How to Safely Remove Snow and Ice From Your Car

03 winter driving social car cleaning headlights snow snow brush scaled jpg Removing snow from car | photo by Christian Lantry

Worst-case scenario: You just brought home a new Porsche 911 and parked it in your driveway to ensure the neighbors got a drool-eliciting look at your ride — made all the more dazzling by that Carmine Red paint job for which you forked over an extra $3,270. As karma for your vehicular vanity would have it, a nasty snowstorm hits that night, and by the time you wake up, there’s 4 inches of snow covering your $189,000 supercar. You have to get this thing cleared off ASAP — after all, your neighbors will be leaving for work soon and won’t be able to tell what’s underneath all that snow.

Related: How to Store Your Car for Winter

First, do not pull out your handcrafted corn-straw broom and start sweeping away or you’ll quickly find that your fancy paint job doesn’t have quite the same effect with brush strokes etched into it. The same goes for nylon snow brushes and especially shovels. The recommended tool for this precarious job is a foam brush. A popular one is the SnoBrum (creative spelling of “snow broom”), which has a nonabrasive, freeze-resistant molded polyethylene foam brush head with a recessed hard-plastic plate to prevent contact with the vehicle’s surface; it also has a steel telescoping extendable handle that extends up to 46 inches for maximum reach.

1783133602 1425510588428 1 jpeg SnoBrum

“Common damage from improper snow removal are scratches in the paint,” said Bryan Burgess, owner of Mr. Sparkle Detailing in Ormond Beach, Fla. “These could be light or very deep depending on the situation. A nylon brush, for example, over the paint may leave light scratches that will be visible once the car is clean on a sunny day. Remove the snow with a shovel — I’ve seen it done — and you’re at risk for a very deep scratch that is either beyond a simple repair or would require a repaint.”

The best way to proceed is to use a SnoBrum to pull, not push, the snow off the car or truck in a straight line from the front bumper by extending your arm as far across the hood as you can, Burgess advised. Keeping all motions in straight lines will ensure that if you do cause a scratch in the vehicle’s paint, it will appear to be part of the natural occurrence of your car coming in contact with debris at higher speeds, as opposed to a snow-removal foul-up. You should work from the top of the vehicle down to the sides, then to the hood and trunk areas. The windshield and window glass is hard, so there’s no need to worry about scratching it.

Minimizing contact between your car and the snow brush will also help prevent mishaps. “I would not try to remove every last bit of snow,” he said. “Remove the majority with a brush, then allow the heat from your engine or power of the sun to remove the remaining last little bit safely.”

Jim Dvorak, a spokesman for Southern California-based wax and polish maker Mothers, stressed that planning ahead is important when it comes to protecting your vehicle’s paint job.

“Protecting your vehicle with a traditional wax, such as our Mothers California Gold Brazilian Carnauba Wax or California Gold Synthetic Wax, before winter sets in is ideal,” Dvorak said. “Minimum temperature for waxing — a wax-on, let-dry-to-haze and wax-off product — should generally be in the mid-50s or higher.”

For those mornings when you’re already running late after shoveling the driveway, AAA offers the following tips for speeding up the process of clearing off your car:

  • Use a de-icer spray on the car’s windshield, windows and mirrors. A de-icer can also be used on the windshield wipers, but make sure to lift them off the glass before scraping the windshield to avoid damaging the rubber blades.
  • If you don’t have a de-icer spray on hand, don’t substitute hot water — turn on the front and rear defrosters to melt the ice faster.

When clearing snow off the vehicle, start from the top and work your way down, pulling the snow towards you to avoid clearing the same areas twice. AAA also notes that driving a snow-covered vehicle doesn’t just pose a hazard for you and other drivers, it’s also a traffic violation in some states. Taking a few extra minutes to clear off the car before hitting the road can save you from a hefty fine (or a wreck).

Here are some additional tips from our editors for keeping your paint job — expensive 911 red or otherwise — scratch-free in the winter, as well as being a safe driver:

  • Use a brass-blade scraper for the thin coating of frost on a windshield. It freaks people out because it’s metal, but it’s harmless and works like nothing else.
  • A warm car always helps loosen the stuff off the hood and windows. Before you start clearing snow, start the car and turn on the defrosters — but take care to ensure the doors are unlocked and the tailpipe is unobstructed.
  • Paint protection. A good wax or sealant to protect the paint from brushes and brooms people may use to clear snow.
  • Estimate a 1-inch perimeter to leave around the edge of windows in cases where you don’t want to catch and rip a fabric top with the edge of your ice scraper.
  • Clear the whole car of snow. It’s also a potential hazard to you because braking suddenly could lead to a pile of snow sliding from the roof onto your windshield.

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