Don’t Put Your Windshield Wipers Up in Winter


Despite being in Ohio, where folks should be used to real winters, I still see plenty of people doing boneheaded things to their cars in the morning as they’re getting them ready for snow. Here are some of the most egregious examples I’ve seen, and why you shouldn’t do them.

Kevin Williams is an author at Car Bibles, a coming-soon sister site to The Drive focusing on automotive adventures and DIY tips to help you get the most out of your car. I also promised I’d let these guys publish their hot takes as long as they’re substantiated, which is kind of what we’ve got here! — Andrew P. Collins, Car Bibles EIC

Unlike most of the team here at Car Bibles, ya boy here is not based in SoCal. I, like many of our readers no doubt, am based in the eastern U.S. That means we have to deal with cold weather and one big thing it brings—snow.

Driving on snow has its own set of rules you should follow for safety, but first, you’ve got to get your car out of the driveway. And snow seems to make people struggle with that, too. So here are a few things to stop doing to make your life easier.

Leaving your wiper arms up before a snowstorm

In the past five to ten years, I’ve noticed a growing amount of people who leave their wiper arms up before a snowfall. In the morning, it’s funny to see a whole bunch of black metal sticks poking out from big lumps of snow. 

Maybe this does save some time in the morning—after all, the windshield wipers can’t freeze to the windshield. But this technique can be destructive.

The windshield arms are designed to push the wipers against the windshield because of wind coming from the front of the vehicle. When the arms are stored up, they’re now subject to wind and forces they were not designed for. Now, they’re at risk of damaging the gearing, which is often made of shockingly brittle plastic, that holds the wiper blades and arms securely to the windshield. Do your windshield wipers chatter? This may be a possible reason why.

Wind, especially during a snowstorm, can be incredibly strong. I’ve seen it before; wind can blow off the rubber windshield wiper blade. Then, the wind blows down the windshield wiper arm, slamming it into the windshield, cracking or shattering it.

Save yourself the potential for grief, and leave those windshield wipers down!

Starting the windshield wipers under heavy snow

Snow is heavy—generally at least 20 pounds per cubic foot, maybe more if it’s icy. OK, now imagine that on top of your windshield wiper arms which are accustomed to working against near-zero levels of weight. 

Car owners in a hurry, maybe feeling a bit lazy, just opt to turn on the windshield wipers to brush away snow, instead of using a snow brush. We’ve all seen it! They don’t realize that the snow is pretty hefty. The weight of the snow, strips the gearing in the wiper motors, destroying them. Now, they don’t have working windshield wipers at all—which is expensive, and in this case, avoidable repair!

Putting hot water on an icy windshield

Hoo-boy. You’d think that people had seen the now years-old viral videos, yet and still, people try it as a way to save time. They’ll boil water and pour it on the icy windshield to melt the ice super fast so they can get on their way.

This is one of the easiest ways to crack your windshield (or any other window). The temperature difference between hot water and cold is far too great, which the glass doesn’t like. I’ve seen some catastrophically shattered windshields because of this “hack.”

Don’t do it!

Only clearing part of the windshield, or none of the other windows

OK, not going to lie, I’ve done this one before. Instead of taking the time to scrape off all the ice, or let the car warm up and melt the ice, you just scrape away a little space directly in front of the driver. Other windows? Who needs ’em?

Yeah, no. Driving is more than seeing what is directly in front of you. Other motorists and distractions are moving in all directions. If you cannot see them, how can you expect to safely move among them?

Take the time, and clean off all the windows. Don’t forget the scrape the mirrors, too!

Not removing excess snow from the car’s body

During winter, it’s common for large snowdrifts to accumulate on your car, especially on the top of the vehicle. Please, brush those off! Large drifts can blow away while driving, potentially blinding other drivers who are unfortunate enough to drive behind you. Sometimes, the snow can be so great that its weight can do real damage to other vehicles if it hits them!

It’s snow and ice—no one is asking for you to ruin your paint job by scraping off ice and snow from the body. That said, don’t use a metal-bladed shovel or something. But please, remove that extra snow, so you’re not putting us at risk! Excess snow on vehicles is a finable offense in many snow-belt states, too.

Here’s a basic car-starting how-to list in the winter, so you can avoid those “shortcuts” that don’t do anything but compromise safety or ruin your car.

  1. Start the vehicle, and get that defrost going. Be careful not to accidentally lock the keys in the car! A warm car, with the heat blowing, will help melt the ice on the windows.
  2.  Brush off all the snow from the body. Use your snow brush to remove the snow. Pay attention to the roof; if there’s a big snowdrift then remove it!
  3.  Start scraping! I usually start with the windshield. Be careful with the wiper arms, they may be frozen to the windshield, but gentle prying (coupled with the heat from the defrost) usually can loosen them up in seconds. Don’t let the wiper arms slam into the windshield.
  4.  Make sure you scrape all windows, including the rear window and mirrors.
  5.  When the car is all clean, and you’re sure you can easily see out of each window, it’s time to set off.

Alright! Now the car is clean, you’re good. Winter driving can be daunting, but fortunately, our friends over at The Drive have some tips on that if you’re looking for a little further reading.

Kevin Williams is an author at Car Bibles, a coming-soon sister site to The Drive focusing on practical tips and DIY advice to help you get the most out of your car. Look for a freshly redesigned Car Bibles in early 2021. Meanwhile check us out on Twitter, IG, and Facebook. Actually LinkedIn too, if you’re on there.

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