If you were unaware that you could be breaking the law by de-icing your car, read on.
Many people don’t realise that the way they de-ice their car is illegal – namely by leaving the engine running and the heaters on. Leaving your engine running whilst your car is parked on a public road breaks the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986, which reinforce rule 123 of the Highway Code.
Many people don’t have driveways, which means their cars are parked on public roads overnight. But letting your car thaw out while it is parked on such a road can result in a fixed penalty notice of £20 if you do not turn the engine off when instructed to do so. To make matters worse, this fine can double if you don’t settle it within a specific time frame.
Although you are permitted to leave your car running on private land, this too may result in problems, especially if you leave it unattended whilst you see to other matters. Four cars in West Sussex were stolen in 2017 after they had been left to run with the keys in the ignition. Each of the car owners was in their house whilst the car was warming up. Cars can be taken from their owners in a matter of moments, and the exclusion clauses featured in all sorts of insurance policies can leave you with no way of being reimbursed for the loss of your vehicle.
Leaving your car running whilst the vehicle is stationary is also harmful to the environment, with engines that are left idle potentially producing double the amount of emissions made by moving vehicles. Engine idling is a significant contributor to air pollution, which is said to cause 40,000 deaths per year across the country.
Nonetheless, it’s essential to note that you can be fined if you fail to de-ice your car. Fines of £60 can be generated for using a vehicle that is in a ‘dangerous condition’, and you can also be met with three penalty points.
To de-ice your car sufficiently and avoid breaking the law, you need to make sure the entire windscreen is free of ice. The mirrors, lights and side windows also need to be de-iced. To de-ice your car safely, use an ice-scraper and de-icer rather than simply leaving the engine to warm the vehicle up.
Avoid running out of de-icer at the worst possible time by stocking up in advance. Make sure the wipers are not frozen to the windscreen as this can burn out the motor and tear the blades. It’s never advisable to use items such as CDs or credit cards to remove ice from your car – always use an item that has been designed for this purpose and never pour boiling water onto the windows as this can weaken and even crack them.