Alanna Edwards sweeps snow off her car on Maple Street midmorning Wednesday. Edwards was driving from her Bangor home to Bar Harbor, planning to give herself plenty of extra travel time to compensate for the messy road conditions. (BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY KATE COLLINS) Credit: Kate Collins BDN

This story was originally published in December 2021.

Nothing ruins a winter morning faster than waking up late only to find a thick layer of ice completely covering your car’s windshield as you try to rush out the door.

Properly clearing ice and snow off of your vehicle’s windshield is important for both the safety of the driver and the longevity of the windshield. When you’re in a hurry, though, it can be easy to make mistakes in cleaning your windshield — ones that have greater repercussions than you might think.

Eric Lehman of Bangor clears snow from his car as he was getting ready to leave his house to help out a friend. Heavy snow started falling in Bangor Tuesday afternoon.
Gabor Degre | BDN

Tom Rhoads, owner of Sunrise Glass in Brewer, said one of the most common mistakes people make is blasting the defroster as high as possible to melt the ice. He explained that car windshields are made up of three layers: an outer layer of glass, an inner layer of glass and a plastic layer sandwiched between.

“If the inside glass is hotter or colder than the outside glass, the outside glass doesn’t expand as much as the inside piece of glass,” Rhoads said.

If there is a chip in the glass from, say, a rock hitting the windshield, then that crack will run down the glass.

Booker Poirier, co-owner of Dedicated Auto Glass in Biddeford, said slowly letting the vehicle warm up will help to loosen ice that won’t budge.

“Put the defrost on medium and let the vehicle warm up slowly to avoid those quick temperature changes that blasting the defrost contributes to which, if the glass is previously compromised such as with a chip or weakness, can cause a crack to develop,” Poirier said. “Then gently scrape and brush the ice.”

Scott Palmer of Newport, cleans ice, sleet and snow off his car on State Street in Bangor on Friday afternoon. Leslie Barbaro | BDN

Poirier said not to roll down windows to clear snow, as that can cause moisture and ice to develop inside your door panel which can jam your regulator. Also, never use hot water to clear a windshield, as tempting as it might be.

“That’s stressing the glass,” Rhoads said. “When it’s that extreme you might even break it if it hasn’t already been damaged. Anything that’s going to be any extreme temperature change from the temperature of the glass is always a bad idea.”

“Striking the windshield with your scraper to start a crack in the ice can often cause a chip or crack beneath,” Poirier said. “The best way is to use a steady scraping motion to take off layers and once you reach the glass beneath you can scrape and lift the sheet of ice on the surrounding area.”

Also, make sure you are using a new ice scraper without any nicks or dings, one that is equipped with a brush on one end.

The glass professionals said metal scrapers are more likely to cause scratches on the glass. People should use a scraper that is comfortable and easy to use, hopefully helping to prevent rushing the process.

The scraper also should allow people to be able to reach the middle of the windshield comfortably without too much stressing.

And never use anything other than a designated scraper and brush to remove ice from your windshield.

“People will try to use a broom that has metal in it and stuff and might have metal in the bristles,” Rhoads said.

Poirier also added that you shouldn’t lift your windshield wipers off the windshield before it snows, as they could snap back unexpectedly and crack a cold glass. Wiper arms should stay down or be held tightly while cleaning beneath.

Taking these simple steps will not only help you to clear snow, but also prevent you from breaking your windshield glass and save you money in the long run.