How to Clear Your Car Following a Snow Storm

By Charles K. Green

Winter weather can pummel your car bringing with it ice and snow which can mar any finish if not removed properly. Road salt and other ice removing chemicals can do even more damage, gradually rusting and damaging the sub-frame steel if left untreated.

Snow Removal

Following a snowfall, particularly one large enough to bury your exposed car in several feet of drifted snow, you’ll want to carefully remove snow without damaging the paint, wipers, mirrors or other exposed and elevated parts of your car. It can be tempting to use a shovel to remove snow quickly, but if handled improperly you could damage your car.

What is the best way to remove snow from a car not kept in a garage or car port? Preparation is the key, something you’ll want to do before the next wintry blast arrives:

Get Ready – If you can garage your vehicle before a storm approaches, then problem solved. For everyone else, you can get ready by removing your ice scraper, brush and door lock ice melt from your car. You need to have these items in your hands as you set out to clean off your car following a storm. Have a shovel, broom and ice melt available too. If your car sits in the driveway, park it closer to the street to make make your exit smoother – just not too close to where the city’s plow can bury it! Leave your wipers in the erect position to make it easier to remove snow and ice later on.

Dig Out – Shovel a path to your car, taking with you everything you need to clean it off. That brush and ice scraper will be useful only when you remove most of the snow from your car. Use a broom with feathered, bristle tips – that natural corn broom will only damage your paint. Clear off your car from the roof on down and clear away snow from the tail pipe. As soon as you can, unlock the driver’s door – you may need an ice melt product to remove excess ice.

Start Your Car – Put the key in the ignition and start your car. If it turns over, put the defrosters on and turn the heat up to its highest setting. A warm cabin and engine bay will help to melt snow and ice faster. Keep your car unlocked and engine running; exit the car and continue to brush it off. Do not leave snow on the surface – brush snow away from the headlamps, turn signals, tail lights, fog lights and around the wheel wells.

Finish Up – Continue to clear snow from your driveway or parking pad. Throw snow far enough to the side to keep your view unobstructed. Keep shoveling until your path to the street has been cleared. Place the wipers back in position, get back into your car, put it into gear and slowly pull away. If stuck, continue to dig around your vehicle until the tires have been freed.

You made it! Hopefully, your adventure was minimized because you planned ahead.

Considerations

Some other points to consider: Never use hot water to remove ice from glass – you may crack the windshield. If needed, use cold water which will quickly refreeze in bitter cold temperatures. Avoid forcing your door locks open – spend time removing ice from the locks first with a de-icer. Lastly, carbon monoxide is a killer – keep snow clear of the tail pipe when cleaning off your car.

Resources

CDC: Carbon Monoxide Poisonings Associated with Snow-Obstructed Vehicle Exhaust Systems — Philadelphia and New York City, January 1996

Popular Mechanics: 16 Cardinal Rules for Snow Shovelling

Photo Credit: Colin Brough

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