Anyone who lives in the colder parts of the country can relate - you come out to your car one morning in a rush to get somewhere, only to have to stop and take minutes to scrape frost and ice off your windshield and windows. One way to prevent this morning rush is simple: Park under a carport. Even an open-sided carport can help prevent frost from forming on your car. But how?

Carport Frost Prevention

How Frost Works

When trying to understand why car windshields attract frost so well, it helps to know what frost is and how it forms.

Frost is different from other forms of frozen precipitation like snow, sleet and hail. This is because frost isn’t really precipitation at all - it does not fall out of the sky. Instead, frost is formed when water vapor in the air condenses on a cold surface and then freezes in place.

In most cases when water condenses on a cold surface, it stays liquid. This is what causes dew on the lawn during summer mornings and sweat on the outside of a cold glass of water. However, in some cases the surface the water condenses on can get cold enough to freeze the water - even if the surrounding air never goes below freezing. This is why you can see frost on chilly mornings, even if the air temperature stayed above 32 degrees all night.

The Role of Radiation

How can surfaces get colder than the air around them? Because of heat radiation. All objects release heat energy - this is what lets infrared “heat-sensing” goggles and laser thermometers work. As objects release this energy, their temperature drops. However, this energy also reflects off other surfaces, so many objects close together will stay “warmer” than something placed in an open area by itself.

If you park your car in the open, it won’t have anything to reflect its heat energy off of. Instead, most of its heat radiation will be absorbed by the sky - which unfortunately will not reflect any back. (This is also why clear, cloudless nights feel much colder than cloudy ones - there aren’t any clouds to bounce heat off of). As your car loses heat, the surface can get extremely cold - the perfect circumstance for frost.

How a Carport Helps

So how does a carport prevent frost from forming? Simple: a carport provides a surface for your car’s heat radiation to reflect back to it, and it also radiates its own heat which keeps objects close to it warmer.

When your car is parked in the open, its heat is simply lost. However, when you park under a carport the two objects can “exchange” heat radiation. This keeps the surfaces warmer - in most cases, warm enough to avoid dropping below freezing or allowing frost to form.

You might notice the same effect even when you don’t have a carport. If you park your car next to a house, a big tree, or another car, you might notice that the side of your car exposed to open air is frosty while the other side is clear. This is because the other object is radiating heat of its own, exchanging it with your car and preventing frost from forming.

Other Frost Tips

If you do end up with frost on your car and you need to clean it off quickly, there are a few things you can do - and a few you should avoid.

Use Water to Melt Frost

To clean frost off your car fast, you can try pouring some cool or lukewarm water on the areas you wish to warm up. Unless it’s extremely cold where you are, even cool water will be enough to raise the temperature of your windshield or windows by a few degrees.

However, you should never - never! - use hot or boiling water to melt ice or frost on your car. The rapid temperature change from using very hot water could cause your windshield or windows to crack. This is because parts of the glass will be changing temperature much faster than other areas. This causes uneven expansion, leading to cracks or even shattering.

Use Deicing Solution

Deicer is another popular way to get frost off a car fast. Most deicers are simple solutions of either ethyl or isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, soap, and sometimes a gel to thicken the substance and help it stick to windows. Deicer works because its freezing point is much lower than the freezing point of water. When you spray it on a cold window, it absorbs some of the temperature difference but does not freeze, allowing you to loosen the ice easily.

If you do use a chemical deicer, make sure you’re cautious with it and follow the instructions. Over-application can lead to buildup on your car, or it can run off and get into your municipal water or sewer system. In general you should only use enough to loosen ice and frost, not enough to melt it completely.

Cover Your Windows

A final tip doesn’t just remove frost - it prevents it from forming entirely. By using a cover over the outside of your windows, you can cause frost to instead form on that surface and leave your windows and windshield clear.

Many people use simple coverings like a towel, sheet, or a piece of cardboard. Don’t use anything too heavy or anything that could scratch your car - a light covering should be plenty. For your windshield, you can also use your car’s windshield wipers to hold the cover in place overnight.

Get Your Steel Carport Today

Want to learn more about the ways a steel carport can benefit you? Contact us today at Bargain Barns USA. We have decades of experience with steel carports and buildings, and we’ll help you choose the perfect unit for your needs. Call 405-872-0338 today to learn more or visit our Facebook page to see more tips and advice!