Defrost the smart way this winter

It is that time of year again; frost covers the windshields of vehicles and the first few minutes of driving are usually a little chilly. As Canadians, one of the aspects of winter driving that we deal with is defrosting our vehicle’s windshields. We may all complain about it, but it’s a necessary practice for anyone who parks a vehicle outside in our subzero climate.

How many times have you heard someone say they need to go start their car to clear the windows? Everyone knows idling a vehicle to defrost the windshield is harmful to the environment, not to mention inefficient, yet not all may realize the extent of the damage does.

First, idling wastes your money! With today’s fuel prices, you’re idling away your hard earned dollars.

Idling is also harmful to your vehicle. When the engine is idling, it is not operating at its peak temperature so the fuel is only partially combustible; causing a build-up of fuel residue on the engine’s cylinder walls (California Energy Commission). To make matters worse, until the converter reaches its peak operating temperature, all of the engine’s emissions are exhausted to the atmosphere untreated. Harmful emissions caused by idling a vehicle more than double that of a “cold start” (Natural Resources Canada).

Today’s modern vehicles only require about thirty seconds of idling in cold weather before they are ready to drive (California Energy Commission), and the only way to properly warm up all parts of your vehicle is by driving it. Furthermore, remember that for each litre of gasoline burned, approximately 2.4 kilograms of carbon dioxide are produced (Natural Resources Canada), so the more fuel efficient we can each be, the better we can breathe!

But, if you shouldn’t use your built-in car defroster, then what should you do?

Well, you can use a manual ice scraper, which is environmentally friendly but, unfortunately, time consuming. A much more environmentally friendly, time-saving, and efficient option is to create a barrier between the cold outer air and the windshield, thus inhibiting frost from forming in the first place. If you put a blanket, or a tarp, or even a slab of cardboard over the exterior of your windshield when you park your vehicle, you will be frost-free when you remove the cover. This barrier can prevent both exterior and interior frost build-up, and defrosting this way is easy and effective. I can guarantee this method, having tested this theory over an entire winter for a science fair project, with frost-free results every time!

In the peak of winter, it is estimated that Canadians idle for a total of 75 million minutes a day; the equivalent of one vehicle idling for 144 years (Natural Resources Canada.) No matter what defrost method you choose, please keep the environment in mind this winter and try to refrain from idling as much as possible.