The problem of smeared windscreens in the rain has driven me nuts ever since I started driving, but it became a major headache when I became a driving instructor.
We’ve all experienced it. You get a few spots of rain, and when the wipers wipe you get a mosaic pattern left behind for a few seconds. In heavy rain it’s like someone poured chip fat on the screen and you can’t see properly.
Just to clarify, but there are two separate situations involved here. The normal everyday situation is that muck gets on to your windscreen, and you need to get it off. You do that by squirting some of your screen wash on to the glass, and the wipers wipe the muck away. I’ve talked about how to do that in the article about making your own screen wash. However, over time you get oil and wax bound to the screen which is very difficult to get off, and that is the second situation, and the subject of his article.
Things came to a head some years ago when my lease company replaced my car. From the first day I owned it, in rain you couldn’t see anything. All the previously tried methods, which had given various levels of success, failed completely. Scrunched up newspaper was no good, sodium lauryl sulphate had a minor effect, various solvents also minor, and Clearalex was probably the best but still far from perfect.
The problem was so bad that I seriously thought that the glass must have been damaged in some way.
Normal smearing is caused by gunk on the road loosely binding to the glass. All you need is a bit of water and detergent and it comes straight off. But wax is a totally different matter. A tiny amount of it can affect the entire surface of the glass, and is does not come off with normal detergents. In fact, the process of washing the car can be a major culprit – sponges and rags get wax on them from any waxing process you use, and if you go near the glass with them it gets on there, too. It’s even worse if you use hand car washes regularly (as I do).
The other thing to remember is that your wiper blades can also get wax on them. Even if you get your glass sparkling clean, a few wipes of contaminated blades can mess it up again almost immediately. Furthermore, if you clean the glass and the blades, but leave any wax in the well where the wipers sit, they pick it up and spread it around again.
That lease car – and several others since – appears to have had some manufacturing residue still on the glass, because I was also having problem inside with misting and hazy marks with certain sun angles.
So how can you get it off?
Clearalex is available as a liquid, but you used to be able to buy it in sachets in powder form. It is intended to be added to your screen wash, and it cleans quite well, but the drawback is that it leaves a horrible white residue when it dries. I have had some success with Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS), which is an anionic surfactant used in many household products. It removes quite a lot of windscreen gunk, but it didn’t seem to touch wax or my residue, and it also leaves annoying white marks on the glass when it dries.
However, I eventually came across Sugar Soap. I’d not heard about it before, but it is used by decorators and builders to remove grease and dirt from surfaces prior to painting, and it occurred to me that that was precisely what I was trying to achieve with my apparently permanently gunked windscreen.
Wikipedia describes it thus:
Sugar soap as typically found in Commonwealth countries is a cleaning material of variable composition sold for use on surfaces affected by greasy or tarry deposits which are not easily removed with routine domestic cleaning materials. When in dry powder form it looks like table sugar thus causing the name.
The solution is alkaline and its uses include cleaning paintwork in preparation for repainting.
The powder form looks exactly like Clearalex powder, and I suspect that there may be some similarities in chemical composition. But you can get liquid and trigger spray variants of it. The main difference between Clearalex and sugar soap is that the latter is dirt cheap, whereas the former comes at a premium price. You simply make up a bucket of the stuff with warm water and give your windscreen a good going over with a clean rag or sponge.
In the case of my ‘damaged’ windscreen, I soaked some cloths in the solution and gave my windscreen a good scrub. Then I then took the car out for a run in the rain.
Initially, I thought it hadn’t worked. But with each wiper pass the glass was became clearer and clearer. The sugar soap appeared to have softened whatever it was on the glass and it was gradually coming off. When I got back home I soaked the rags again and this time left them covering the windscreen for about half an hour (not forgetting the bit under the wipers). I also cleaned the blades with it. This time the windscreen was absolutely crystal clear.
In conclusion, Sugar Soap is great for one-off cleaning. However, it leaves a nasty white residue when it dries if you try to include it in normal screen wash.
Traffic Film Remover (TFR)
Not long after all this, I stopped using the Tiger Wash (drive thru) at my local garage and started using a local hand car wash – partly as a result of the garage hiking fuel prices, and partly because the hand car wash also did a damned good vacuum clean of the inside of the car. I was intrigued at how clean they could get the car just using some small hand pumps and a power spray. The next time I was in, I did a bit of snooping around and discovered ‘TFR’ – or ‘traffic film remover’.
After reading up on the subject, I bought some TFR from a company called JennyChem. If you use the code BAYJC8628 you will get a discount. They also supply the mysterious cherry-smelling shampoo the hand car washes use, along with a range of other treatments used by car washes. In a nutshell, a 1-2% TFR solution gets all the oil/wax film off a windscreen in one go, and it also seems to also attack the residue I’d been plagued with on my lease cars since that first one that had it, though sugar soap is still best for this.
Right now, you can get a 5% discount at JennyChem using the following code at checkout.
I use TFR in a small spray bottle to clean my alloys and bodywork in between visits to the hand car wash when I have an upcoming test. It removes brake dust from alloys, as well as summer tree gum and bird crap (especially when the little sods have been eating blackberries and insist on sitting on the telephone wire right above my driveway).
And a final note. You can make your own screenwash using TFR. But be advised this does still leave a slight residue.
Does TFR damage the windscreen?
Does TFR damage paintwork?
If it is the non-caustic type, and if it is used at the manufacturer’s recommended concentration, no. But remember that TFR will remove any wax you have applied, so you will need to re-wax after using it on painted surfaces. However, removing wax is exactly what you want if it’s on your windows, which is ultimately why I use it.
Strongly caustic types – which are cheaper and harsher, and often used to shift several centimetres of crap off the undersides of lorries – could damage painted surfaces if used at high strengths and if left on for too long. However, the stuff supplied by JennyChem is not strongly caustic, and is specifically designed for use on cars.
Is there a non-chemical solution?
A reader (from Australia) wrote to me to tell me that he had had success removing that new-windscreen film using Cerium Oxide paste. You can buy it easily from various places (including Amazon) in various forms – powder, paste, or block – and it is specifically used for polishing glass. If you buy it, make sure you get the finest grade possible – ideally, one which is specifically sold for the intended purpose.
Can you put oil on the windscreen to prevent smearing?
Or, as it was put to find the blog, ‘can u put oil on wind screen 2 prfent rain’? NO. It will make it worse.
My windscreen is smearing when it snows
That’s probably a different thing, and not ‘smearing’ at all. When the windscreen wiper rubbers get cold, they also get stiff. As a result, instead of flexing to the windscreen contours and bending forwards and backwards on each stroke of the wiper, they snag and bounce across. They may even not touch parts of the screen properly on the wipe. All of this is often accompanied by a horrible grunting sound, and it leaves behind a trail of water streaks.
Also, if there are remnants of snow on the blades, this can leave a trail of melt water as the blades wipe. You get similar effects if a leaf or small piece of blossom gets stuck on your blades.
I see rain spots after my wipers wipe
Then you’ve got wax or some other coating on your screen. I get it after I’ve been to the car wash, and I remove it using TFR and/or sugar soap.
Don’t forget that the wiper blades must also be cleaned (as well as the space below the blades when they are in their parked position). There’s no point cleaning the glass of wax if the rubber still has it on it. The wipers will put the wax back as soon as you use them.
From 29 January 2022, new changes to the Highway Code (HC) come into effect.
The new hierarchy for road users is as shown in the graphic above. Pedestrians first, then cyclists, then motorcyclists, then cars and vans, and finally lorries. This is based on who is likely to get the most damaged if any one of the other things hits them. And at this stage – as long as you don’t apply any reality to the situation – it makes perfect sense. Well, apart from the fact they left horses off the graphic, but more on that later.
However, the instant you do apply reality, you can see potential issues.
You see, the top three in the hierarchy consists of the vast majority of the population, who either aren’t aware that the HC exists, or who treat it as advisory even they do. And to make matters worse, the first and second groups in the hierarchy will become acutely aware of these changes thanks to the media, and a significant proportion of those will therefore push it to the limits.
Look at this example of something that happened to me while I was driving to a lesson a couple of weeks ago.
If that road was 30mph (or if he’d have done that in front of one of his neighbours in their Audis or low-slung Corsas who don’t recognise speed limits in the first place) he’d be in intensive care right now, or worse, But this is what cyclists do! And he got a mouthful from me out of the window.
You see, the HC is changing like this. Whereas before, a pedestrian crossing the road at a junction was supposed to make sure it was safe and give way to anything turning in, now it is the pedestrian – one of those least likely to be aware of the Highway Code – who can just walk out regardless and it will be the driver/rider of the vehicle who is supposed to give way. And the hierarchy gives the same precedence to cyclists. I mean, we never see them jump on a pavement to skip lights and ride across a junction, do we?
Imagine the twat in the video above coming round a corner and colliding with a pedestrian being equally twattish by by just stepping out. In Broxtowe, Aspley, and Strelley (among others all over the country) it is deeply embedded in the single helix of their DNA to behave like that.
I’m just dying to see how that will be resolved, since the cyclist would have no insurance, and unless he hangs around – which he’s unlikely to do if he’s maimed someone and knows he was being a prat – there is little chance of finding him. Christ, the police can’t even find the boy racers and illegal off-road bikers in Strelley most of the time, so cyclists are well out of the mix on that one.
A lot of rear-end collisions occur when cars stop suddenly and the driver behind isn’t paying attention. Let’s be under no illusions here: drivers of cars, vans, and lorries can be as afflicted with stupidity as much as cyclists and pedestrians are. However, drivers tend to be more aware of the fact that if they hit one of the specimens of those other groups, they will damage them quite badly. But imagine driving into a junction as some prat walks (or rides) in front of you. The possibilities are endless, for hitting the pedestrian/cyclist, or having some imbecile ram into you if you stop suddenly.
This is a stupid change. Roads were built for traffic, and yet precedence is now given to pedestrians and Spandex fetishists with serious attitude problems, all because of the Green Agenda.
Oh, and horses. I have no problem with horse riders, since they almost invariably do not have attitude problems (those that do are in a small minority). I’m careful with them, and they want to be careful with me, and in all honesty, if they were first on that hierarchy I’d give it my full support. However, the number of cyclists with behavioural issues is close to 100% (though close to 100% of them don’t realise it). Virtually none of them care about anyone except themselves, and they should not be given this bone on which to gnaw.
I’ve mentioned JennyChem many times before. I use their Traffic Film Remover when I clean my car and in my homemade screen wash, I periodically sanitise the inside of my car using their fogging machine, and I also buy my hand sanitising gel from them – along with various shampoos and valeting products.
Right now, you can get a 5% discount using the following code at checkout.
I can personally vouch for their products. They’re all excellent quality and they do precisely what they say they do.
To get you started, here are some links to products I use as supplied by JennyChem:
They also supply antifreeze, microfibre cloths, and a vast range of other chemicals and tools. Some items are available through Amazon, but minus the discount code.
During the lockdown, I was worried that my car might have a flat battery when I started to use it again. I’d taken it out a couple of times, but not for a significant run – once to the Post Office, and once to fetch fuel. As a precaution, I bought a battery-powered jump starter unit.
As it happens, I didn’t need it. Not for myself. But it is useful to have as a backup.
However, a few weeks ago I was on a lesson with a pupil and we were in Morrisons’ car park in Bulwell. Someone came up to us and asked if we had jump leads. I remembered I had the jump starter in the boot, and took it over to him. His white Transit had died as he was leaving. Here was a chance to see if the starter actually worked.
As soon as the unit was connected to the battery terminals, the van’s lights came on and it fired up first time. The two blokes in the van were grateful, and I was well impressed. Money well spent.
The NOCO Boost can be charged from the 12V socket while you’re driving, or from a USB charger at home. It also has USB sockets of its own, and can be used to charge mobile phones and other devices. It’s basically a massive power bank. Mine’s the GB70. Highly recommended.
I was on my way to a 6.30pm lesson last night (6 February), heading north on the A52, and I noticed they were putting up cones on the southbound side. I thought ‘bloody idiots, doing roadworks at this time during the busiest rush hour of the week’ (Thursday is busier than Friday, usually).
Anyway, I finished my lesson and headed home along the A52 in the southbound direction. This was at around 8.15pm, and as I approached the QMC in free moving traffic, suddenly it was at a standstill. I remembered the cones from earlier, and quickly switched lanes, did a u-turn, and went via the city centre and Trent Bridge using all the side roads. I was heading for Asda in West Bridgford, and this was the best alternative way to get there.
Traffic was very heavy in Nottingham and over Trent Bridge. It wasn’t until I got home and came online that I discovered the reason for it all. They’ve been doing maintenance work on Clifton Bridge for a few weeks, and apparently they discovered a structural fault involving corroded steel yesterday. As a result, the southbound carriageway of the A52 is completely shut. I have read this morning that a second defect has been discovered. Until about 11.30am today, they had been saying that the bridge would be shut until at least midday.
The latest is that it will be shut until ‘early next week’. Google gives 13 February as the estimated date (and that’s late next week).
For anyone who doesn’t know, Clifton Bridge is actually two bridges. The first was built in 1958, and was a single carriageway road. By the late 60s, traffic congestion on the route was so severe that a second bridge was built right next to the first, and opened in 1972. Although the lane priorities have changed a couple of times over the years, the current configuration is that the old bridge carries three lanes northbound, and the new bridge carries one lane northbound, and four lanes southbound. This problem means that there is no southbound route, and the northbound is reduced by 25% (probably 50% or more in reality, since two of the four lanes don’t continue on the A52 anyway, but only flow on to Queens Drive for all practical purposes, which is on the diversion route as detailed below).
You can imagine the problems this has caused. The diversion route – four lanes’ worth of traffic, which is frequently at a virtual standstill heading towards the A1 (south) and the M1 (J24) – is being diverted into a single lane, along Queens Drive, past the railway station, along London Road and Trent Bridge, then either through Wilford (M1) or West Bridgford (M1, A1). It was bad enough at 8.15 last night, but I can’t wait to see what happens this afternoon with the earlier Friday rush hour. Northbound will be extremely heavy due to the lost lane. Google already shows stationary traffic on Queens Drive and along London Road/Trent Bridge (at 1.30pm).
I’ve cancelled my whole day. Even if I could get out to pupils, for most of them we wouldn’t be able to get anywhere once I did.
Update: Be careful out there. It’s gridlock on some roads for most of the day right now.
Update 8/2/2020: The latest update is that it will be closed until ‘at least Wednesday’ – which is 12th February. And note it says ‘at least’.
Update 11/2/2020: I saw a report this evening that said they were planning to open one lane on the bridge in time for the end of the Forest match tonight. A later report says they’re not now able to do that because the safety barriers aren’t installed yet.
Update 15/2/2020: They opened up a single lane on 12/2/2020, and even at 8pm last night (14th) traffic was very slow moving (largely because of prats racing up in the left-hand lane for the city centre, then forcing their way in near the lane-merge through the cones). There’s also a 30mph speed limit in force. During the day, queues are still back to the QMC.
Update 23/0/2020: In case anyone hasn’t heard, the bridge is now expected to be substantially the way it is now until the end of the year. It certainly won’t be fully open for at least 9 months!