I live in Vancouver in a neighbourhood that's on a higher elevation and I have to deal with frost on my windshield every other day in the winter. I feel like an eco-terrorist idling my car for 10 minutes every morning just to get it into drive-able condition, and scraping usually seems like an exercise in futility. Is there any technology available or coming out in new vehicles that will alleviate this problem? What about heated windshields like they have in airplanes? – Alayne in Vancouver
When you're out on the driveway trying not to slip or freeze fingertips and using your Victoria's Secret credit card to scrape an icy windshield, it's natural to wonder if there isn't a better way.
The good news is that "heated" windshields for passenger vehicles do exist. They're offered in certain models by some manufacturers, such as Subaru and Toyota.
"Depending on the model of the windshield and make of car, many now come with an electrically heated 'wiper park area' – which is down where the wipers sit. That area of the glass is heated to keep the wipers from freezing, which always helps," says Mike Phillips, northern Alberta regional manager at Crystal Glass Canada.
To have a windshield with this feature installed (typically known as a "windshield wiper de-icer"), your vehicle must be pre-built for it.
"If your car is not already set up for a heated windshield and you want to put one in, the problem is it has nothing to connect to that will power the windshield. The heat lines along the bottom have little wires coming off of them with tabs," says a Speedy Glass spokesperson. "When we install a heated windshield, we have to attach those tabs into the vehicle. A non-heated windshield, on the other hand, just has the glass and nothing else. It doesn't connect to anything, we just put on the glue and lay it in."
If you're wondering whether your vehicle is set up for this feature, locate the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number), which can be found on the insurance paperwork, the driver's side dash, or inside the driver's door. Using the VIN, your dealer or manufacturer will be able to tell you which type of windshield can be used in your vehicle.
And what if a heated windshield isn't an option for you right now? "You can buy a de-fogger product and apply that on the inside of your windshield. Or, I have a spray, it's just de-icer, and whenever it snows I spray it on the windshield and it helps to defrost the ice a lot faster," says the Speedy Glass spokesperson.
An electric interior car warmer is an inexpensive option that can work well to defrost the windows; just remember to unplug it before driving away.
Finally, investing in a remote starter probably won't make you feel any less like an eco-terrorist on days when you have to idle your car to clear the windows, but it will save your fingertips.