How to Safely Remove Snow and Ice From Your Car

SnowClearning

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.

How to Store Your Car for Winter

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.

SnoBrum

"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.

Scraper

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

 

By Matt Schmitz | February 11, 2014 | Comments (10)

Comments 

Wow! Thanks for your advice to
proper removal of snow and ice from a car.Because improper snow removal are scratches in the paint of car.

Cliff Oswald

Take it from a Montrealer, heating up the car definitely helps loosen the ice for scraping.
Ideally you should go out BEFORE the storm, lift your wipers off and in the up position and if you have a sheet of plastic, put it on the windshield using the doors to hold it in place.
WD40 your weatherstripping to help prevent doors sticking. NO HOT WATER!! Adios window!!
And lastly, don't take off all the snow if you have an $$$ paintjob. Leave a thin layer.

Cliff Oswald

If you don't have snow tires, remember, if your wheels spin, you are toast. Wait a couple of seconds and let the tires get cold, then pretend there is an eggshell between your foot and the pedal.
If you lose traction, throw the car in Neutral and don't touch the brakes (High rev engine compression will slow the front wheels, losing traction) steer your way through. A gentle pull on the handbrake will often bring the steering back.
BRAKE ON THE STRAIGHT, STEER THROUGH THE CURVE!! If you brake on the curve you are heading for the curb. If this happens, turn the wheels to go straight over the curve and DON"T USE THE BRAKES!! You will just pound the you-know-what out of your front end, if you don't damage it. let the wheels do what they are supposed to do; roll over the obstacle.
Keep your speed at half of what you normally do; better to get home a little later than to be filling out an accident report or helping your tow truck driver buy a new Mercedes.

Rule number one: never use the breaks. My from experience always smoothly use the steering role. In an emergency pull the E-Break

Phill Phillips

Never use the Breaks when you should be using the Brakes

Regarding the lack of snow tires, Cliff. Take it from someone who has been driving for 30 years in New England. If you have front-wheel drive *and* ABS, you have options. If you are sliding and you want to stop, you can "stomp and steer". The car will continue to steer while the ABS is working... That's what it's for. Or if you want to be cowboy and you are driving in 2 inches of snow, like my street 2 days after the last storm, if you are skidding in a turn at low speed you can over-steer and give it more gas to pull the front end around. Takes a deft touch but it works.

tom sicilia

I always use plastic hotel key cards or empty gift cards for light frost. Works like a champ and reuses. I'm gonna go hug a tree now.

Most of the time I used to split boiled water on the snow and then use defroster of my car, it help loosening the ice from the surface, then with the help of an ice-scraper I remove the snow.

Ed

Thanks for the tips. One of the most effective tools around the house is a dumpster to throw the $15 dollars worth of crap in the garage into so you can park the $200,000.00 worth of vehicles in the garage.

Great ideas! It is a good technique, I might use this one the next time I need to do it. :D Thanks for sharing it!

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