When the warm summer months draw to a close and the shorter, cooler days of autumn set in, vehicle owners everywhere across the UK may be spending their mornings brushing leaves off their windscreens and keeping them free of debris. It’s beautiful living in a lush climate where we experience the seasons fully, but the changes in weather can cause problems for cars and their windscreens.
Although windscreens are less seasonally affected than other components, such as tyres, autumn nevertheless is an ideal time to focus on preparing your windscreen for autumn and winter. Below are five ways to prepare your windscreen for autumn.
1. Clean and wash your windscreen
It’s good practice to clean and wash your windscreen throughout the year, but autumn is amongst the best times to really give it a thorough cleaning. Not only is it still fairly warm outside, making the task agreeable, but it’s also around the time of year when leaves, acorns, and other debris can become lodged between the windscreen wipers and the windscreen.
Using a bucket of warm water and a gentle soap, gently wash the windscreen wiper blades with a microfibre cloth or soft sponge. Apply silicone lubricant if desired to promote quieter and smoother wiping when you ultimately need it.
Then, move the windshield wipers carefully to either side of the window. It’s time to clean the windscreen itself. You’ll need an alcohol-based cleaner (avoid products with ammonia as they may cause discolouration) and two microfibre cloths to get the job done well.
Spray the glass cleaner directly onto the windscreen generously, and using one of the microfibre towels, swipe in a downwards motion, using strictly vertical (up and down) strokes to ensure that the cleaner is evenly distributed. Afterwards, using the same cloth, wipe in a horizontal motion (left and right) across the windscreen.
One common mistake many vehicle owners make is to use circular sweeping motions. This will most certainly cause streaks and smears, as well as not providing an even clean across the entire windscreen.
After cleaning the windscreen, use the second microfibre cloth to dry the windscreen, but this time use circular motions (what we told you NOT to do above) to dry off the windscreen. Whilst drying the windscreen, ring out the cloth frequently and avoid putting the palms of your hands on the windscreen as this can cause smearing.
2. Repair or replace your windscreen wipers
If you’ve taken the time to clean your windscreen for autumn, you can also use this opportunity to run a finger along the blade and check if there are any bumps or notches – a sure sign that you should replace your windscreen wipers. Replacement windscreen wipers can be purchased at most auto shops.
Autumn is probably the best time of year to perform a full check on the condition of your windscreen wipers. Small rocks, leaves, or debris falling from trees may not seem like a major hazard, but all it takes is a single sharp object lodged in the windscreen wiper blades to cause a cracked or shattered windscreen.
This is because as the windscreen wipers are used, they will drag the rock or object across the windscreen. If you’ve ever scratched your favourite pair of sunglasses or prescription lenses, you’re well aware that scratches can significantly obscure your visibility. Not something you want whilst driving, surely.
If your windscreen has been damaged by a sharp object being dragged across with the windscreen wipers, you may be able to mitigate the damage if you act early enough. Otherwise, hairline cracks may begin to appear which can quickly turn into a spiderweb and an unsafe vehicle. If it’s gotten to that point, ensure you take your car to your nearest glazier as soon as possible for a replacement.
Lastly, don’t neglect the opportunity to refill your car’s washer fluid. You’ll be using your windscreen wipers often during a typical autumn, and you don’t want to be left without ample washer fluid to keep your windows crystal clear no matter the conditions outside.
3. Use a windscreen protector
Most commonly found on cars during the peak months of summer heat, windscreen protectors are quite useful year-round. Autumn is a great time to pick one up for your vehicle. As mentioned, falling rocks and leaves can either cause damage or necessitate constant cleaning. Windscreen protectors, as the name suggests, protect your windscreen from the exterior from dirt, debris, and the elements.
Windscreen protectors also serve another important purpose: they keep your car insulated and warm in the winter, and relatively cool during the summer. Most people tend to think of the latter, which of course keeps UV rays and extreme heat away from the vehicle’s interior for a more comfortable and bearable drive, but don’t forget that they also keep the vehicle warmer during the winter since they provide a layer of insulation that keeps the vehicle relatively cool (better than frozen!).
4. Perform a heater check
What does your car’s heater have to do with windscreens? A lot, actually. The most obvious, tangible benefit of a heater is to keep you and your passengers nice and toasty on cool autumn days, and you certainly wouldn’t take a trip to the Highlands in October without one.
In most cars, the heater has multiple vents with the windscreen heater vent being one of the most important for reasons that should be obvious. The clash between warm air inside the vehicle and cold air outside naturally causes condensation which can fog the windscreen quickly. The windscreen heater vent directs hot air from the motor through the vehicle and directly below the windscreen, which helps to demist and deice the windscreen.
The problem with cold weather in the UK is often less one of big chunks of ice and snow that can be brushed away, but rather a thin layer of ice or mist. A properly functioning heater and windscreen heater vents can ensure that visibility is restored within minutes of starting the vehicle.
There are many reasons why heaters may fail, but one of the most common root causes is from thermal expansion which can cause the heater core’s actuator to fail. In any case, what’s important for you to know is whether or not the heater’s working, which should be fairly easy to do!
If your heater core is not working properly, you’ll want to take it into the mechanic shop before winter sets in.
5. Pick up an ice scraper
In terms of freezing weather, the United Kingdom generally doesn’t experience below-zero temperatures very often or for extended periods of time. Nevertheless, Scotland, the North West, and mountainous regions in Wales, for example, can experience those first dips into freezing weather from around October-November through January-February.
One needs only to recall the ‘Beast of the East’ that ravaged the North East and many parts of the country in March 2018 to realise that our weather can’t really be predicted reliably. Heavy snowfall that seemingly saw no end led to schools, offices, and shops being closed for up to a week with traffic conditions being nothing other than a nightmare.
An ice scraper is certainly worth having in the boot or glove compartment should ice and snow make an early appearance (or at any time, for that matter). It’s no wonder why most Americans in northern states and Canadians have ice scrapers on hand – they use them every day to keep ice at bay.
You likely won’t get much use out of an ice scraper in the United Kingdom, but for those 15 or so days where temperatures tend to drop to just under freezing, you’ll be happy you had one on hand. It isn’t uncommon for the first cold temperatures to hit in late October or November, so having one for autumn is ideal just in case.
Ice scrapers come in many shapes and sizes, so purchase one that lets you remove snow and ice with ease. For example, larger vehicles may be easier to clean with a long-handled ice scraper rather than a simple handheld scraper. Scrapers with a scraping side and a brush on the other are great for sweeping away snow without risking scratches to the windscreen.
There are plenty of ways to prepare your windscreen for autumn, but even the best care and maintenance can’t reverse large cracks or significant damage to the windscreen. Don’t risk driving with a cracked or shattered windscreen and instead take action immediately.
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