Driving in inclement weather is always a challenge, but perils like black ice and snowstorms make driving in winter even more treacherous. This MasterKit will help you hit the roads with confidence, by teaching you how to outfit and operate your car for safer winter driving.
4 Winter Windshield Hazards to Teach Your Teen to Solve
Experienced drivers know how to clear a windshield for clear visibility in winter. Here's how to pass those skills on to your teen.
Winter can obscure your windshield in a seemingly infinite combination of ways, and clearing it up isn't always as easy as turning on the defroster or the wipers. Chances are, you learned by trial and error when you were still a new driver. Now, you have the advantage of helping your teen master this basic winter safety skill without that frustration and fear, especially when weather obscures the windshield at highway speeds. Here are the scenarios that can obscure a driver's vision during the colder months and solutions to keep the windshield clear and your anxiety about safe winter driving in check.
Regardless of which scenario your teen is facing, always remind him or her to drive with the headlights on in inclement weather.
Scenario #1: Fogged windows when it's cool and damp
Why it happens: When the air is very humid both inside and outside the car, fog can condense on both sides of a cold windshield and windows, sometimes too quickly for the wipers to handle.
What to do: When this happens, teach your teen to use the air conditioner on the lowest setting. This feels counterintuitive in cool weather, but the air from the AC is still warmer than the cold air outside. It will gradually warm the glass, which is key to keeping excessive moisture from collecting on either side, while also pulling some of that extra moisture out of the interior air.
What not to do: Resist the urge to rub away the fog from the inside - it might seem like it's working, but that rag or sleeve will just smear any residue on the inside of the windshield, leaving a streaky view that quickly fogs over again. It's safer to pull over to a safe spot and let the AC do its job, or even better, make sure the windshield has warmed enough to resist condensation before leaving the driveway or parking spot.
Pro Tip: If the winter air is damp where you live, you can also try reducing the car's interior moisture content with a commercial moisture absorber. Or, you can toss couple of old socks filled with cat litter in the back seat, they'll help absorb extra humidity from the air. Applying a layer of cheap shaving cream to the inside of the windshield and then wiping it clean can help prevent fog buildup in the future.
Scenario #2: Fogged windows when it's cold and dry
Why it happens: When the air outside is cold and dry, any moisture brought into the car, like snow from wet boots, a steaming cup of hot coffee, or even just the driver's and passengers' breath, will rapidly condense on the cold glass.
What to do:Turn on the front and rear defrosters to evaporate the condensation that's formed. Defrosters are actually designed for the outside of the glass, not the inside, but the warmed glass will help in this situation by making it too warm for moisture to collect there. Some cars also combine the defroster function with the moisture-pulling power of the AC for extra condensation removal. Opening the windows a tiny bit can help, too.
What not to do: Do not turn on recirculation mode, because then the car is just moving around the same moist air instead of getting rid of it, and blowing moistened air directly onto a cold, dry windshield will just exacerbate the issue. It’s important that the system brings in fresh air from outside the car. Again, avoid rubbing the moisture away with a mitten or a sleeve as that will make the problem worse.
Scenario #3: Snowy Weather
Prepare for snow:Before the start of winter, make sure your teen has a quality set of windshield wiper blades on the car he or she will be driving, this is important year-round, of course, but good wipers are your best defense against snow. If the wipers leave streaks during fall rains, be sure to change the blades before those drops turn to flakes.
Also ensure your teen has snow brushes and a scraper at all times and teach them how to clean the front, back and side windows. Be sure to remind him or her that the headlights must be clean as well. Thick snow needs to be removed from the hood, roof, and trunk, too.
What to do: If the snow starts falling while in the driveway, brushes and a scraper are the way to clear it off before driving. It can be tempting to turn the car on and immediately blast the heat, but it's more effective to let the car's engine warm up a little before you flip the switch. Then, it'll help soften and loosen the snow from the underneath.
If the snow starts while you're on the road, ensure that the heat and defroster are switched on so that the car and glass are warm, and use your wipers to keep the windshield clear.
What not to do: Don't use brushes to remove snow from the car's painted surfaces because you may scratch the finish. Opt for a nonabrasive snow broom, which looks like a flat foam rectangle on a telescoping rod.
Pro Tip: Propping up your wiper blades them up before a storm will help prevent them from getting buried under the snow (and stuck to the glass). If you covering them with old socks, you can also prevent ice buildup that causes streaks, skips, and prematurely worn blades.
Scenario #4: Icy Weather
Why it happens: Freezing rain and ice can cover a car in a thick, seemingly impenetrable layer. But even when there's no precipitation, moisture condensing from the air can freeze and become frost on your car.
What to do:Unfortunately, the often slow and tedious ice scraper method is really the best way to go. Make sure there's a proper ice scraper in your teen's car at the start of the cold season. In some parts of the country, folks traditionally whip out a credit card and use that to scrape off ice. Experts disagree on whether using a credit card in a pinch will damage the glass, so it's safer to just make sure there's a scraper in the car at all times. Keep it in the passenger compartment rather than the trunk, since a frozen-over trunk can be almost impossible to open. As with snow, the defroster is essential when scraping ice off the windows, but again, it's important to let the car warm up first. Running the defroster while driving will also keep the windshield warm enough to prevent accumulation while on the road.
What not to do: Never dump hot water on the windshield - it's always a bad idea. The vast temperature difference between frozen glass and hot water can cause the glass to crack, especially if the windshield already has chips or small cracks which will lead to a costly windshield repair or replacement. And in very cold weather, the water will re-freeze on the car and the surfaces around it.
Pro Tip: If your locks are frozen over, you can use hand sanitizer in place of commercial de-icer. Just coat your key with hand sanitizer and slowly work it into the lock.