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How to de-ice your car quickly – and the methods that could leave you facing a fine

How to de-ice your car, representing with person scraping car windscreen. (Getty Images)
Do you know how to de-ice your car the right way? (Getty Images)

The days are getting darker and colder, and we can feel the icy chill of winter just around the corner.

While the December mornings ahead might look Insta-pretty, a frozen windscreen is not so ideal, particularly as you're bound to have to deal with it on a day you’re running late. Typical.

In the search for a speedy solution, many of us will turn to the trusty kettle and fling boiling water over the glass.

But, turns out that’s not a great idea, as it could actually crack your screen. Ditto with using your credit card to be free of the frost. Hello scratched glass!

Read more: Most popular names for UK cars revealed, from 'Love Machine' to 'Passion Wagon'

Oh, and certain aspects of de-icing could actually land you in trouble with the law.

Yep, those who head back inside to keep warm while their car is de-icing could actually be slapped with a fine.

That's because under Section 42 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, unnecessary 'engine idling' is illegal if your car is left on the street. Yikes!

But thankfully, there are ways to effectively, quickly (and legally) remove frost from your screen without causing damage or forking out for an expensive de-icer.

What you shouldn't do to de-ice your car

Man clearing windscreen in show. (Getty Images)
Think carefully about what you use before clearing your windscreen. (Getty Images)

Use boiling water

Research by Halfords, which polled 1,600 motorists about their winter motoring habits, revealed a whopping half of all motorists have used a kettle of hot water to defrost their car windscreen.

But that could be a costly mistake as the sudden warmth hitting your windscreen in chilly temperatures could lead to the glass cracking.

Just leave it

Sure, it’s tempting to stick the heater on full and drive off hoping the screen will soon clear, but that’s a move that could land you in trouble.

According to the Highway Code, “windscreens and windows must be kept clean and free of obstructions to vision.”

During the icy winter months, this is particularly relevant and you must clear the ice (or snow) from all of your windows, as well as both the front and rear windscreen, before driving.

This is the same with clearing the condensation that forms inside the car.

The risk of not doing so is a potential £60 fine and three points on your licence for driving with limited vision.

Read more: 23 ways to stay warm without turning on the heating this winter

Don’t be tempted to leave your car to defrost while you head back in the warm either as you’ll be risking a fine of £20 (or more if you don't pay it in time) and three penalty points for leaving your car to defrost while the engine is idling.

The law says if your car's engine is running, you need to be in control of it, which likely rules out you being in your house in the warm while your car ticks over outside.

And, of course, if you’re busy getting breakfast inside, your car could also be an easy target for thieves.

Person waiting in the car for the screen to warm up. (Getty Images)
Waiting in the car for the screen to warm up isn't the most environmentally friendly idea. (Getty Images)

Stick on the heater and wait for it to clear

While ultimately effective, this is the least environmentally-friendly option thanks to the extra fuel you’ll use and the extra pollution you'll cause (which will have the same effect when leaving the engine running to de-ice). Avoid for the sake of the planet.

Start the wipers

Tempting though it might be to speed the process along by using your wipers to help shift the ice, starting up wipers that are frozen to the windscreen or jammed by snow could cause damage to the mechanism.

Use a credit card

Halfords found that over a third (35%) of drivers have admitted to using a bank card to scrape ice from their windscreen. While it may seem like a good idea, using anything other than a proper ice-scraper risks scratching the glass.

Of course, it could also cause your precious card to snap too, rendering you card-less, and potentially therefore cash-less in the run-up to Christmas.

Read more: Woman says floorboard hack helps keep house warm: 'It's the small changes that count'

Watch: How to de-ice your car windshield with a DIY spray

Effective (and safe) ways to de-ice your car

Use a windscreen scraper or de-icer

Both offer the easiest and safest method to free your car of frost.

Make a DIY de-icer

While de-icers are effective, there are some more cash-conscious and environmentally-friendly ways to remove ice from your screen (NOT the credit card though, remember).

One easy method is to mix up a solution of water with a teaspoon of salt, before pouring it over any frozen areas.

Use this sparingly, however, as salt could cause damage to the windscreen and avoid hitting the paintwork as it is also corrosive.

Mixing up three parts of vinegar to one part of water will also do the trick, but could be a little on the smelly side.

Meanwhile the experts at Nationwide Vehicle Contracts suggest an alternative solution of mixing water with rubbing alcohol which you can get from any pharmacy.

Mix one part water with two parts rubbing alcohol and fill the spray bottle with the solution. This can then be sprayed on your windscreen to melt the ice.

The really great part is that this solution will not freeze, as rubbing alcohol has a freezing point of around -88 degrees celsius, which means the bottle can be kept in your car until next time.

Read more: The expert-approved date to turn on the heating this year

Person spraying car windscreen. (Getty Images)
Using a de-icer both shop bought and DIY can be the best way to de-ice a frosty screen. (Getty Images)

Other winter weather car hacks

Keep your car frost-free overnight

Want to avoid the morning frost-clearing rush? Try soaking an old towel in a solution of water and table salt and placing it over your car windows the night before.

It works because salt lowers the freezing point of water, which means moisture is prevented from frosting over on your screen.

Spray your car doors with cooking spray

Every part of your car’s exterior is liable to freeze and stick in place overnight. If you’re worried about your car doors jamming shut, the experts at Vehicle Contracts suggest spraying a simple cooking spray along the rubber edges of your car doors.

Wipe away the excess then close the doors and leave it overnight. In the morning, they should open easily (even if the rest of the car is icy!).

Put socks on your windscreen wipers

If you’re parking outside during winter, you may find that your windscreen wipers can stick to the window.

Strange as it may sound, to stop this from happening, you can pop a pair of long socks on your windscreen wipers to stop snow and ice from collecting there.

"Remove them in the morning when you need your car then remember to put them on again before you leave your car for the night," adds Robert Harris, director at Vehicle Contracts.

Use hand sanitiser to defrost keys

In today's post-pandemic times everyone tends to still have hand sanitiser on them with COVID-19 and flu still circling, which makes this particular hack all the more convenient.

If you use a manual car key, it’s a common occurrence for the keyhole to freeze over making it impossible to turn the lock. If you break the key in the lock, replacement car keys cost up to £250, so it can be a costly issue to solve.

One of the key ingredients of hand sanitiser is alcohol, which will cause any ice to simply melt away. Cover your keys in hand sanitiser and it should glide in no problem.

Happy (pain-free) de-icing!

Buys to help de-ice your car

RevHeads Ice Scraper | £10.99 from Amazon

FREESOO Windscreen Frost Protector Car Snow Cover | £18.99 (Was £26) from Amazon

AA Winter Car Kit with Folding Snow Shovel | £17.50 from Amazon

Car Plan Winter Car Essentials in Gift Pack | £12.59