How you could be breaking the law when you de-ice your car

Will Taylor
·News Reporter
·3-min read
Woman cleaning snow from windshield,
Leaving your car to de-ice could lead to problems. (Getty)

Commuting may not be high on the agenda with the government advice to work from home.

But motorists needing to travel will again face spending their mornings de-icing their cars as temperatures drop.

However, they may not be aware that their preferred method could be breaking the law and putting their vehicle at risk.

Leaving the car to deice with the engine running while heading inside for a brew leaves you warm indoors but falls foul of the Highway Code.

It could even lead to your car being stolen, and the fumes idling puts out are harmful to the environment.

Read more: Temperatures set to drop as forecasters predict coldest winter since 2012

Watch: Snow hits the UK

What does the law say?

Rule 123 of the Highway Code says drivers “must not leave a parked vehicle unattended with the engine running”.

“Generally, if the vehicle is stationary and is likely to remain so for more than a couple of minutes, you should apply the parking brake and switch off the engine to reduce emissions and noise pollution,” it states.

Young woman cleaning snow off her car
Using a tool to de-ice allows motorists to clear their car without idling. (Getty)

Drivers who refuse to turn their engine off could be given a £20 fine, according to the RAC.

You need to make sure the whole of the windscreen is completely clear, too. Scraping a rectangle out in the centre, or focusing on the driver side puts you at risk of being unsafe and breaking the law.

Your car could be stolen

Leaving the engine running while heading back indoors could invite an opportunist thief to steal your vehicle.

Police have already begun issuing warnings as winter weather sets in.

Thames Valley Police in Milton Keynes warned in November that drivers should be aware that criminals “could be on the look out to take advantage of a vehicle left while its owner is warming it up to defrost the windows”.

“It literally only needs a moment for a thief to have enough time to jump behind the wheel and drive off with your car,” the force wrote on its Facebook page.

“The simple message is not to leave a running car unattended for any length of time whether it is left on your own driveway to de-ice on a cold winter morning or for example while you pop to post a letter.”

It’s bad for the environment

Keeping the engine running will keep your exhaust putting out fumes.

Read more: UK braces for wintry December weather amid snow and ice warnings

The RAC said: “These fumes contain a number of harmful gasses including carbon dioxide, which is bad for the environment and contributes towards climate change, as well as a range of other harmful gasses including nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons which are linked to asthma and other lung diseases.”

How to do it properly

The code states you “must be able to see, so clear all snow and ice from all your windows” and “ensure that lights are clean and number plates are clearly visible and legible”, so check there’s no ice or snow blocking those.

One man, cleaning his snow covered car in front yard.
Drivers must ensure the whole windscreen is clear. (Getty)
Woman driving car through winter blizzard on road in the UK.
Only necessary journeys should be undertaken when the weather turns snowy. (Getty)

It also recommends making sure your mirrors and windows are de-misted, removing snow that could fall into other drivers’ paths, and making sure your route ahead is clear of delays and severe weather.

Instead of leaving the engine running, use a can of de-icer and a plastic scraper to clear windows and any ice and snow covering the car.

When it snows or the roads are icy, it is recommended to only travel if necessary.

Watch: The do’s and don’ts of COVID Christmas