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Brush to avoid slush | Why cleaning your car after winter storms is important

Leftover ice and snow on your vehicle can become dangerous when not cleaned off properly.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — While it’s important to shovel your driveway for easy access after winter storms, there’s another key step to take before hitting the roadways: clean the snow and ice off the top of your car.

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Whether it’s a chunk of ice or a small snowball, debris can fly off your car and endanger other drivers. Tiffany Wright, a spokesperson with AAA Carolinas, said even more than that, those chunks of snow and ice can swiftly become a weapon.

“You think you’re saving yourself some time," Wright noted. "We’re all in a hurry. You think ‘I’m just going to wipe a little bit off, and when I get on the road, it’ll start to melt. As that snow starts to melt, as that ice starts to melt, we have an ice projectile, and that becomes a weapon, and that becomes dangerous to yourself and other motorists on the road.”

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Reduced visibility, broken windshields, and even death have occurred from people missing this crucial step. It doesn’t just help the drivers around you: cleaning off your own vehicle increases your road visibility and lessens your chance of a collision.

Some states have laws preventing drivers from being on the roads without clearing off their wintry mix. Even though those states don’t include North or South Carolina, Wright emphasized how important it is to remember many Charlotte residents are transplants.

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"Some say, ‘Hey, I’m used to the white stuff, I’m used to snow,’ but other people aren’t. So be tolerant. Be a defensive driver - and give those people around you plenty of room to maneuver," Wright said. 

Please take those few extra minutes, especially if it means saving a life. Here are some helpful tips if you’re unsure where to start:

  • Check to see that the tailpipe is free of snow. This can lead to carbon monoxide build-up.
  • Turn on the defroster! While you wait, clear the roof, hood, trunk lid, side windows, and rear windows. Also, if your car was completely covered, check your headlight, tail lights, and turn signals.
  • Dry your wiper blades and make sure your wiper fluid nozzles are clear. They’ll have a lesser chance of icing over during the next storm!

  • Once the defroster is doing its job, use the smooth side of a plastic ice scraper to clear frost. If you don’t have one and it's a light coating, you may be able to use a plastic card from your wallet.

  • For a thicker coating, use the ridged side of a plastic ice scraper for the windshield. Make vertical slashes down the window, and then scrape across the window surface to break up the ice into smaller chunks.

  • Remember: Never pour hot water on a car covered in ice. The rapid temperature change causes the glass to crack or shatter. And don’t use anything sharp to chip the ice away – these items will scratch or shatter the glass.

  • For fluffy snow, use a snow brush with plastic bristles or a broom to clear windows, followed by a light scrape if needed. Heavy snow may require a push broom, but don't use your snow shovel or you risk damaging your car.

  • Keeping your car in a garage or carport can reduce your buildup. If this isn’t available, you can cover your car with a snow blanket, allowing for quick removal once you need to hit the streets.

  • Moisture in your car can cause fog to build up. Set your air vent to fresh rather than recirculate, and consider using your air conditioner for extra pesky days. They are designed to remove moisture and can do this even with the heater on!

  • Try to avoid getting in the car with damp clothes, which increases the fog potential.

  • Cleaning your windows often can cut down on interior fogging as well!

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Something else to consider is a remote starter. It can save you time with the clean-up process by defrosting your windows and also gets your car nice and toasty when you’re ready to hop in.

Contact Brittany Van Voorhees at bvanvoorhe@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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