing that I use. They found that graphite actually clogs up the tumblers and makes things worse in the long run. Just a quick shot of WD-40 followed by a few insertions and operations with the key, every now and then and you’ll be fine.

    • 0 avatar

      My go-to as well. I also do dielectric grease (read: silicone grease) on door seals to keep them supple, but you have to be careful not to overdo it and wipe off excess or else you end up with a mess.

  • avatar

    I stopped using de-icers and have never experienced a frozen lock since. I’ve used a number of lubes over the years, and IMO for locks, it makes little difference which one is used or the brand, as long as that lube is not washed away by the de-icer.

    Silicon lube is what I use on the weatherstripping, which is not pure rubber and haven’t been for probably two decades now, so the type of lube is not really critical anymore.

  • avatar

    It always needs reminding that WD-40 is a water dispersant, not a lubricant.

    It can provide a little short-term lubricant effect, and the bundled solvents can get some residues off of things, but … you’re better off using oil or silicone for the former, and a real solvent for the latter.

  • avatar

    Sometimes if you press the door farther shut it will compress the icy weatherstripping enough to break the ice and can then be opened.

    Beware that if you operate door handles and a door doesn’t open, the door can swing open as the car warms up while driving. Again, if the handle works but the door won’t open, press it shut until the latch engages. Or stop in a little while and try it again.

  • avatar

    Good replies. The weather described is typical of the Canadian Atlantic provinces, the solutions similar to my experience. Then in 1998 I discovered Remote Start, and have had it since. By burning rare hydrocarbons in a purely selfish manner, and with a flip of the fingers to die-hard ecofreaks, I push a button and wait 15 minutes. Never had a problem since, so long as one remembers to leave the heat at max and on the windshield the night before. Ice comes off in great sheets with little effort.

    You cannot get remote start on German cars, and with only aftermarket bodges available, they are off my buying radar.

  • avatar

    Shin-Etsu for rubber seals all the way. Rub it on once a year, seals don’t perish or stick.

    I’ll second teflon spray for locks, Dupont makes a good one.

    • 0 avatar

      Shin-Etsu seconded. It’s been in the teens when leaving for work and below freezing constantly for a week and I’ve had no issues with sticking. I’ve also applied it to the rubber seal of a noisy leaky sunroof and both issues went away. A tube will last years.

    • 0 avatar

      Is Shin-Etsu very different from the usual Dow Corning high vacuum grease? I find the latter fine for door seals, but a little stiff to be applied easily.

  • avatar

    I’m guessing the words “remote start” might be relevant here?

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