How to Protect Your Car from Snow and Ice Damage
Auto experts say it's not a good idea to remove ice and snow from your car with a shovel. It could lead to scratching. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Mary F., of Cambridge, Mass.)
When snow falls in large amounts, the task of unburying your vehicle can be daunting. It's important to remove the snow properly to avoid unnecessary damage to your vehicle’s surface.
People try a variety of techniques to deal with these problems, but sometimes they do more damage than good. We have compiled a list of winter “Do’s and Don’ts” when dealing with ice, snow and salt on your car.
Removing snow from a car
Don’t use a shovel to remove the snow from your vehicle. Even if you're careful, it's very easy to get the shovel too close to the surface of your vehicle.
Both metal and plastic shovels have hard edges, which are designed to scrape along the ground to remove the lowest layers of snow and ice. These edges will leave deep scratches and gouges in the surface of your vehicle.
Do use a method and product designed for car snow removal. There are products on the market that have foam heads that are specifically designed to push snow off your vehicle without scratching or scuffing the finish. Even your arm is better than a shovel.
Removing ice from a car
Ice is another wintertime problem. Even a small amount of ice can be just as problematic as a large amount of snow. Ice can also be more damaging to your vehicle and harder to remove.
Don’t use an ice scraper on any surface other than the windows. The hard plastic is designed to scrape ice off your windows and is too aggressive to be used on your paint.
Some people use hot water to attempt to melt the ice off the car. While this may appear to work, there are two problematic side effects; the sudden change of temperature from freezing to extremely hot could cause glass to crack and shatter.
Additionally, if the temperature is still below freezing, the water falling on the ground will re-freeze, leaving an ice rink where your parking space or driveway used to be.
Do remove large chunks of ice by lifting them off with your hands. When ice is pushed off the car, the bottom of the sheet will slide along the surface, leaving fine scratches the entire length of the ice sheet.
Turning your vehicle on and letting it warm up before you drive is an effective way to slowly melt ice off without running the risk of damaging the finish.
Removing salt from a car
Snow and ice are not the only wintertime hazards capable of damaging your vehicle’s finish. Salt that is applied to the roads to help deal with the weather inevitably ends up on your vehicle. Salt will turn even black cars a dirty white. How you deal with this is important.
Don’t attempt to wipe the salt off your vehicle without properly washing it first. Salt is very abrasive and, when rubbed into the finish, it will leave behind significant scratching and marring. Salt can also corrode any exposed metal, so it's essential to remove it as quickly as possible to prevent any premature rusting.
Do use proper methods and techniques when washing your salt covered vehicle. If you're washing your car yourself, be sure to rinse the vehicle thoroughly before you begin washing.
You want to remove as much of the salt as possible to prevent it from being rubbed into the surface during the washing process. If you take your vehicle somewhere else to be cleaned, be sure to make note of their process as well.
When going to an automatic carwash, only the touchless kind should be used. If brushes or foam strips come into contact with your vehicle, they will carry all of the salt and grime from other vehicles.
If this information has reached you too late, and your vehicle already has some of the damaged that we have described, it can be repaired. Contact your local detailer for more information about what can be done.
Editor's note: This is an updated version of a story originally published on Nov. 4, 2013.