Can Ice on Wipers Scratch Your Windshield?


No one really wants to stand in the freezing weather and scrape ice and snow from their windshields. So why not wipe off enough snow, turn on the wipers, and let them do the rest? Ice on wipers can’t really hurt windshields, right?

Ice on wipers can scratch your windshield if the wipers are dry, brittle, or ice-covered. Also, the wipers can scratch your windshield if rough materials like rock salt get underneath them. To prevent damage, scrape ice off your windshield, replace worn wipers, and put them up before a snowstorm.

Even people who know that ice can scrape windshields don’t understand what causes ice to scratch windows. In this article, we explore how the fabrication process leads to windshields that can be easily scratched, how to remove the ice safely, and how to repair minor scratches.

Can the Ice on My Wipers Lead to Windshield Scratches?

Snowy roads are typically coated with salt and sand to improve grip and speed the melting of the snow. However, your windshield wipers can get damaged by salt and sand spraying from other vehicles. With enough damage, your wipers can scratch your windshields. 

Ice can damage your windshields if the ice is hard enough to scratch the glass or because of the dirt and grit trapped in the ice. In addition, small hard materials such as tiny pebbles can become wedged between the ice and the wipers and ruin your windshield.

What Causes Windshield Damage in the Winter?

Windshield wipers are not the only cause of windshield damage. The manufacturing process can also be blamed for the scratches. Although tempered glass is strong, when glass is fabricated, and small debris or dust is not washed away, it is more susceptible to damage.

Most of the glass in your car is made from tempered glass, which is created by repeated heating and cooling of the glass to strengthen it. Tempered glass is used in cars because it doesn’t shatter when broken—it breaks into tiny balls of glass that are less likely to cut someone.  

Windshields are created with laminated glass, two layers of tempered glass with a layer of thin vinyl or plastic between them. This layer prevents your windshield from disintegrating when a rock hits and breaks the windshield. In addition, the layer buys you time until you can get it to an auto glass shop.

Tempered glass is first cut to the required size or shape during the manufacturing process. Then the glass is buffed to remove the sharp edges and the glass must be washed. Unfortunately, not all glassmakers clean the glass well before putting it into the tempering furnace.

If manufacturers don’t clean the glass thoroughly during the fabrication process, dirt or dust particles that remain on the glass fuse to the glass as it is tempered. Later, these tiny particles can be dislodged when the windshield is cleaned or the wipers run across it. Since this dirt is embedded in the glass, the windshield is susceptible to scratches.

So windshield wipers, ice, small pebbles, and improper scraping techniques can lead to scratches, especially since the glass is already susceptible to scratching.

How To Remove the Ice on a Windshield Without Scratching It?

To remove ice on a windshield without scratching it, you need to use the correct technique and tools and avoid doing things that can damage the integrity of the glass.

Use Less Force

When you use a lot of force to clear ice from your windshield, you’re putting a great deal of stress on the glass. This additional force can lead to other scratches. 

Run your vehicle’s defrost on low to medium for 15 to 20 minutes to minimize how much pressure that will be needed to remove ice. After 15 minutes of defrosting, some ice will have turned to mush, making snow removal easier.

Use a Plastic Ice Scraper

Use an ice scraper to clear any snow or ice. Although you might be tempted to use wiper blades to remove a thin layer of ice, don’t. Even a small amount of ice can harm your wipers. Using your wipers isn’t as effective as scraping ice off with a scraper. 

A smooth plastic blade is excellent for ice scraping. However, metal blades should be avoided since they might be too sharp and create scratches. 

Finally, choose a scraper with a handle long enough that you can reach the center of the windshield and still have good leverage for scraping.  

Don’t Stress the Glass

You might be tempted to strike the ice with the handle of the scraper to break a thick layer of ice. However, you shouldn’t do this under any circumstances.

The glass contracts as the temperature drops, weakening the glass. Although it’s highly unlikely you can break the glass, you might create a fracture that will gradually expand over time.  

Another way to stress a windshield is by throwing hot water on it. The heat can cause the contracted glass to expand quickly, and this can cause a crack or fracture. If the windshield is already chipped, the chances of cracking the glass are higher.

Lukewarm water might seem like a better idea, but it can freeze while you’re waiting for your car to warm up. This means you’ll have to scrape the ice once again.  

Even if you’re in a hurry, taking the time to carefully defrost the windshield and correctly utilize ice scrapers is worthwhile. 

How To Repair Minor Windshield Scratches

It is possible to repair minor windshield scratches using a variety of methods. They range from cerium oxide, which seals the glass, to products that grind down the glass so the scratch will disappear.

Cerium Oxide

If the scratch is deep but the windshield hasn’t suffered structural damage, a cerium oxide repair kit will seal the glass.

Technology’s Glass Polishing Compound (available on Amazon.com) is fast-acting and can be used to remove minor scratches from glass. First, make a paste with water, and then use a felt polishing wheel to remove the scratches.

Acrylic Scratch Remover

Although it is used for repairing acrylics, such as headlights, some people find that this works well on minor scratches. QUIXX 2019 Acrylic Scratch Remover (available on Amazon.com) applies quickly and doesn’t require a polishing wheel. It’s worth a try since it is a multi-purpose product.

Toothpaste

A non-gel toothpaste can work on shallow scratches since the grit in the toothpaste will smooth the glass around the scratch, making it invisible. Here’s how to use toothpaste to smooth away scratches:

  • Use a soft cloth to clean the scratched area. 
  • Apply some toothpaste and scrub it into the windshield using circular motions. 
  • You can then gently clean the area with a damp cloth.

Bottom Line

As much as you might be tempted to use your wipers to clean your windshield in the winter, the ice can damage the glass. So take the time to clean your windshield by first defrosting it and then using a plastic scraper. Make your job easier by raising your wipers before a snowstorm.

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