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Freezing weather brings rise in car thefts

AA warns of 'frosting' car thefts

AA warns of 'frosting' car thefts

Following the season’s first sharp frosts, AA Autowindshields is warning drivers of the risk of cars being spirited away.

Thieves look out for unattended cars being defrosted with the engine left running, the AA’s mobile windscreen fitting and glass repair service says.

Research for AA AutoWindshields has shown that two-fifths (40%) of drivers let their car’s engine clear icy screens before they drive off.  But they are at serious risk of losing their car if they pop back indoors and leave the engine running, even for a moment.

To car thieves, frosty mornings are a Christmas gift

Dean Hill, AA AutoWindshields technician

Dean Hill, AA AutoWindshields technician of the year, points out that modern cars are almost impossible to steal without the keys. "To car thieves, frosty mornings are a Christmas gift," he says.

Unfortunately, car owners will also get a cold reception from their insurance company as loss by leaving keys in an unattended vehicle is specifically excluded from motor insurance policies.

Survey results

The AA-Populus study of over 22,700 AA members also found that although two-thirds (66%) of drivers also use a scraper and 45% de-icer, or a combination of both, 12% admit that they don’t bother to fully clear the ice off.

Young drivers (aged 18-24) are least likely to completely defrost the glass, a fifth (20%) admitting they drive away with some or most of their car’s windows still opaque with frost, dangerously reducing all-round visibility.

Another 13% of drivers say they use hot water to clear ice: women being more likely to do so (15%) than men (12%). 

Hot water risks damage

Dean Hill says that using hot water brings a real risk of damaging a screen.  Sudden expansion caused by hot water followed by contraction as it cools can cause the glass to crack, especially if it already has chips or small cracks. 

On very cold days this method is ineffective, as the hot water will rapidly cool and almost instantly turn to ice.  Worse, it will accumulate on the wipers and freeze them to the screen, risking damage to the wiper motor or ripping off the rubber if you switch them on.

Tips for a clear winter view

  • While you use a scraper and de-icer on the outside of your car, starting the engine, switching on heated rear screen and mirrors and allowing air-conditioned air to circulate to gently warm the glass is the most effective way to clear frosted glass.
  • Stay with the car all the time - if you must go back indoors switch off and lock the car.
  • Do not drive off until all of the glass is clear
  • Remember not to leave wipers in 'auto' when frost is expected - if wipers are frozen to the glass the wiper motor could be damaged.  Don’t try to force frozen wipers off the glass
  • Never use just-boiled water to clear glass – it could crack the glass, freezes quickly and could ice your wipers to the glass
  • Clear all snow off the car, a soft brush is effective – making sure the front grille is clear (otherwise there is risk of the engine overheating).  Make sure lights are clean and working
  • Air conditioning isn't only for summer - it will help to dry the air and keep cold glass mist free.
  • Don’t use your hands to wipe misted-up windows – you'll leave greasy smears and a diamond ring could scratch the glass.  Use a lint-free absorbent cloth if necessary

(updated 26 November 2013)

** AA-Populus study conducted for AA AutoWindshields October 2012, 22,713 AA members responded. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.