When cold weather hits, one of the biggest headaches is removing ice from your windows in the morning. When windows freeze on the outside or inside, your morning is off to a bad start. Thankfully, there are some tips to prevent this issue.
The best method is to use a solution of water and vinegar on your windows the night before and park inside a closed garage. If that’s not possible, then park facing east and stay away from grass and water near your parking spot. Remember to keep your windows closed and consider using a car cover if you don’t have access to a garage.
In this ultimate guide, I’m going to do a few things. I’ll start by discussing 10 ways to stop your car windows from freezing altogether. From there, I’ll give you some tips to defrost your windows if it’s too late, and a few things to definitely avoid doing to frozen windows.
Why Do Windows Freeze?
Windows will freeze up thanks to science. During the day, the air is warmer so the water turns to vapor. That means that it’s a gas and just part of the air that we breathe.
When things get colder, the vapor temperatures drop and eventually become a liquid before freezing into a solid.
This process is happening on your windows. Water vapor from the air starts to pool up and condense on your car windows. As temperatures keep dropping, the now-liquid water will completely freeze on your windows, creating frost or ice.
This process is sped up since cars are made out of metals and glass which radiate the cold air faster.
It doesn’t even need to be 32 degrees outside for this process to occur since so much cold air is radiating from your car.
Why a Frozen Window Matters
In a lot of states, it’s illegal to drive a car that has frost-covered windows. Why? You can’t see through a window that’s covered in ice. If you can’t see, then you can’t drive safely, and you’ll get in an accident if you do it long enough.
Plus, a window doesn’t thaw very quickly on its own. It takes an extended period of time in direct sunlight and warmer conditions before finally thawing and slowly dripping away.
That means that your morning routine just got a little longer. Instead of jumping in your car and driving to work, you have to spend five to 15 minutes clearing off your car. It’s inconvenient and frankly annoying, having to stand outside in the freezing cold and scrape away the ice.
Can You Permanently Avoid Freezing Windows?
There are really only two ways to permanently avoid freezing windows on your car (without doing anything special):
- Move to a place where it’s always hot
- Always park in a closed and covered garage
Besides that, ice is something that will naturally happen to cars parked outside during winter. That is unless you do something to prevent it. That’s exactly what I’m about to talk about.
10 Ways to Stop Car Windows from Freezing on the Inside
To start with, I want to give you some ways to avoid a frozen car window. I’ll talk about things to avoid and some ways to thaw a frozen window in subsequent sections. The best thing is to avoid frozen windows altogether, so give these methods a try.
Keep in mind, most of these tips have to be done the day before if you want to avoid frozen windows. For example, you would do one of these methods tonight if you know it’s going to get cold overnight and you want your windows to be fine in the morning.
1. Use Vinegar
There are a few DIY solutions that made it on my list. The first one is vinegar.
It seems like vinegar has a use in every industry, and DIY personal car care is no exception.
For this DIY option, you’ll want to fill a spray bottle with three parts vinegar and one part water. You can keep this spray bottle handy and use it whenever you know cold weather is approaching.
Spray a generous amount all over the exterior of your windows. You can use a rag to wipe in the solution. It also works on your mirrors as well as on the windshield, so don’t be afraid to use this solution on all the glass on your car.
2. Try Rubbing Alcohol
You can do the exact same process, but you can swap rubbing alcohol in for vinegar. In this mixture, you’ll want two parts of rubbing alcohol per one part of water.
It should go in a spray bottle as well. You can spray this on all the glass across your car and use a towel to wipe it in.
The alcohol will dry pretty quickly, so you don’t have to worry about rubbing it dry.
This option works by creating a protective barrier on the top of your windows. Even though the solution dries and it seems like it disappears, it’s still there.
Alcohol and water don’t mix. Instead of water beading up, freezing, and creating a frozen window, it will slide away. This option uses surface tension to avoid icing altogether (which is the same thing vinegar does in the previous example).
Since rubbing alcohol and vinegar are pretty mild chemicals and can be diluted with water, this is a very safe option. Some de-icers use not-so-healthy chemicals in their mixture to get rid of ice quickly.
3. Use a Car Cover
Here I go talking about car covers again. In this case, a car cover can help prevent frozen windows.
How does it work? Well, car covers offer a level of protection between your car and the environment around it. A nice car cover will also contain multiple layers of materials which act as a little bit of insulation.
The heart of the solution lies in the fact that it keeps moisture away. A frozen windshield needs water to get on your glass first. With a car cover, the water will pool up on the cover instead and roll away.
4. Park in a Garage
The absolute best solution is to park your car in a garage overnight. I know this option isn’t feasible for everyone reading, but it’s still worth mentioning.
Parking in a home’s garage offers a temperature-controlled environment that keeps your car away from ice in the first place.
If you’re using your garage for storage, maybe you should consider cleaning it out to make room for your car.
An open-air parking garage isn’t going to help a ton in this scenario. You’ll still have frost on your windows in the morning. The only parking solution that truly works is a closed garage.
5. Let the Sun Help You
This tip is for people who don’t have an early commute. You can let the sun keep your windows warm and get rid of any unwanted ice.
You can do this by parking with your car facing east. That’s the direction that the sun rises in. The idea is that the rising sun will shine directly on your car’s windows and warm them up.
This also comes with a little fault. UV rays are known to cause your car’s paint to fade. If you park in direct sunlight all winter, your paint will start to suffer (even though it’s cold out and the Earth is pitched away from the sun). You’ll just have to decide if this trade-off is worth it.
6. Leave Out Some Silica Packs
Another interesting way to avoid your windows freezing is with some desiccant packs. A desiccant is a material that absorbs a ton of moisture.
By using a silica pack, like what you find in a beef jerky pouch, you’ll take extra moisture out of the air.
I’ve tried this a few times in the past and got varied results. It seems that when the air is incredibly cold, they don’t really prevent freezing. However, if the temperature is right on the cusp of freezing, they seem to work really well. Maybe I wasn’t using enough packs when I tried, but that’s beside the point.
Leave a few packs in the hand pocket of each door. The closer you are to the window, the better your results will be.
7. Use a Cut Onion
My personal favorite DIY solution is using raw onion. Grab a yellow onion and cut it in quarters. Grab each of the quarters and rub it all over your car’s windows.
Onions have a natural oil that works similarly to vinegar and rubbing alcohol as I described earlier.
I like this option because it sounds like a joke until you try it, and it works. The first time I did it, I was scratching my head in the morning because my windows were frost-free.
8. Try Silicone Spray
Silicone is an engineered lubricant that you’ll find in a lot of garages and auto shops. It works like an industrial-strength WD-40. By that, I mean it loosens things up, gets rid of squeaks, and helps things move.
I bring it up because it can also prevent your window motor from freezing up. If the window freezes at the very base, the motor responsible for rolling up and down your window won’t be able to work.
Before going to bed, go inside of your car and pull back the rubber gasket at the base of your window. Use silicone spray with a nozzle attachment to spray the very base of your windows.
This will prevent binding overnight and will ensure that your windows will operate the next day. Keep in mind, this won’t prevent freezing on the windows themselves. You should still go through one of the other options in junction with this one.
9. Keep the Windows Closed
It’s essential that you keep your windows closed overnight if you want to avoid frost. Not only that, but it’s important in terms of your safety, so no burglars or mice sneak in your car while you’re sleeping.
It prevents frost by regulating the temperature a little bit. The interior of your car is always going to be more temperate than the exterior overnight. Even though it’s 30 degrees outside, it might be 40 or 50 inside your car.
With the windows rolled down, external air will make its way inside. This will bring down internal temperatures to below freezing and attack your window on both sides, freezing it quicker.
10. Avoid Parking on Grass or Near Water
Fun fact, the reason why you see signs that warn you about bridges freezing over first before roads, is because water and grass get a lot colder than asphalt.
When you park near a river or in a field, your car has a higher chance of freezing than if you park on asphalt. In addition, there’s extra moisture in these environments.
The best idea is to avoid parking in these spots if you have a choice. Parking in a lot with plenty of asphalt and sidewalks is the next best thing to parking in a garage.
In general, you should always avoid parking on the grass. It will promote rust faster than parking on a paved surface. Your undercarriage can rust and rot out if you park on a grassy spot every day.
Ways to Thaw a Frozen Car Window
So what happens if you can’t avoid a frozen window? If you wake up face-to-frost with a frozen window, then there are some options. Here are the top ways to thaw a frozen car window. Before trying anything, make sure you read my next section which dives into things to avoid.
Use an Ice Scraper
The first option is also arguably the best option: an ice-scraper. These are built specifically for people in your exact situation.
I have a multi-use scraper that features a snow brush on the opposite side. This helps to remove some of the ice flakes that get left on the glass while scraping.
If you’re not familiar, here’s how it works. The ice-scraper is a plastic chisel-like piece. You use this flat surface and push along the length of the window. Along the way, the plastic will remove a layer of ice without damaging your windows.
The key is to avoid using too much pressure and never slam the ice-scraper down with excessive force on the windshield. The best angle to hold the scraper is nearly parallel to the window itself.
Don’t use the scraper on your car’s paint or trim pieces because it can scratch them. Also, make sure the plastic on your scraper isn’t deformed or scratched up before using it because that can hurt your car’s glass.
Spray a De-Icer
De-icer is a Northerner’s best friend when it comes to getting in their car in the morning. It’s an aerosol can filled with chemicals that aim to remove ice from all different parts of your car. It can quickly thaw out key slots and door handles to let you in the car.
It’s also effective at removing ice from windows. You can spray a generous amount starting at the top of your window and let it run down. If the ice is really bad, you might need to use a soft towel to gently coax the ice away.
Use Your Defrosters
Once you make your way into your car, it’s time to start up your vehicle and blast the defrosters. These are a part of your HVAC system. The vents are directed right at the windows around your car.
When you turn on your defrosters, hot air comes out of these vents and starts melting away your ice.
If you have a car that you can remotely start, it might come in handy here. You can give your car a few minutes to heat up and defrost your windows before you go outside.
I like to couple this tip with an ice-scraper. I’ll let the defrosters start doing the work then finish it up with a quick pass with the scraper since the ice should be loose.
You can also use your defrosters while you’re just sitting in the car. Your car will probably take a bit to warm up which means your defrosters might not be effective for a little bit. As long as you’re patient, there are no issues.
Before getting in the car, just check that your tailpipe is clear. That way, you don’t get sick sitting in your car while your car defrosts.
Use Hand Warmers
A big thing to avoid is heating up a cold window too quickly. This idea will pop up a lot in the next section. I mention it now because this tip is one that requires a little bit of care.
Hand warmers are a great way to heat up your windows to the point where the ice starts to naturally melt away. However, you don’t want to overdo it. If the warmers are hot to the touch, then avoid putting them on your windows.
They should just be warm. In addition, you shouldn’t leave them on one spot for too long.
Personally, I like to make big circles with hand warmers on the interior of my window. It helps to trace the perimeter of the window slowly in order to distribute the heat.
You’d be surprised to see how quickly the ice starts melting away. Since the perimeter is warm, you can get out of the car and remove the rest by hand.
If you want a shorter version, you can just heat up the bottom line of your window. This will create a gap in the ice that you can use to manually push the rest of the ice off.
Use Warm Water on a Towel
This is another tip that requires patience and care. Grab a bowl or bucket of warm water. Do not use hot water. By warm, I mean you can comfortably put your hand in the bucket without wincing or getting uncomfortable.
Lukewarm water will also work well.
This option is not preferred if it’s still really cold outside. The introduction of this new water will just further solidify your car.
You should only do it if it’s warm enough outside and the ice still hasn’t melted.
Dunk a microfiber towel in the bucket of warm water and use it to melt away the ice on your windows. A side-to-side motion works pretty well.
Make sure you don’t use a lot of pressure. The temperature is doing all the work, it has nothing to do with how much you push the towel into the window.
I’d suggest trying this on a little section of the window on your rear door first. If things start getting worse, then don’t continue and make your more important windows even more frozen.
Leave it in a Warm Place to Thaw
If you have the option to re-park somewhere warmer, you should do that. Ideally, it would already be in that warm location.
The trick here is thawing your windows enough to drive your car safely. If it’s just a matter of rolling your car a few feet to a different spot, maybe you could push your car. Driving with frozen and frosted windows is incredibly dangerous and you can easily wreck your car.
If you have to drive a sizable difference, then I wouldn’t even consider this option.
Swipe Your Credit Card
If you’re in a pinch, you can use your credit card as a make-shift ice scraper. Alternatively, use a loyalty card to a place that you don’t care about so your credit card doesn’t get bent or damaged.
The card should be held with the short side acting as the scraper. Hold the card in your hand and scrape along the width of your windows.
Things to Avoid Doing to a Frozen Window
Finally, I want to talk about some major things to avoid when it comes to thawing your windows. Doing any of these can cause damage to your car and might even shatter your windows. That’s a very expensive problem to have.
Don’t Use Hot Water
Never use hot water on cold windows. Ever. The sudden spike in temperature can cause your window to immediately shatter. It can also cause preexisting cracks to propagate and become much longer.
The rule of thumb is to avoid putting any hot surfaces on your cold windows.
Don’t Use Your Wipers
Your wiper blades have a shelf life, and using them over ice will shorten that. Ice is a rough surface that will slowly eat away at the rubber of your wipers. This is irreversible damage and can only be solved by replacing your wipers prematurely.
While this isn’t the end of the world, it’s just a waste of money. There are many other options that don’t entail changing out your wipers.
Don’t Roll Down the Window
There’s always a temptation to roll down your frozen window to try to force the ice off through the rubber gasket at the base of your window. Alternatively, you might want to roll down your window so you can see without having to scrape away the ice.
This can cause damage to your window motors and might permanently break them. Your window is on a track and the motor can only allow for a certain thickness to be rolled down. With an added layer of ice, your window is suddenly thicker.
This means that you’re overworking your motor. It will strain and might exhaust itself and break. In addition, ice can get into the winding mechanism and cause damage.
Don’t Hit it (with a Hammer)
Never apply pressure when cleaning off your windows. This can crack the glass.
I had a coworker who would use a rubber mallet and just tap the ice on his windows then use his hands to clear it off. It didn’t surprise me at all when one of his windows stopped rolling down and the other one kept sliding down. He was actually the inspiration for me to research and write about how to prevent a car window from sliding down on its own.
Long story short, please don’t hit the ice to make it shatter.
Don’t Use an Ice Scraper on Interior Windows
The interior of your windows has a different curvature to it. An ice scraper won’t work as well and can wind up scratching your glass. The exterior is a lot flatter, which makes scrapers more ideal for external use.
Don’t Use a Hairdryer
A hairdryer might seem like the obvious answer. It will warm up your window quickly so the ice will immediately melt off, right? Not so much. It risks the same thing that using boiling water does. If you use a hairdryer on a frozen window, the window can shatter.
Don’t Use Anything Metal to Scrape
Finally, avoid using any metal surface to scrape ice off of your windows. Metal is harder than glass, so it will scrape and scratch the glass surface.
The worst part is that you probably won’t notice the damage until all the ice is scraped away and thawed. Then, you’ll be left with a scratched-up window that you’ll have to replace. You just have to hope that you notice the scratches on the first window before moving on to the remaining ones.
This concludes my ultimate guide about removing and preventing ice from your car’s windows. I hope that my 10 tips helped you. If you have any secret DIY solutions that you like to use, let me know in the comments below. Check out my blog for more car care tips to make your life easier. I also have some products that I highly recommend.