De-icing your car is a legal and social obligation – here’s how (and why) to do it.Mon, 09/01/2017
It’s officially the coldest time of year, and this means taking extra care behind the wheel. Taking the time to clear your windscreen and keep it clear is not only sensible and safe, it’s a legal obligation.
Ed Wiseman, The Telegraph, reports:
January and February are generally the coldest months of the year. This coincides with the grim post-Christmas reality of British winter, in which waistbands and overdrafts are stretched to bursting, resolutions wither and die in chippies and station pubs, and we all (sadly) have to go back to work. The last thing we need is a ten-minute chore in the morning.
But motorists are being reminded that in these icy months, it's extremely important to properly clear the ice from your car before setting off. If you drive your car with ice covering your windscreen, you could be endangering yourself and others – as well as breaking the law.
The Highway Code clearly states that "windows and windscreens MUST be kept clean and free of obstructions to vision". During the winter months, this is particularly relevant – you must clear the ice (or snow) from all of your windows, as well as both the front and rear windscreen, before driving. This also applies to condensation that forms inside the car.
You should also pay attention to other parts of the car. The Highway Code states that "lights, indicators, reflectors and number plates MUST be kept clear". Snow and ice could obscure your lights, so clear those too.
How should I de-ice my car?
The only things you should ever use to de-ice your car is an ice scraper and/or some de-icer liquid.
If you have de-icer available, spray it onto the windows and windscreens of your car. By starting at the top, you'll allow gravity to help you out - the de-icing liquid will dribble down the windscreen, melting the ice as it goes. You'll need to use a scraper as well, as de-icer rarely does the whole job.
When scraping, use firm, broad strokes across all the glass. Remove all the scraped ice and snow, and ensure that the windscreen wipers are not frozen. Do not be tempted to just scrape the drivers-side part of the windscreen – the police will take a dim view of this strategy.
You should never use boiling water to melt the ice on a car. While windscreens are certainly more resilient than they used to be, pouring hot liquid onto frozen glass is unlikely to have a positive effect.
Some people suggest using vinegar instead of de-icer. There are no real benefits to this, while downsides include potentially damaging the glass and paintwork of your car while also smelling of a chip shop. And avoid using store discount cards to scrape your windscreen – you'll only get 10% off.
Can I turn the car on and go back to bed?
The short answer is 'no'. If your car's engine is running, you need to be 'in control' of it. While the specifics of this requirement might be up for debate, it generally rules out you being in your house having breakfast while your car ticks over outside.
You could find yourself in trouble with the police if you leave a running car unattended. Worse still, you could find it stolen – leaving a car with the key in the ignition and the engine running makes it very tempting to thieves. You may find that your insurance company won't cover you if you leave the keys in the ignition and the doors unlocked, too.
It's possible to switch the heaters on and wait for the car to de-ice itself while you sit inside it, but this costs time and fuel and is possibly the least environmentally-friendly method. We'd recommend a spray can of de-icer, a good scraper (ideally with an insulated glove-style grip) and a ten-minute head-start in the mornings throughout January, February and March. Clearing your car of ice is an important safety check – as well as a legal requirement – that could make the difference between a safe journey and a dangerous crash.
Although setting the alarm an extra 10 minutes earlier in the morning may seem like a hassle, it will give you the time to combat the cold and stay legal on the road.