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How to safely defrost your frozen windscreen

Mon, 12/23/2013 - 08:39 -- Steve Nacci
Winter Defrost Frozen Windscreen

We’ve been lucky so far in 2013 but the cold snap is on the way in many areas of the country.

For many people this will give rise to frozen windscreens so here are the Milestones Garage Top Tips for managing a frozen windscreen and driving safely.


1. Prevention is better than cure

If you don’t have the luxury of a garage or enclosed carport here are a couple of ways you can prevent a windscreen from freezing overnight:

Car covers like this heavyweight version from Argos offer one solution. The advantage with this approach is that all your windows will be protected.

However, managing a full car cover can be difficult for some people, and the vehicle, plus the inside of the cover will need to be clean to avoid possible surface scratching.

A quick fix I have used to just protect the windscreen is to utilise that shiny heat reflector you bought in the summer. These are intended to place inside your car on hot sunny days but can just as easily be located under your wipers to protect from frost.


2. Understand the law and drive safely

The law requires you to have ‘all round’ unobstructed visibility when driving a vehicle on the highway.

So if you are thinking of taking off with your nose pressed over the steering wheel looking through that 2” gap you’ve managed to squint through think again!


3. Prepare early

If you know it’s likely to freeze overnight then prepare early. If you use your vehicle for work or the school run, set your alarm 30 minutes earlier to give you ample time to defrost.


5. Using your car’s heating system

  1. Treat the frozen areas with a De-icer liquid.
  2. Turn on the heated rear window if you have one.
  3. Start your car and make sure the ventilation system is pointing to the windscreen.
  4. Turn up the heater to its highest setting and the blower to half or three quarter setting. If you use power on the fan straight away, the air will be cooling down as it reaches your windscreen.
  5. Set the heater to ‘recirculate’ – this will recirculate the interior air instead of bringing in fresh cold air from outside.
  6. If you have air-conditioning, make sure you switch this on because the air you circulate will have less condensation in it.
  7. Vary the engine revs every 30 seconds or so rather than leaving your vehicle on tick over.
  8. As the screen starts to clear, use a proper plastic scraper to remove the ice, flip it and use the rubber blade for a clean finish.  Avoid improvising with coins, credit cards or kitchen utensils!
  9. Ensure all windows are clear and don’t forget the wing mirrors. If you are lucky enough to have heated seats, activate those now, rather than at the start of the process. Loading your electrical system with a fan blower on high, heater on high, air conditioning unit running, heated rear window and heated seats all at the same time when the car is ticking over may put undue stress on your electrical system.
  10. Reset your heating controls to your liking before you drive off.

Keep your eyes on the road and have a safe journey!



Don’t leave your car running whilst unattended. According to this article in the Birmingham Mail, 48 cars were stolen last winter whilst being defrosted, as professional footballer Liam Ridgewell found out to his cost.

Another case that made the news, highlighted a woman who returned and watched in horror as her car was driven away with her young child strapped in the back seat. Fortunately that story ended well.

Don’t defrost a frozen windscreen with a boiling kettle – the rapid change in temperature can turn any chip or imperfection into a large crack.

Don’t use newspaper to protect a windscreen – newspaper will stick to the screen and be more difficult to remove as it thaws than the frost itself.

Don’t run wipers on a frozen windscreen – this will damage the edge of the rubber and may cause your windscreen to streak when you use them in the rain.

Don’t under any circumstances begin your journey with a partly defrosted vehicle.


Related Winter Car Servicing Tips

  • Ensure your wiper blades are replaced at the start of each season
  • Ensure your windscreen washer bottle is full and mixed with a proprietary windscreen cleaner that includes an anti-freeze component
  • Ensure your windscreen washer nozzles are set to spray correctly
  • Keep a minimum weekly eye on the washer bottle level as you wash your windscreen much more frequently in cold conditions


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