How to Safely Remove Snow and Ice From Your Car
Worst-case-scenario: You just brought home a new SRT Viper and parked it in your driveway to ensure the neighbors got a drool-eliciting look at your ride — made all the more dazzling by that Stryker Red Tinted Pearl paint job for which you forked over an extra $14,600. As karma for your vehicular vanity would have it, a nasty snowstorm hits that night, and by the time you wake up, there's 4 inches of snow covering your $178,000 supercar. You have to get this thing cleared off ASAP — after all, your neighbors will be leaving for work soon and won't be able to tell what's underneath all that snow.
First, do not pull out your handcrafted corn-straw broom and start sweeping away or you'll quickly find that your college-tuition-priced paint job doesn't have quite the same effect with brush strokes etched into it. The same goes for nylon brushes and especially shovels. The recommended tool for this precarious job is a foam brush. A popular one is the SnoBrum, which has a nonabrasive, freeze-resistant molded polyethylene foam head with a recessed hard-plastic plate to prevent contact with the vehicle's surface; it has a steel telescoping handle that extends up to 46 inches for maximum reach.
"Common damage from improper snow removal are scratches in the paint," said Bryan Burgess, owner of Mr. Sparkle Detailing in Long Island, N.Y. "These could be light or very deep depending on the situation. A nylon brush for example over the paint may leave light scratches that will be visible once the car is clean on a sunny day. Remove the snow with a shovel — I've seen it done — and you're at risk for a very deep scratch that is either beyond a simple repair or would require a repaint."
The best way to proceed is to use a SnoBrum to pull, not push, the snow off the vehicle in a straight line from the front bumper by extending your arm as far across the hood as you can, Burgess advises. Keeping all motions in straight lines will ensure that if you do cause a scratch in the paint, it will at least appear to be part of the natural occurrence of your car coming in contact with debris at higher speeds, as opposed to a snow-removal foul-up. You should work from the top of the vehicle down to the sides and then to the hood and trunk areas. The windshield and window glass is hard, so there’s no need to worry about scratching it.
Minimizing contact between your car and the brush will also help prevent mishaps. "I would not try to remove every last bit of snow," he said. "Remove the majority with a brush, then allow the heat from your engine or power of the sun to remove the remaining last little bit safely."
Eco Touch Premium Car Care notes that if you don't have a foam brush handy, you likely have your hands handy. You can always use your hands — preferably leather-gloved — to push the snow off, though your reach will be limited compared with that of a brush. Eco Touch also recommends investing in a car cover (keeping in mind that, in heavy snows, the cover can be difficult to remove) and applying a coat of wax to protect the car's paint from the elements.
Jim Dvorak, a spokesman for Southern California-based wax and polish maker Mothers, stressed that planning ahead is important in prevention.
"Protecting your vehicle with a traditional wax, such as our Mothers California Gold Brazilian Carnauba Wax or California Gold Synthetic Wax before winter sets in is ideal," Dvorak said. "Minimum temperature for waxing — a wax-on, let dry-to-haze and wax-off product — should generally be in the mid-50s or higher."
Likewise, he said, if the weather is warm enough to wash the car, a spray-on wax can be used after a wash. The interior, he noted, should be protected with all-weather mats, while tracked-in soil should be routinely vacuumed and leather cleaned and conditioned to guard against stains and water damage. Windows should be routinely cleaned inside and out to reduce fogging, as well, he said.
Here are some additional tips from our Cars.com editors for keeping your paint job — super-expensive Viper red or otherwise — scratch-free in the winter:
- Joe Wiesenfelder, executive editor: "Use a brass-blade scraper [pictured above] for the thin coating of frost on a windshield. It freaks people out because it's metal, but it's harmless and works like nothing else."
- Kelsey Mays, consumer affairs editor: "A warm car always helps loosen the stuff off the hood and windows. Before you start clearing snow, start the car and turn on the defrosters — but take care to ensure the doors are unlocked and the tailpipe is unobstructed by a snowbank."
- Joe Bruzek, road-test editor: "Paint protection. A good wax or sealant to protect the paint from brushes and brooms people may use to clear snow. There's also de-icer spray for the glass."
- Kristin Varela, senior editor/family: "My husband just ripped the fabric top of his CLK scraping ice off the back windshield and catching the fabric with the edge of the ice scraper. I'd suggest estimating a 1-inch perimeter to leave around the edge windows in this case."
- Patrick Olsen, editor-in-chief: "One note: This tip is not about saving your own car, but being nice to others. Make sure you clear all of the big piles of snow off your car, so you don't become a moving cloud of snow spray and blind other drivers around you."
- Mike Hanley, research editor: "Clear the whole car of snow. It’s also a potential hazard to you because braking suddenly could lead to a pile of snow on your windshield."
Photos by Joseph Gareri/iStock/Thinkstock and Bryan Burgess/Mr. Sparkle Detailing; Cars.com photo by Matt Schmitz