How to Clean and Protect Your Windshield
The windshield of your car is the single most important part of your vehicle to keep clean and protect. While your paint, wheels, and engine are important to keep clean so they look nice and work as they should, your windshield is imperative to your safety. It is just as important to your safety or even more so than having clear and properly functioning headlights. Keeping your windshield clean and your headlights clear and not foggy is quite easy to do and should be done routinely.
What Do You Need to Clean Your Windshield
While most people would just grab some Windex and paper towels to clean their windshield we feel there are better products and ways to clean your windshield so it is clean and clear. We try and keep things simple and duplicatable but there are some things that will make cleaning your windshield easier and more effective.
We recommend the following tools and products for a top notch cleaning process for your windshield:
- Automotive Glass Cleaner (No Ammonia)
- Paper Towels
- Microfiber Towels
- Clay Bar
- Detail Spray
- DIY Panel Prep or IPA Wipe
- Plastic Razor Blade
If you are a car enthusiast, weekend detailer, professional detailer, or general clean freak you will probably have many of these items Especially, if you have been a member of our monthly subscription detail boxes.
How to Start Cleaning Your Windshield
When we clean the windshield of any car, truck, or SUV that we are working on we like to start with a nice hand car wash of the entire vehicle. We always use the two bucket wash method when washing a car as this removes the most dirt and contaminants without subjecting the vehicle’s paint to any unwanted scratches or swirl marks.
After we have given the car a thorough bath and dried off the entire vehicle we will inspect the windshield to see if there are any little issues or problem areas. These issues could be bug guts, tree sap, tar, oil, bird dropping, and anything else your car may come into contact with. These little contaminants are where we may take a plastic will come into play. Lightly scraping small areas with the plastic razor will help remove contaminants quickly and effectively without using tons of chemicals or lots of elbow grease. A plastic razor is soft on the glass and won’t scratch or mar the windshield and they are not very sharp so there is no real concern of cutting yourself. Historically, you may have wanted to use a real metal razor blade but it is not entirely necessary.
Once you have examined and corrected the contaminants on your windshield we will take an automotive glass cleaner like Jax Wax Glass Cleaner that has no ammonia in it to do a wipe off of the glass. This is where we may use paper towels since this is one of the first wipe downs of many and it just does another pass at cleaning off fallout, dirt, and grime that has been building up for years.
How to Make Your Windshield Smooth
Once you have done an initial cleaning with a glass cleaner we will take the process to the next level by clay barring the entire surface of the windshield. Using your detail spray or clay bar lubricant begin rubbing the clay bar in a single motion for a few passes. After you have cleaned off the residue from the windshield clay bar that same area of the windshield in the opposite direction. You will hear the difference in the scrubbing of the clay bar as it pulls contaminants from the windshield and it will get quieter as you continue the process. This is one step that the prep work is key and the more patient you are the better job you will do. You will see ghosting and grime pull away from the windshield and you will definitely feel the difference. If you put your hand in a plastic bag and run it over the clay barred area of the windshield vs. a section you did not clay bar and it will feel slick like ice. One tip we have is to use a good amount of clay lube or detail spray to help reduce friction as you clay bar the windshield. It helps keeps clay bar gliding across the glass and will not catch up as much.
After you have clay barred entire windshield we recommend taking your DIY panel prep and IPA wipe and doing a thorough cleaning. The panel wipe will help remove any excess clay lube, detail spray, and film from the clay bar process. Sometimes detail sprays and clay lubes have polymers in their formula which is a good element to have but not in this step of the process so we want that removed from the windshield’s surface. It is also very inexpensive and simple to use. Take your panel prep or IPA solution and spray it into one of your microfiber towels and wipe down the entire windshield again. You could spray directly on the glass if you feel comfortable but we like to only get products or chemicals where we want them so spraying directly into the microfiber towel is your safest bet.
How Do You Protect Your Windshield
After you have thoroughly cleaned, decontaminated the glass, and cleaned it yet again, you should protect all of your hard work with a glass sealant. A glass sealant is easy to apply and does many different things that will keep your windshield clean and clear longer. First of all it helps keep your windshield cleaner because it is more difficult for bird droppings, dirt, tree sap, and bugs to stick to it. This will make routine car washes more effective in keeping your windshield clean. It is also amazing for improving hydrophobic properties on your windshield and makes water, rain, snow, and slush bead up and slide off much faster and easier when you start driving over 35 miles per hour or so. If you use a really good glass sealant like Adam’s Polishes Glass Sealant and do a good job preparing the surface your sealant might work so when that you may not need your windshield wipers at all in some situations like light rain and snow. Watch our very own Brad Mills demonstrate using the Adam’s Polishes Glass Sealant and how easy it is to use with our December 2020 GloveBox. Applying a glass sealant is much like putting a paint sealant on your vehicle’s finish. It is not difficult and almost anyone can do it. Make sure you follow the directions on the bottle and remove the product thoroughly so you do not see any hazy or rainbow areas through the glass.
When it Comes to Cleaning Your Windshield - Detail Matters
Just when you thought you were done with this windshield cleaning extravaganza we throw you some pro tips. One of the dirtiest and most overlooked parts of your car that can make your efforts in cleaning your windshield less effective are your windshield wipers. Your windshield wipers take a beating and are basically a mop that never gets cleaned or ringed out. We suggest either replacing them at this point or if they are in decent shaping giving them a thorough cleaning. If you decide to keep the wiper blades that you have you will want to first wipe down the wiper blades with some paper towels and go in the direction of the blade. This will get a large amount of grime and dirt off of the blades and you will clearly see it on the paper towels. You will see lines of filth marking up the paper towel and it should decrease after every pass.
Next you should spray some of your glass cleaner onto a microfiber towel and continue cleaning the wiper blades until they no longer leave dirt marks on the rag. You can also use an All Purpose Cleaner or even a panel prep but a strong prep spray can wear out the rubber more quickly over time. Finally, lay the wiper blades back down on your windshield.
See just because cleaning your windshield is important doesn’t mean it needs to be hard or take a long time. You should be able to clean and protect your windshield in an hour or two and we suggest going through this process at least two times per year to keep your visibility the best it can be. Before and after winter are the perfect times of year to clean and protect your windshield with these steps. You will love seeing the water and elements bead and slide off of your windshield!