Keeping your car in good condition involves more than keeping the paintwork nice and shiny. Give it the TLC it deserves and it’ll provide you with excellent service. Neglect it at your own peril.
Here, we answer 11 frequently asked questions about car windows, windscreens and wipers. Look after your car glass and you’ll see everything more clearly!
Care of your car windows and windscreen
Visibility is of utmost importance when driving so if your car windows aren’t as they should be, you could be missing some vital signals.
Windscreen wiper care
- Are all the windows in a car made of the same material?
No. Your windscreen is made of a laminated car glass which is constructed like a sandwich. It features two outer layers of glass which hold in place an internal layer of polyvinyl butyral (PVB). In the event of impact, the PVB makes sure that cracks don’t pass from the side of the laminate to the other side. Some hatchbacks use laminated glass on their rear windows too. The side windows will usually be made from toughened glass.
- What sort of cleaning products are best for my car windows?
Even some professional car cleaners use simple white vinegar to bring car windows up to a glorious sparkle. Vinegar is an inexpensive and environmentally-friendly cleaning agent and can be used diluted or neat. Once it dries, it doesn’t leave any vinegary odour.
- What sort of cleaning products should I avoid using on my car windows?
Generally speaking, it’s best to avoid ammonia-based cleaning products on your car glass, partly because they are incompatible with tinting and can cause damage to leather, rubber and vinyl surfaces. Also, when used in a confined environment such as a car, the fumes can be hazardous to your health.
- How can I fix my automatic windows if they won’t go up (or down)?
It’s actually best to take your car to a mechanic if this occurs in order to fix it as the door assembly has to be taken apart. The automatic window system is a tricky component of your car’s electronics. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you could do more damage that could cost more to be repaired.
- How urgently should I get windscreen chips or cracks fixed?
Regardless of how small your windscreen crack or chip is, getting it fixed should be a priority. If the damage is in your line of sight, then it could cause you to momentarily lose concentration on the road ahead or its visual impact could be worse in wet and night-time conditions. Chips and cracks in your car glass can spread or worsen due to the vibration of the car, through changes in temperature or as a result of driving over potholes or speed bumps. These ‘small’ components of damage mean the structural integrity of your windscreen is not what it should be. Don’t take a risk you don’t have to take.
- Is it legal to drive with a damaged windscreen?
Your car may not be considered roadworthy (i.e. legal) if your windscreen is damaged as it can be deemed a ‘defect’. Check with the Main Roads or Transit Authority in your state or territory for further details.
Looking after your windscreen wipers is important for safety, visibility and as part of your preventative maintenance program. If you take your car for regular servicing, your mechanic will usually check if they need replacing and do it for you. For DIY windscreen wiper checks, here are some questions and answers.
- Why are the windscreen wipers squeaking?
This is a common problem but the reasons are just as common. If you use your wipers when there’s not enough rain falling on the windscreen, they will squeak due to the friction. Use the intermittent setting on slow. If the rubber on your wiper blades is worn down, they will not move as smoothly over the glass.
- Should I clean my wiper blades when I wash the car?
You should always clean the wiper blades when washing your car. Simply lift the superstructure of the wipers away from the windscreen and wipe the blades with a soft cloth until it comes away clean. You should actually wash your windscreen wipers even when you’re not washing your car because the better their condition is maintained, the less frequently they’ll need to be changed.
- Why is it important to start with a clean windscreen?
When you install new wiper blades, you want to get a decent return from your investment. Starting with a clean, contaminant-free windscreen means you’ll be starting with a smooth surface that doesn’t have anything on it that could damage the blades, even to a small degree. Contaminants on your car glass can include bugs, tiny stones, sand, tree sap and grime. It’s best to hose down the windscreen, wash with a mild detergent intended for use on cars then hose down again. You may also like to finish with a soft, dry cloth that doesn’t leave lint behind.
- Can I just replace the wiper blade on one side if it’s the only one that’s a problem?
Windscreen wiper manufacturers recommend changing both wiper blades at the same time because they both start out as brand new and should become equally worn from use. Obviously if you have one wiper blade that is worse than the other, you should investigate why. Perhaps there’s a chip in the glass on one side of your windscreen, for example. Changing both blades means better performance all round and that means greater visibility and also safer operation. If you own a hatchback or another model of car that has a rear windscreen wiper, then change that at the same time.
- How do I know if I need to replace the whole windscreen wiper fitting or just the blades?
If you notice any unusual noises such as scratching, squeaking, dragging or vibrations when using your windscreen wipers, it’s time to have a closer look and see if something has come loose. The superstructure of your wipers comprises several moving parts. A number of influences can cause damage such as high winds while wipers are in use, heavy rain, hail, animals such as snakes, cats or possums moving over your car, or the accumulation of leaves in the ventilation gutter beneath the wipers. If you’re in doubt, have a mechanic or your service station attendant take a quick look.
Keeping your car in tip top condition is important for its good looks but also for safety reasons, not to mention saving you money on expensive repairs. Your car glass maintenance is every bit as important as the tyres, engine and bumper bars so do your due diligence and look forward to many happy and safe years of motoring.