Does Ice Damage Your Windshield Wipers?


So the meteorologist has called for snow, and many windshield wipers are now raised. Some people think that to prevent damage, the wipers should be lifted. However, does ice even damage the windshield wipers?

Ice can damage your windshield wipers because cold weather causes the rubber to become more pliable. Some people put wipers up before a storm to keep them from sticking to the windshield. Others argue that doing so damages the arms. Regardless, prevention will help prolong the life of your wipers.

Keep reading to learn how ice affects the rubber and the pros and cons of leaving the wipers up. You’ll also get some good prevention techniques and what to do if your wipers get stuck to your windshield.

How Does Ice Damage Your Windshield Wipers?

Ice damages your wipers because it causes the rubber to become brittle. This is due to the contracting and expansion caused by changes in temperature. As it becomes colder, rubber stretches and becomes softer, and as it heats up, it shrinks and becomes harder.

Therefore, when the temperature is low enough that ice can form on your windshield, the rubber will more easily stretch. In addition, the rubber becomes softer at cold temperatures, meaning it has less force to move snow and ice.  

You also see this effect in tires, which becomes flat in cold weather. Not only is the air in a tire contracting, but the rubber stretches. Combine the two, and you need to put additional air in your tires.

When the temperature rises, the rubber in the wipers shrinks, and eventually, the cycle of cold and heat causes the rubber to become brittle.

Should You Keep Your Wipers Up or Down?

You don’t need to keep your wipers up or down. To keep the wipers from getting buried by snow, some people put the wipers up before a snowstorm. However, not all people think it is a good idea to do so. 

No matter which method you choose, the ice will still need to be removed before you drive off.

Reasons To Raise the Wipers

Drivers who raise their windshield wipers before snowfall do so for various reasons. One is that scraping ice and snow from the windshield is easier when your wipers are out of the way.

Also, keeping the wipers up keeps the rubber blades from freezing to the glass. Not only is it difficult to break ice off your wipers, but you also risk tearing the softened rubber off. So if you keep the wipers up, you don’t have to worry about prying them off.

A third reason is that you won’t destroy the wiper motor if you accidentally turn on the wipers, which is more common than you think.

Reasons To Keep The Wipers Down

Windshield wiper arms are designed to lie against the windshield so that the oncoming wind won’t damage them while the car is driven or parked. They are not designed to withstand the force of the wind coming from different directions.

Since the wiper gearing is often made from plastic or thin metal, you risk having the wind damage the gears. 

So if your wipers squeak while you drive, it could be due to damaged gearing.

In a snowstorm with strong winds, the wind can tear off the rubber part of the blade. In addition, if the wind blows the metal wiper arms, you risk having your windshield crack. So the keep-the-wipers-down folks think it’s better to keep them down and get them off with a combination of defrosting and ice scraping.

Which Method Is Better?

The method that is better is to keep the wipers up. Both sides have pros and cons, but when you weigh the risks, the chance of having the wind destroy wipers that have been left up is smaller than destroying the rubber as you try to pry the frozen blades from the windshield. 

How To Prevent Damage to Your Windshield Wipers

If you can’t park your car in the garage, you need ways to prevent damage to the wipers. Luckily, these steps are relatively simple and don’t require that you spend a lot of money.

  1. Cover your windshield. Once your automobile is parked for the night, cover the windshield with cardboard, a blanket, or a carpet remnant. Then lift your wipers, put down your material, and lower the wipers to keep the “blanket” in place.
  2. Pre de-ice. Spray a commercial de-icer or make your own and apply it before a storm.
  3. Buy all-weather blades. Salt and grit can get stuck under old wiper blades and scratch the windshield. Winter-rated windshields and wiper fluid will help protect your windshield. Also, replace damaged blades when you notice them.

How To Clear Ice From Your Windshield

Get into your vehicle, but if the door is frozen shut, you’ll need to tend to that first. Although you can find hacks on the internet, like using a hairdryer, many are impractical. Keeping a lock de-icer spray handy is a better option. 

Hand sanitizer also does the trick.

Once you can get in your car, do so. But before you start the car, make sure the windshield wipers are off. 

Here’s the process:

  1. Turn on the engine and defroster. Push the sunshades down so they can channel the warm air to the windshield.
  2. Step out of your car. Give the defroster a few minutes to warm the windshield if you have the time.  
  3. Use a plastic scraper. The bigger the plastic scraper, the better. You will have more leverage with a large scraper.  Make sure you don’t get clumsy and damage your car paint, though.
  4. Start with the ridges. The ridges on the back of a scraper are designed to break up ice, so run them over the ice. Once the ice begins to crack, turn it over and use the flat blade.

Finally, push snow off the roof before driving away to avoid creating hazardous driving conditions.

What To Use Instead Of Hot Water on a Windshield

If it is not safe to pour hot water on a windshield, why do so many people do it without their windshield cracking? Many sites claim that it is not safe to do so, but people do it all the time, and nothing happens. 

So what gives?

The argument against pouring hot water is that the rapid temperature change can cause the glass to crack. This is more likely to occur if your windshield has chips or is cracked since the integrity of the glass has been compromised.

Instead, use a de-icer, or give one of the many homemade remedies to clear windshields:

  • Vinegar and water
  • Pickle juice
  • Vodka
  • Cold-weather wiper fluid

So although people get away with tossing hot water on their windshields, you risk damaging your windshield. Therefore, it would be far wiser to plan ahead by covering your windshield before a snowstorm hits.

Bottom Line

Snow and ice are inevitably going to damage your windshield wipers, and your goal should be to prolong their lifespan. Whether you keep them up or down is up to you. But whatever you do, don’t pull on wipers that have gotten stuck on a windshield.

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