Minnesota winters are harsh. Characterized by below-freezing temps, heavy snowfalls, black ice, and the threat of frostbite, it isn’t a season for the faint of heart. 

Winter hits everything hard in Minnesota, including vehicles. Along with swapping out your tires for winter tires, keeping your fuel tank full, and checking your tire pressure, you should also be making sure that your windshield is in good condition. 

A close-up image of a red car covered in snow, with its left headlight on. The car is parked on the side of a snow-covered road in Minnesota. The surroundings are also blanketed in snow, creating a wintry scene.

Winter windshield care

Cold weather can take a toll on your windshield and it’s important that you're prepared. Of the many winter windshield tips and tricks, here are a few we think you should prioritize. 


Fix windshield chips

As the temperature drops, windshield glass contracts. If the glass is new, it will shrink uniformly. However, if there is a small chip, the glass on each side will contract away from the other, causing the chip to grow. Small chips or cracks that have gone unnoticed will become more distinct and spread many inches, or even feet, due to the cold weather. 


Chips, cracks, and scratches can make it difficult to clean, defrost, or deice a windshield. Windshield damage can also cause the windshield wipers to become ineffective at removing slush or water, making it difficult to see when driving. 


If they’re small enough, chips and cracks can be easily filled and repaired. However, as a crack spreads, it will require complete windshield replacement, which is a much longer, more costly procedure.


Avoid sudden temperature changes

Dramatic changes in temperature, such as when you blast the heat inside your freezing car, can also result in a chipped windshield. 


When you get in your car and set the heater to “defrost”, hot air will blow across the glass and defrost the ice. The rapid temperature increase will cause the windshield glass to expand. As each side expands toward the other, the alignment and pressure can cause an unnoticeable windshield crack to grow. 


Replace old wiper blades

Old wiper blades can fall apart in the winter and expose the windshield glass to its metal or plastic clips. This can severely scratch the glass. 


Some common signs of worn-out wiper blades are streaking or hazing on the windshield when it rains or snows, a screeching sound when wipers operate, or wiper blades bouncing as they operate.


If you live in a cold climate, winter wiper blades are more durable and made to handle clearing snow and ice.


Finally, always make sure to install fresh wiper blades at least once a year, usually at the end of the dry summer season, to ensure they can effectively wipe the windshield clean of dirt and washer fluid.


Refill the washer fluid reservoir

Not all windshield washer fluids work the same. All-season windshield wiper fluid freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas windshield washer fluids formulated for the winter are safe until about -20 degrees Fahrenheit. Other heavy-duty de-icing fluids can remain liquid at temperatures as cold as -30 degrees Fahrenheit.


Summer wiper fluid will freeze in cold temperatures, which can cause damage to the wiper pump or reservoir. It can instantly freeze to the windshield when used, creating a sheet of ice on the windshield and impairing your vision.


Use a winter washer fluid that has anti-fog and ice mix in the solution and avoid saline solutions. Though salt is used to melt snow on roads, constant exposure to salt can damage glass.


Water-repellent wiper fluids use water-beading technology to disperse water, sleet, and snow. 


If you live in snowy areas, de-icing wiper fluid reduces the adherence of frost, ice, and snow in freezing weather. These solutions contain a small amount of antifreeze to melt snow and ice while keeping the liquid from freezing up in the fluid reservoir.


Keep the glass clean

It’s easier to see small chips on a clean windshield than a dirty one. Also, if there is dirt stuck on the glass, repeatedly running the wipers or using an ice scraper over the dirt can scratch the windshield.


Preventing icy windshields

If you park your car outside at night during the winter, you will undoubtedly wake up to an icy windshield in the morning. There are many remedies you can use to prevent the windshield from icing overnight, including vinegar spray, rubbing alcohol, salt water, or onion. 


You can also invest in a windshield cover or car mats to keep the glass covered overnight. For more cost-effective options, carpet or shower curtains work as well. Parking facing East is another simple and effective fix. Since the sun rises in the East, it may naturally defrost your windshield and you won’t be stuck scraping ice in the freezing cold. 


Wiper blade covers will prevent ice from forming on your windshield wipers. These covers not only prevent wiper blades from adhering to frozen glass, but they also keep ice and snow from settling on top of the wiper blade and arm.


How to remove ice from your windshield

If you wake up to an icy windshield in the morning, here are a few ways to remove ice from your windshield


Defrost the windshield

Before turning on the defroster, turn your car on and let the engine warm up for five to ten minutes. The air duct temperature needs to be at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit before the defroster will work properly.


Do not use boiling water to defrost the windshield. The hot water will help the ice to melt faster, but it could shock the windshield and cause damage. If the glass is iced over, use regular tap water instead of boiling water to melt the ice.


Use an ice scraper after defrosting

Plastic ice scrapers are inexpensive and will prevent scratches or chips on the windshield. Using something other than a plastic ice scraper on your windshield, such as a table knife or metal spatula, can damage the glass.


Winter windshield repair & replacement A close-up image of a car's side mirror covered in frost from the cold Minnesota weather. The mirror and the surrounding car door, which is red, are coated with a layer of ice crystals.

Winter precipitation and freezing temperatures can make it harder to execute effective windshield repair, but it’s not impossible. The procedure for fixing a windshield in the winter will take longer, but it varies depending on the temperature.


If the temperature is below freezing, you may need to have the glass replaced in an indoor, heated area versus having a mobile technician come to you. 


Ideally, the replacement glass should be installed at room temperature. If a mobile company can't keep the glass warm enough in their truck, they may advise you to have it installed in a garage or glass repair shop. Glass contracts in the cold, so if you were to replace the glass outside in freezing temperatures, the windshield may be a tiny bit smaller. When it heats up, the glass will expand and crack if there isn’t enough room.


Both the glass and resin must be kept warm. The windshield must be preheated before adding the resin, keeping it around 70-100 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a precise process because the windshield can’t get too hot or cool and it’s difficult to maintain a stable temperature.


All moisture must be removed from the windshield before the repair. When snow and ice get inside a crack or chip in your windshield, it can cause big problems. As the temperatures drop, trapped moisture could freeze and expand, putting pressure on your windshield and causing more damage.


Damaged windshields need to be repaired right away, even if the outside temperature is below freezing. Cold temperatures can cause a crack to grow in your windshield or can make it shatter. There may be special challenges that go along with replacing a windshield when it is cold, but these challenges should not prevent you from having it done.


If your windshield needs to be repaired or replaced, don’t wait to contact an Auto Glass repair shop. Auto Glass Express performs windshield repairs and replacements in the Twin Cities year-round.