Although this may seem like a trivial task for any driver faced with a frosted or frozen windscreen when they go out to their car, there are actually right ways to do it and wrong ways to do it.
If you know that the weather is going to be cold over night it is also an annoying problem that can easily be avoided.
How not to de-ice your windscreen!
The first method to avoid at all costs is the kettle of boiling water. Although modern windscreens are laminated and extremely tough these days, they are still susceptible to the basic laws of physics.
Pouring boiling hot water over a panel of frozen glass puts a lot of stress on your windscreen due to the sudden huge changes in temperature. This may cause it to crack under the stress. Also if you already have a small crack or flaw in your windscreen already, this stress could easily make it worse.
Although it won't damage your windscreen, this second method should also be avoided. Simply turning on your engine and directing the heater onto the windscreen does work but it will take some time to clear your screen completely (and safely) and it will also be a waste of your precious fuel.
Turning on your wipers to clear or 'wear off' the frost from your screen. This again will not damage your windscreen but it can easily damage your wipers. Your wipers will usually be frozen to your screen on a frosty morning and just turning them on to 'un-stick' them puts a lot of load on the wiper motors and can sometimes physically tear off the rubber the rubber blade or damage the supporting arm.
Even if the arm does come clear the wiper will take some time to cause enough friction to start to melt a hard frost. Friction which will also wear the rubber blades.
De-icing your windscreen the correct way
To enable your windscreen to stay frost and ice free overnight, you need to cover it tightly with a non-absorbent fabric of some kind the night before. When you get to your car in the morning most of the ice and frost would have collected on the outside of the fabric, and you will be able pull it straight off - with a perfectly clear screen underneath.
This obviously needs a little forward planning but it could save you a good 5 or 10 minutes of scraping. Purpose made windscreen frost protection covers are very inexpensive and are available from most good auto accessories stores. Absorbent fabrics or newspaper may work to some extent but it may get damp before it freezes and just end up being frozen to your windscreen.
Your second best option is spray de-icer. This is also inexpensive and when sprayed on your screen it simply lowers the melting point of the ice by chemical action and the ice will melt rapidly allowing the wipers to wipe it away when it's liquefied, or scrape off easily if you are in a hurry.
The third best option is your trusty scraper. This takes a bit of time but it's a good standby if you forget to cover your screen or have run out of de-icer spray. If you don't have this either there is always an old credit card...
Penalties for driving without a properly cleared windscreen
The law states all car windows and mirrors must be clear before you drive. Driving while peering through a small de-iced hole in the windscreen can get you a fine of £1,000 for driving with restricted visibility.
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