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How to clean your car windscreen inside and out…

Practical Motoring logo Practical Motoring 25/07/2018 Isaac Bober

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Driving safely means you need to make sure your car is in good nick. That doesn’t mean you need to be a fully qualified mechanic and perform your own oil change, it just means you need to pay attention to your vehicle.

Get in a habit of checking the tyres and your car’s head and taillights, not all cars will show a warning light if a light has blown. Check the fluids in your car. These are small but very important things.

Don’t use boiling water…be a little patient

Leading with this one because it’s winter and in a lot of places around the country the frosts can be wicked. Indeed, the other day, my own car which had been parked out the front of the house was covered in the sort of frost you expect to find Beyond the Wall in Game of Thrones.

With my wife running late for work the windscreen needed to be cleared of ice. And fast. Now, if you’ve looked around the Web at windscreen hacks you’ll have come across the old ‘trick’ of throwing hot water onto an ice-caked windscreen. And, in theory, it makes sense. You use the hot water to melt the ice. Simple.

Only it isn’t simple. It’s stupid. See, a rapid change in temperature (boiling and frozen) on the surface of the glass can and will cause it to crack. I’ve seen it happen. What about using lukewarm water? This also carries risks but they’re not as great as using boiling water. While using lukewarm water, and I’m talking something like 38-degrees C, is unlikely to crack your windscreen, it could end up making matters worse by freezing onto your windscreen.

What you’re better off doing is using an ice scraper to clear the windscreen and start-up your car with the front windscreen defroster turned on. Unlike boiling water, the defroster slowly raises the temperature of the windscreens to melt the ice. While clearing the ice from the front windscreen, turn on your rear windscreen heater which is a heating element inside the glass. Some cars offer a heated front windscreen as a cost option.

Demisting your windscreen

Depending on the weather you can often find your car’s windows are misted up on the inside. This is to do with moist warm air on the inside and cold air on the outside, causing the mist or condensation. One of the best ways of clearing a misted windscreen is to turn on your car’s defroster/demister and allow the air-conditioning to clear away the mist on the windscreen by drying the air inside the car.

If this happens to you regularly, the inside of your windscreen can often develop a haze. So, it’s important to keep a micro-fibre cloth stashed inside your glovebox and use it to wipe the windscreen after it’s been defogged.

General cleanliness

We’ve dealt with ice and fog on the windscreen but, over time the inside of your car’s windows can become dirty. Personally, I’ve found the best way to clean the inside of your car’s windscreen is with a Magic Eraser. Don’t ask me how the thing works because I think it might be black magic but it’s genius.

Me personally, I don’t like to spray anything onto the Magic Eraser before using it, rather I soak the sponge for about 20 minutes in a tub of water and then wring it out as per the instructions on the package – you want it wet but not dripping wet so that you’ve got some lubrication across the glass. At this point you could also spray a little domestic window cleaner onto the sponge…sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t.

Then I simply wipe the thing all over the windscreen turning it over from time to time to ensure I use all the ‘clean’ sides. Depending on the size of the Eraser and whether you’re doing all the windows inside your car (tip: a good idea) you’ll probably need to wet the sponge again and wring it out.

Now, a word of caution when using these Magic Markers…don’t use them on plastics or leather or your car’s paintwork because they will scratch it. They’re a micro abrasive product. Nor should you rub one spot over and over again or really dig into a stubborn mark. Take heed of the instructions on the box and while I personally use the product to clean my car’s windows, I’m not telling you you absolutely should use this to clean your own windows, if you know what I mean. That should keep the lawyers happy.

Once you’ve given the windows a light wipe then get a microfibre towel and spray either some water onto it or a domestic window cleaner. Never spray a window cleaner directly onto the glass when you’re inside your car (always onto the cloth or sponge first) as the drips off the window and the mist in the air could cause staining on your dashboard.

What about window cleaner in the windscreen washer bottle?

This is one that will spark debate and that’s because most people’s default idea of window cleaner is Windex…and Windex contains ammonia amongst other things that aren’t particularly friendly to rubber, metal or your car’s paint sealer. But, you can get Windex without ammonia and I have used that stuff in my washer bottle. I heavily water down the stuff, though. And I mean heavily…probably so heavily that it’s not really doing anything truth be told.

There are all sorts of windscreen washer additives and I’ve also used the Armor All Windscreen Wash concentrate which did as it said on the bottle and left a nice streak-free finish. Don’t think you can use this on the inside of your windows, though. It’s not for that. Whenever you’re using this sort of stuff make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions; if it says to water it down then do that…

Some forums I’ve read carry stories of those who’ve used washer additives and have found little jelly fish like blobs clogging the filter of their windscreen washer bottle. I can’t really speak to that because I’ve never had that happen to any one of my cars but then I don’t constantly fill with a windscreen washer additive. I would likely top up the bottle with an additive on every third washer bottle fill.

What about windscreen damage…

A small chip or a crack or even a scratch in your windscreen can obstruct your vision. Some minor chips and cracks can be repaired (by an expert) using a clear plastic resin (with the same optical properties as glass) that’s injected into the problem area. You can buy DIY kits but I wouldn’t recommend it.

I must apologise in advance, and call me lazy if you like, but I’ve only looked at the laws relating to window cracks for New South Wales; I would hazard a guess and say the other States and Territories have similar rules. And, according to the latest NSW Vehicle Standards Information (VSI) a windscreen “should be replaced if it is severely chipped, cracked, abraded, badly scratched, discoloured or cannot be repaired to remove the fault”. And “the area of the windscreen in front of the driver extending across the centreline of the vehicle is only allowed to have the following defects (see picture below), a hairline crack up to 30mm long, a crack from the edge up to 75mm long or a bullseye crack/chip up to 16mm in diameter”.

a screenshot of a cell phone: how to keep your windscreen clean © Provided by Practical Motoring how to keep your windscreen clean

Don’t forget your windscreen wipers

Most people take the wipers for granted but these are a perishable item and need to be cared for to get the most from them. So, next time you wash your car, or every other week depending on the weather spend a minute or two cleaning your wipers and I mean that, dirty wipers can drag grit across your windscreen causing small scratches.

The best way to clean your wipers is to get a tub of warm soapy water and a clean cloth and give the wiper blade a good clean to get all the muck off it. Once you’re done you could then give it a wipe over with a silicon spray but make sure you spray a small amount onto a cloth first away from your car. Give the wiper a good wipe with the sprayed cloth and then wipe it again a few more times with a dry cloth (not the one with the silicon spray); you don’t want silicon being dragged across your windscreen, but the spray with help to lubricate the rubber wiper blade.

© Provided by Practical Motoring

Depending on weather, use and care most wiper blades will last around 12 months before needing to be replaced. The things eventually become hard and brittle and rubbish at sweeping water from your windscreen…replace them before they become that bad. In most cases it's possible to visit an auto accessories shop to buy a new set of wiper blades and replace your old ones; you might want to take the old ones with you to make sure you get the right ones...However, some brands require your mechanic to specially order and replace wiper blades.

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