In poor driving conditions being able to see (and be seen) is an important safety issue. Fortunately there are inexpensive products and tricks you can use to improve visibility.
Winter windshield wiper blades are heavier blades with a rubber cover that prevents ice build up. They are effective and only cost a few dollars more than regular blades. Regardless of which blades you chose to use, make sure they are in good condition. Our intense sunlight causes blades to deteriorate quickly. It is not unusual for them to wear out yearly or even sooner, even with infrequent use. Do not wait to test them out in a heavy snowstorm. If they are starting to streak, it is time to replace them.
Windshield Wiper Blade Tip: Turn off your windshield wiper blades before you shut off the engine. Otherwise when you start up your car, if the blades are frozen to your windshield, you can stress and possibly burn out the wiper motor. For the same reason, do not expect your wipers to brush heavy snow off your windshield. Brush it first.
Be gentle when raising your wipers from and placing them back on the windshield. We have seen wiper arms break from being lifted too forcefully off the windshield. Windshields can also crack if the wiper arm is allowed to drop on its own. Gently lower them instead.
Keep your windshield wiper reservoir full with cold weather (non-freezing) wiper fluid. Buy a good quality washer fluid with a freeze protection rating well below 32 degrees. Never add water to your washer fluid. Adding water can cause the washer fluid reservoir to freeze and crack.
Verify the defroster fan is working. The defroster system in your car works in conjunction with your air conditioning (AC) system. If your AC system is not working you will have trouble with your defroster. If your windows are fogging up be sure the recirculation button is off (a common problem for young drivers who do not understand how their car works.) Another cause of fogging is too much moisture. Run the air conditioning for a bit to dehumidify the air. This is especially helpful after a day of skiing or sledding when you get back into the car with all of your wet gear.
Get a good quality ice scraper and brush and keep it handy.
Clean all the snow off your car. How many times have you forgotten to brush snow off the roof of your car only to have it slide down onto your windshield and block your view? Not only does this reduce visibility, it can damage your wiper system. Here are the steps we follow when cleaning off our cars:
- Start your car and turn the defroster to high for both front and back windshields. When your car is cold this gradually heats up your windshield making it less likely to crack (particularly if your windshield has chips or small cracks in it.)
- Brush the snow off your car, starting with the roof and working your way down and around the car. Pay attention to your headlights, taillights and mirrors. Be gentle. Lights of most newer cars have acrylic lens covers. Also most side view mirrors have a special coating on them. Both scratch easily.
- Clear your windshields. Now that your defroster has had a chance to work, you can gently raise the wipers and push away melted ice. Use a good quality ice scraper to remove remaining ice on the front windshield. If you have a rear window defroster, clear off the rear window last.
- Never use your ice scraper on the inside windows as you can damage the defroster grid and scratch window coatings. It is best to let the defroster do its work.
Never, ever do this!
Tip for cars parked outside: Some cars have heat system levers that are hard to operate when the car is cold. If this is true in your car, we recommend adjusting the heat settings for where you want them to be the next morning when you park your car.
Recently we discovered a product called the Frost Guard. It cleverly attaches to your side view mirrors and protects your front windshield from ice and snow.
Keep your Car Clean. Dirty slush splashed on your windows significantly reduces your visibility. If you can not clean your whole car, at least clean your windows, headlights and taillights. Drive with your lights on, even during the day. This is proven to make you more visible to other cars and is especially important on days when visibility is low.