Is de-icer bad for your car and the environment?
We’ve all been there, leaving the house in a
hurry early in the morning having not realised there was a frost overnight. How
do you defrost the car quickly so you can drive safely? And which methods are
the best - and worst - for the environment and your car?
Here is our list of pros and cons along with a
checklist for the frosty winter mornings.
• They are a reliable way to clear ice from your car windows.
• There are some good designs with easy grips.
• Their use won’t harm the environment.
• It can take a little manual effort.
• It is sometimes tough to shift a sheet of frozen rain.
• You need to be careful near the edges of windows so as not to damage rubber surrounds or paintwork.
• They can help defrost windows quickly without too much manual effort.
• Modern products shouldn’t do any harm to your car.
• They’re not good at all for the environment. Firstly, there are all the less-than-friendly chemicals used: ammonia, butane, propane, ethanediol, ethanol and isopropanol.
• Then there is the single-use container - although that should be recyclable.
• And of course there is the energy used in their manufacture.
Letting the car warm up
• You can sit there and let the car do the work.
• Without helping to shift the ice, it can take quite some time to defrost completely and all the time your engine is running, it is polluting the environment.
Boiling hot water
• This is not recommended. However, if you use warm rather than hot water - and are very lucky - you just might avoid the negatives, below!
• There is a high risk you’ll crack your windscreen with the localised heat on cold glass.
• The water can re-freeze in cold conditions - not only on your windscreen but also on the ground where it can form treacherous black ice.
Here is our winter defrosting checklist before you start with the with the ice scraper - still the best all-round tool for the job.
- If you have the option, park your car in a garage, under a car port or close to a building to help reduce the amount of frost.
- Using newspaper or cardboard to cover your windscreen can actually be more troublesome because if it becomes wet before the temperature drops, it can freeze to the glass.
- Some electric cars, hybrids and high specification models have a pre-heating function which you can turn on via your mobile phone - either manually or at a pre-determined time. If this is available, make use of it!
- Your top priority is to check your wipers have not been left switched on before starting the engine. If they are frozen to the screen, the wiper motor could be damaged or the delicate rubber blades ripped from the wiper arms. Ideally, you should always switch off your wipers when you park your vehicle.
- Start the car’s engine and turn the heater temperature up high.
- Ensure the car’s air conditioning is switched on. (This might sound counter-intuitive but it also has a dehumidifier built-in and will help de-mist the inside of the car’s windows.)
- Direct the blower to the windscreen and ensure the facia vents are open and directed toward the side windows.
- Use your heated rear window (which also clears the door mirrors on most cars). And some models - notably Fords - have a heated front screen too.
- Brush off any snow from the vehicle and ensure lights are clear and clean.
- Do ensure your car windows are completely clear before driving off.
- Do stay with your vehicle while the engine is running. Your insurance is unlikely to cover its theft if you leave the car unattended with keys in the ignition.
About the Author
Andrew is a freelance motoring journalist with a background in IT and the vehicle leasing industry. With a lifetime’s passion for all things automotive, he can be found behind the wheel of everything from vans to supercars. In addition to reviewing the latest vehicles and technology, Andrew also runs a couple of classic British motors. He lives at the edge of the Peak District with his son and cat.
Andrew Wright @theMotorWriter