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The Proper Way to Dig Your Car Out After a Snow Storm

If you live in the Northeast, you know winter weather can strike any time between October and May. Getting slammed with an unwelcome snowstorm is no fun, and it’s even worse when you don’t have a garage to protect your car from the weather.

One key to making winter weather more tolerable is knowing the right way to dig your car out in the aftermath of a storm. Here’s how to do it without driving yourself crazy or damaging your paint job.

1. Get the Right Tools

Unless you want to decorate your car with a bunch of tiny lines, it’s a good idea to invest in a snow brush made of foam. These “snow brooms” push snow off without leaving scratches the way the nylon bristles on window brushes can, and they speed up the cleaning process. When you’re ready to tackle ice-covered glass, a scraper with a brass blade is the way to go.

Should you ever find yourself stuck without these tools, put on a sturdy pair of warm gloves and use your hands to clear away the snow. It may not be as fast, but it works!

2. Use the Defrosters

While it’s not a good idea to warm your car up for too long, running the defrosters while cleaning makes the whole process go faster. Make sure the exhaust pipe is clear of snow, start the car and get some heat on the front and rear windows. This will melt the bottom layer of the snow or ice coating the car so that you can remove it more easily. It’s also helpful if your windshield wipers are frozen to the window. Trying to pull them away too soon can cause damage to the blades, but once the glass is warmed up, you should be able to lift them without any trouble.

3. Work from the Top Down

Cleaning the car off is a big enough job when done right; you don’t want to have to do it more than once! To avoid repeating yourself, start with the snow on the roof before cleaning anything else. Remove all the snow from the top of the car, the front window and the back window, then work on the hood, trunk and doors. This way, you won’t have to keep stopping to brush fallen snow off areas you’ve already cleaned.

4. Clean the Whole Car

Ever driven behind that one guy who just couldn’t take the time to get the huge pile of snow off his roof? Do yourself—and everyone else on the road—a favor, and get an early start on cleaning your vehicle the morning after a snow storm. Doing a rush job leaves mounds of snow, which can then slide down onto your windshield or back window while you’re driving. Chunks may also fly off and hit other cars, creating a hazard and potentially causing damage.

5. Clear the Perimeter

Once all the snow is off the car and on the ground, it’s time to start digging. Grab a snow shovel, and start by clearing out a path behind the car into which you can back up. After that, shovel the snow away from the tires and clean out the spaces between them.[] Shovel enough snow to allow the car to move without the wheels spinning, but never use the shovel to remove snow from the body of the vehicle.

Investing in a good set of winter car-cleaning tools and giving yourself enough time to thoroughly clean your vehicle after a snow storm makes it easier to deal with unpredictable winter weather. Develop a routine to follow every time it snows, and enjoy clear sailing throughout the season.

About the Author Theresa “Sam” Houghton is a writer, speaker and health coach from Troy, NY. She’s a regular contributor to, and her work has appeared in the Honest Weight Food Co-Op Coop Scoop, Natural Awakenings Magazine and the 2017 Daily Dozen calendar. She has been a featured guest on Focus on Albany, WMAC’s Food Friday and the Just Ask David podcast. When she's not writing or cooking, Sam likes to read and study the Bible, cook tasty plant-based food and knit socks.

You can find out more about Sam at

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