Can Your Windshield Wipers Freeze?
Roadway Questions | Roadway Equipment | Windshield Wipers

Can Windshield Wipers Freeze?

Ah, wintertime. A beautiful time of year for some, but a potential nightmare for others.  Your car gets no exemption from wintertime. In fact, your car and its ‘extremities’ take a huge beating during the winter. Windshield wipers may take some of the most brutal punishment of all.

So, can your windshield wipers freeze?  Yes, they absolutely can.  When the moisture on your windshield drops below freezing, the wipers will freeze to the windshield. Then you have an issue.

While having your wipers freeze is not one of the most annoying things to happen to your wipers. It is probably the one that can be most problematic.

Why do your windshield wipers freeze to the windshield?

Ideally, the inside of your car is warmer than the outside (if it’s not, you have bigger issues).  Any snow that melts makes condensation on the windshield that will freeze. If your wipers are in contact with the windshield as the temperature is dropping, they will freeze to it. 

Freezing rain is another culprit that will make your windshield wipers stick unnaturally to the windshield.  This can happen day or night. Once that freezing rain starts to fall, it’s trouble for your car all around.

A heavy frost will also make your wipers freeze to your windshield.  Although, frost is not as severe as the other methods above. It will still cause your wipers problems.

Friendly Reminder

Make Sure to do this

Make it a habit to turn your wipers off at the switch whenever you get out of your car.  This will save your wipers and your wiper motor from an early death

The problem with having the wipers freeze to the windshield is that when you turn them on, you may damage the wiper, the wiper arm, or the wiper motor.

How do you keep your windshield wipers from freezing?

Okay, so there are several methods that will work to keep your wipers from freezing to the windshield. 

My favorite method is a somewhat controversial method, I guess.  I like to lift my windshield wipers when I get to where I am going.  If I am going to work, and I know there will be weather, I lift my windshield.  When I get home and will be in for the night, I lift my windshield wipers.  

Where there is no contact, there is no freezing.  So I lift my wipers, to protect them from freezing to the windshield.  One thing to note; before you lower your wipers in the morning. Check for ice build-up at the base of the wiper arm.  There is the potential to damage the wiper arm if there is ice at the base of it.

In addition to lifting the wiper blades, adding a pair of socks to them will seal the deal.  I would do this at night when sleet or freezing rain would be forecasted. This would protect the wipers from any ice build-up, and in the morning all you have to do is remove the sock.  It works! And it’s cheap.

Another option is insulating the whole windshield.  I have tried this, too. I used a towel instead of a proper insulated blanket like this one here.   The problem I had was keeping the towel on the windshield.  When I finally got it to stay it kept the ice off my windshield.  

Lifting my wipers and putting old socks on was a lot easier.

Finally, parking your car in a garage or under a carport would offer the greatest protection.  This isn’t an option for everyone, but if the opportunity is there…  

Now that we have discussed how to keep your windshield wipers from freezing.  What do you do if you dropped the ball and your wipers freeze?

How to unfreeze windshield wipers?

Alright, so you didn’t take any preventative measures and your windshield wipers froze to your windshield.  What are you going to do now? First off, you are going to have to be patient. It’s going to take some time to get them off your windshield.  

Depending on how cold it is and what kind of weather you had will also increase the amount of work you have to do.  For instance, a heavy frost can be conquered with some de-icer washer fluid; while freezing rain will need to be chipped away.

Care needs to be taken so you don’t damage the wiper blade, arm or motor.

Friendly Reminder

Make sure to do this

Make sure that your wipers are off.  If they are frozen to the windshield and you turn them on, you will damage them

So let’s take this step by step:

  • The first thing you need to do is get your car warmed up and turn the defroster on.  This will melt the ice from the inside.
  • Clear away any ice and snow close to the windshield wiper, trying not to rough up the wipers in the process.  The rubber blade will tear easily.
  • Ever so gently try lifting the wiper blade.  As soon as you feel some resistance stop! You take the chance of tearing the wiper blade or possibly bending the wiper arm.
  • Spray some de-icer spray along the windshield wiper.  This is not the stuff in your washer fluid. This is a can of de-icer spray. This will begin to break down the ice build up around your windshield wiper.
  • Let the solution work its magic for a few minutes (clean off the rest of the car while you wait, even the stuff on your roof!)
  • Try scraping around the windshield wipers again.  Do this gently, because you don’t want to damage the wiper blade.
  • After you scrape more ice away from the windshield wiper, gently pull up on the wiper.  You need to keep doing this to see if you can get some separation of the wiper from the windshield. 
  • At this point, it is rinse and repeat until you can lift your windshield wipers all the way up.
  • After you can lift your windshield wipers all the way up. Clean any ice off of them, also clean around the base of your wipers.  Sometimes ice will build up here and interfere with your wiper operation.
  • Finally, when you have your wipers cleaned off, the inside of your car should be nice and toasty.  Get in and spray your windshield with your winter formula windshield washer fluid. This will clean off any remaining slop that is on your windshield.  

At this point, you should be good to go.  Next time lift up your windshield wipers.

How to keep your windshield from icing up while driving

Well now that you have got your windshield wipers free from the windshield, how do you keep them from icing up while you are driving?  When your windshield wipers are frozen to the windshield while you are parked is one thing. To have them icing up while you are driving is dangerous.

Having ice build up on your wipers while you are driving can happen in a few ways.  One, it’s snowing outside, the wet heavy snow, that will cause you some problems.  

Worse than that is sleet or freezing rain.  Try not to drive in sleet or freezing rain if you can help it.  Not only does it cause black ice; it will cause a build-up of ice on your windshield wipers.

Lastly, blowoff from other cars on the road.  From the dirt and junk on the road combined with the snow or rain can cause your wipers to freeze up.

So what can you do about it?

Unfortunately, there are only a few options, but they are very effective.

First and foremost is to keep your defrosters on as high as you can.  This will make you a bit warm in the cabin of your car, but it will also keep the windshield warm.  If the windshield is warm, it will melt the snow or ice that is hitting it. 

Rub your windshield wipers down with rubbing alcohol.  For a limited time, this will keep the ice from building upon them.

Finally, don’t be shy with the washer fluid.  The winter formulas usually contain some sort of de-icer.  This will help with keeping the ice from building up on the wipers.

When all else fails, find a safe place and pull off the road.  Get out your trusty ice scraper and clean off your windshield wipers and your windshield.  It’s better to be safe than to get into an accident because you can’t see.

Final Thoughts…

Driving in ice and snow is hard enough as it is. Don’t try to take shortcuts with your car.  Take the time to make sure your vehicle is in the best shape it can be. This includes making sure that your wipers are free and clear of any ice.

Safe travels….

Resources:

https://itstillruns.com/fix-frozen-windshield-wiper-6143977.html

https://www.plymouthrock.com/blog/5-ways-help-stop-ice-forming-wiper-blades/

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