No matter how long you’ve been driving, there’s one thing that motorists have in common: struggling to contend with condensation on car windows. And at this time of year, when the temperatures are often at their lowest, spending the morning wiping away the mist from your car is never fun.
But as frustrating as it is, clearing away your car’s condensation is very much a necessity. Not only do foggy windows hinder your visibility, that same impairment also makes getting behind the wheel illegal.
Thankfully, there are a few different ways to solve the problem. Below, we’ll take a look at these in more detail, along with what causes condensation and how you can remove excess moisture from your car.
Condensation happens when the temperature inside your car is different from the temperature outside. Generally, condensation occurs overnight since the temperature outside is lower.
So, when the windscreen is coated with condensation, it’s because warm air from inside the car meets your windows, cools, and condenses, turning water vapour into actual water. The same thing happens with your body heat and your breath when you’re sat inside. In fact, driving an already-misted car can increase the amount of moisture the condensation can hold, and create more mist in the process.
Luckily, there are several ways you can take care of condensation, which we’ll look at below.
Turning on your heater is a good starting point – providing you use it properly. Overloading the inside of the car with hot, essentially ‘wet’ air is what you want to avoid.
Instead, start the heater off cold, then slowly ramp up the temperature as the air dries out. Striking the balance between temperature and humidity in a way that won’t mist up the cabin all over again is ideal.
Make sure the direction of the heated air is towards the windscreen and windows. The warmer air will dry the glass, heat it up, and stop water vapour from continuing to condense.
If you have air conditioning in your car, then switch it on. When combined with the heater, the hot air will dry the glass, and keeping the air con will keep things dry inside your car.
If you don’t have air con, or it’s broken, then keeping the windows down can help clear the windscreen of condensation too.
This is because the dry, cold air from outside reduces the amount of water vapour inside the car, preventing the windscreen from misting over. Once the screen is clear, you can then turn the heater on to a comfortable level.
This method also comes in handy if your windows start to fog up while you’re driving. However, if the condensation affects your vision too much, you should pull over into a safe spot and wait for the windows to de-mist before continuing with your journey.
The thing about condensation is that it loves to cling to all kinds of dirt, grime, and dust. To stop this dirt-related mist, use a high-quality window cleaner and a microfibre cloth to wipe the windows inside and out.
You can also add an extra layer of protection by cleaning it with shaving foam. Hear us out; it’s the same thing ice hockey players use to stop their visors from steaming up during games. You’ll have to do it repeatedly, but a windscreen cleaned with shaving foam is less likely to be affected by condensation than one that isn’t.
Like we said earlier, condensation forms because of moisture in the air. If your car’s stocked with wet towels, raincoats or brollies, then your car is more likely to fog up. Making sure these items don’t live in your car will reduce the chance of condensation – and it’ll take care of that musty, damp smell too.
Likewise, if your car seats or carpets become wet then you should dry them as quickly as possible. You can do this by running the car’s heater and leaving the windows open slightly. The heat will dry out the moisture in the fabric, while the open windows will let the water vapour escape.
Even coffee cups and empty bottles of water can add to the issue. The remaining liquid in these containers will end up evaporating on warmers days and come into contact with the cold of the windows, creating moisture. Be sure to empty out your car of any rubbish if you think this might be causing the problem.
Leaks that have developed over time in your car can also contribute to condensation. Everywhere from the heater matrix to the doors and the sunroof seal can cause mist to occur. That said, if your car does have a leak, it can be difficult to know where it originates. This is where a trained mechanic can help.
However, be aware that locating a leak might be a case of stripping a vehicle down completely, which is going to be pricey, especially if your car’s a little long in the tooth. Older cars are more prone to leaks, and there’s more chance of a leak developing after six or seven years.
If you’ve tried all the above and your car is still creating moisture, then you should seek out a moisture absorber. Things like portable dehumidifiers should do the trick, but you could just as easily fill an old pair of tights with cat litter (fresh, of course). Unless you prefer the smell, you should go for unscented options.