When the weather first gets cold, many of us actually look forward to simple pleasures, like warm sweaters, cozy fires, winter sports and hearty comfort food. Then the (ahem) cold realities of life in winter set in. It's perfectly understandable to dream of wintering in the Sun Belt as you chip the ice from your car in the morning, but when that's not an option, these handy tips will help take the drudgery out of winter driving.
1. Use a Push Broom to Remove Snow
When most people drove small hatchbacks and sedans, it was relatively easy to brush snow off the roof. It's a bit more of a stretch when you have a truck, van or SUV, and even a larger sedan can sometimes be challenging. So, what's the ideal implement for shifting a stubborn load of snow? As it turns out, a push broom works perfectly. The handle is at an angle to the broom head, so it sweeps nicely across the top of your vehicle, and it won't scratch your paint. Start at the top and remove all of the snow from your vehicle before you shovel around it and climb in so you don't make extra work for yourself.
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2. Keep Kitty Litter in the Car
Getting your car out of an iced-up driveway or parking spot – or worse, a place into which you've skidded while unable to brake – is one of winter's most daunting chores. Surprisingly, kitty litter can be one of your best tools in that situation. Keep a bag in your vehicle, and when you're stuck, scatter some around your drive wheels. It works well because it's coarser than sand, and it gives even better traction if your tires melt the snow and ice enough to make it clump.
3. Keep Socks in the Glove Box
When your favorite warm winter socks start to show their age, don't throw them out. Instead, keep a few pairs in your vehicle's glove box or console storage. When you're expecting a frosty night, slide a pair over your windshield wipers so they won't freeze to the glass. To keep your windows from frosting on the inside, fill an old sock (pick one without holes!) with moisture-absorbing kitty litter. If you need to push your car but can't get traction, slide an old sock over your shoes to keep your feet from sliding. In a pinch, you can even use them as emergency mittens to keep your hands warm.
4. Improvised Windshield Scrapers
If you live in the frost zone, you probably try to keep a windshield scraper in your vehicle, but sometimes, they have a habit of wandering away or getting borrowed and not returned. When that happens, you have options. You probably have a credit, debit or loyalty card in your wallet that you no longer use. Those make great window scrapers, though they'll occasionally snap during use (so don't use a current one). If you're still at home, grab a plastic spatula from your kitchen and use that instead. It works just as well, is safe on your window and as a bonus, the handle keeps your fingertips out of the ice.
5. Use the Sun to Defrost Your Window Naturally
Making it easy to scrape your windshield is a good thing. Making it unnecessary is even better. Changing how you park might do both. If you have the option, park your car so that it's facing east. The early morning sunshine will catch the windshield, softening and eventually melting the frost. If you don't need to go out until later in the morning, angling your windshield a bit to the south will maximize that advantage. You might not even need to scrape at all!
6. Fill a Spray Bottle With Windshield Wash Fluid
The low-temperature windshield washing fluid you use in your car in winter does an excellent job of clearing frost from your windshield. So, why not use it on all your other windows? Just fill an inexpensive spray bottle with your cold-weather washing fluid and keep it in your car. On frosty days while the rear defroster does its thing, spray the rest of your windows (and your side mirrors) liberally with the washer fluid. It softens and partially melts the frost and ice, making it much easier to scrape away.
7. Keep Frost From the Inside of Your Windows
Frost on the inside of your car's windows is a real pain because the windows' curve makes them difficult to scrape from the inside. In this case, prevention is easier than cure. Interior frost happens because the air inside your car is humid and condenses on the windows. You can minimize it by leaving your windows down for a few minutes before shutting them to let in drier outside air. Mopping up condensation with paper towels or a chalkboard eraser helps, and so does wiping the inside of your windows with shaving cream, letting it dry and then wiping it off. The thin film left by the cream helps prevent ice buildup.
8. A Few Frozen-Lock Hacks
Unless you have keyless entry, one of the most irritating winter problems is finding your car's door locks frozen in place. There are commercial deicing products available, but if you don't have one, you can use your pocket bottle of hand sanitizer. Like deicing products, they're high in alcohol and will melt the ice. Another useful trick is to keep a short straw in your pocket and use that to blow into the lock. Your warm breath will melt the ice. One other useful hack is to heat the end of your car key (carefully!) with a lighter before inserting it. The hot key should melt the ice enough for the lock to turn.
9. Prevent Your Doors From Freezing Shut
The only thing more frustrating than not being able to unlock your car is finding that the door itself is stubbornly frozen shut. Ideally, you'd be able to cover your car when the forecast calls for an ice storm or other nasty precipitation, but that's not always an option. Instead, head back to the kitchen for a can of pan spray. Spray a light, even coat around the edge of your door and its rubber seal before you close it for the night, and the oil will help keep the ice from adhering. In the morning, it should open up easily once you remove any surface ice.
10. Pack a Winter Emergency Kit
One of the unhappy truths of life in winter is that no matter how good a driver you are and how capable your vehicle is, there's always a possibility that you'll be stuck because of road closures, an accident or just really bad conditions. That's when you'll want an emergency kit in your car. It can include any combination of warm clothes, hand and foot warmers, a blanket, a flashlight or candles for light (and heat in the case of candles), a charged battery pack for phones, bottled water and energy bars or other no-cook foods. Pack your chosen items in a bag or small tote and keep them in your car until spring rolls around.