It is like a waking nightmare: You wake after a cold night and your car is covered in a coating of ice. You need to get it cleared before you drive away, and there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it.
The wrong, way, incidentally, is to clear a tiny letterbox shape on the windshield and try to drive while peering through this tiny gap until the defroster warms up.
We’ve seen this done and we bet you have too, and it’s so dangerous that we’re not even going to try to make a joke about it.
Leave your cappuccino in the kitchen or drink up before you start (we'll explain later), but bring your smartphone. Yup, life is tough, but you can do this. You’re going to be out in the cold for a bit so make sure you wear some warm clothing and especially gloves.
You weren’t thinking of tiptoeing out in your slippers and bathrobe, starting the engine and sneaking back to your warm kitchen, were you? That is just a bad idea.
Clearing the frost and fog requires the full power of both your heater and air conditioning systems. First, put the fan on full power. The faster the air moves, the quicker the necessary heat and moisture transfer will take place.
It doesn’t matter that the car hasn’t had time to warm up yet. Now set the heater to full hot even though the temperature of the air coming through will be little different than what is outside at the moment. Now set the controls to windshield defog (remember, this isn’t about you any more – it’s about making your windows happy) and be sure the AC is switched on because it helps to remove moisture from the air – and condensation is going to be your next problem.
If you have a rear window defogger or front windshield heater switch them on too.
While your engine is building heat and your AC system is circulating the air, get out, shut the door to keep the heat in (don't lock yourself out!), and use a proper ice scraper to start removing the snow or frost.
If it’s frozen hard, don’t use too much force, and only use a tool that is meant for scraping ice – windshield glass is hard, but you can still scratch it or even break it if you try too hard. Don't forget to clear the rear window, side windows, and side view mirrors too.
If it is this cold outside you really need to pay attention to surrounding traffic, as there may be ice on the roads too.
Or Facebook, or Twitter, or your favorite news site – all the stuff you would have done in the kitchen over that coffee. We told you you’d need your smartphone.
Seriously, you shouldn't leave your car with the keys in the ignition and the engine running – you’re just asking to have it stolen. And if that happens (a) your insurance will almost certainly not cover it and (b) in some places it is technically against the law to leave the car running and unattended. While you’re waiting you can email the boss to say you’ll be late, or check to see if your train is on time.
Of course, if you are smart or lucky, you bought a car with the optional remote start, and can let it warm up with the keys in your pocket while you watch from the house.
As your car warms up and the frost melts away, you may notice condensation and fog building up again on the inside. That’s because the warmer air inside can hold more moisture given off by your damp clothing and your own breath. It will clear as the defogger does its job, but it may take a couple of minutes. A steaming mug of coffee may warm you up, but you don't need it adding to your condensation problems. Sorry.