Your windscreen is one of the most incredible pieces of design and technology in your vehicle, and you probably don’t give it a second thought until something goes wrong with it. In the earliest cars, it was simply a piece of flat glass, but things have evolved enormously since then, and windscreen technology continues to evolve at an ever-increasing speed.
Made from toughened glass, the windscreen is responsible first and foremost for keeping the driver and passengers safe from whatever the weather throws at the car. It is also the occupants’ primary defence against flying road debris and any other projectile material that may hit the car during a journey. In order to fulfil these functions effectively, and remain transparent, the windscreen needs to be in good condition, so appropriate care and maintenance is critical.
A windscreen is designed to enhance the structural integrity of the whole vehicle, and is packed with an increasing number of safety features. The glass itself is toughened and should be capable of withstanding blows from external forces, including quite large hailstones, without being shattered. However, if the windscreen becomes scratched or cracked, it may be weakened and unable to provide the protection it was designed for. Here are a few tips which can enhance the windscreen’s safety features and help you to avoid some of the damage that may reduce its effectiveness.
De-ice your windscreen carefully
In wintry weather, your windscreen will invariably get iced up, and if there is snow sitting on top of the ice, this can present a challenge. It is important to de-ice your windscreen thoroughly before attempting to drive, but the way you remove the ice can have a big impact on the condition of your windscreen.
Never pour hot water onto a frozen windscreen – the temperature shock can crack the screen and at best can be harmful to the seals around the glass. Use a proprietary de-icer spray, ideally one of the trigger spray types rather than an aerosol. Trigger sprays tend to spray a jet of liquid that is easier to aim and control, whereas aerosol cans tend to spray a wider stream which can be wasteful.
Read the manufacturer’s instructions prior to spraying, and put on gloves to protect your hands from contact with the spray and keep them from getting too cold. Following the spray, remove the ice with a windscreen scraper that was actually designed for the job. Don’t use anything that has sharp edges (such as a paint scraper) to scrape the screen, or you could cause permanent damage and scratches.
Keep your windscreen clean and clear
It is an offence to drive with your windscreen obscured or obstructed (inside or outside), whether by steam, ice and snow, dirt, or if the screen is damaged within the field of view. Ignoring this rule puts the vehicle’s occupants as well as other motorists or pedestrians at risk of injury or even death.
The exterior of the screen can be kept clear by the use of the windscreen washer system, which should always be kept topped up with water and the correct strength of a good quality screen wash additive (make the solution stronger in wintry weather).
The interior of the screen needs to be regularly wiped to prevent a build-up of dirt and condensation, so keep a pack of screen wipes inside the vehicle. Avoid using cleaners with ammonia in them, such as domestic window cleaner sprays. If you want to make your own screen cleaning liquid, try using diluted vinegar or some kind of commercial alcohol-based liquid.
Get any damage (even small areas) inspected as soon as you can by a myWindscreen expert, and repaired if necessary. Even a small chip or crack can develop over time into a larger area of damage, so get it fixed as soon as it occurs (small repairs are cheaper than large ones), and you could avoid the cost and inconvenience of having to have a windscreen replacement.
Use your windscreen wipers correctly
Your windscreen wipers have pliable and flexible blades which used to be made of rubber, but nowadays are made from silicon which is more resilient and hard-wearing. However, wiper blades are there primarily to remove water from your windscreen. This may seem obvious, but in reality, many drivers use their wipers to remove other stuff from the screen, such as ice, debris and plant material (twigs and leaves). Incorrect use can tear or split the blades, which means they cannot do their job properly, and may leave streaks causing poor visibility. If there is hard debris on your windscreen, remove it manually, rather then using the wiper blades.
In very cold weather, it is advisable to raise the wiper arms away from the windscreen when parking the car. Keeping the blades away from the windscreen can help to avoid a cracked windscreen caused by the difference in the rate of expansion of the flexible blade material and the glass of the windscreen.
Wiper blades have an average life of only 6 months, so you may find it necessary to replace your wiper blades twice per year. The life of the blades is influenced by a number of factors, including local atmospheric conditions such as the amount and strength of direct sunlight and humidity they encounter, speed of operation and amount of sharp debris they remove.
Some other situations to avoid
In the hotter parts of the year, try to avoid direct sunlight when you park your car – park in the shade if at all possible. The sun’s UV radiation is detrimental to the materials that make up a windscreen, and strong UV light can reduce its lifespan or even affect the structural integrity of your screen.
Vibration is a constant threat to your windscreen – hitting a pothole, or even slamming your car door too hard can make the screen vibrate, and micro cracks (invisible to the naked eye) can occur. These cracks can develop into visible damage with repeated vibrations, leaving you in need of a windscreen replacement.
Get an expert opinion from myWindscreen
The condition of your windscreen is critical to the safety of the driver and passengers in your car, and all the other road users as well. A damaged, obscured or dirty windscreen is not only illegal, it’s dangerous and it’s really not worth taking the risk when it comes to safe driving. Get an expert opinion on your windscreen from your nearest myWindscreen technician, and get it repaired or replaced quickly, efficiently and economically.