No matter how much you may deny it, winter is looming and looks to make driving less than pleasant for you. But before things start to get chilly and frozen all over, now is the time to swap out your three-seasons windshield washer fluid for something a bit more potent for ice and snow. That's right, get your hands on some winter formula right now. You'll be glad you did when everyone else is wondering why they hadn't started sooner.

frozen windshield
This view does not make for safe driving. 

It's not just the stuff falling from the sky that you have to worry about. The snow, dirt, and muck that gets kicked up by other cars can hit your windshield and freeze, as well. It makes for hazardous driving conditions that regular washer fluid just can't combat. Regular formula is meant for normal dust, dirt, rain and bug guts, but when temps remain consistently below freezing, you need more. Regular fluid is good to 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Look for Winter Formula Washer Fluid

washer fluid shopping
Look specifically for winter formula, which can also be blue or a different color.

You can obtain winter formula at big box department stores like Walmart and Target, as well as gas stations and auto parts stores. Keep in mind that winter formulas may contain methanol, ethanol, or ethylene glycol mixed with water because they melt ice and snow quickly, but these chemicals are poisonous, so be aware of the risks. They are effective and can work down to temperatures of -20°F, -27°F, -40°F, and even all the way down to -50°F. 

Mix Winter with Summer Now

washer fluid spout
If you have no clue where to pour the washer fluid, look for a blue lid with this symbol. 

Let's say you still have quite a bit of the summer formula left in your washer fluid reservoir. That's okay, but don't let it sit there and freeze. You can mix your winter formula in and start to use the washers more often in order to deplete the mixture. Fill your reservoir with winter formula more often as you approach winter to the point where the reservoir is filled with winter formula. This will ensure you're ready when things get really cold. Also, keep a spare bottle in your trunk because you don't want to run out while you're on the road.

Homemade Fluid is Cheaper and Saferwindshield washer fluid ingredients

Some folks don't like the idea of keeping toxic chemicals in the home or for use in the car, and winter washer fluid falls into this category. It's harmful to the eyes and skin and should not come in contact with either. For those who are industrious enough to make their own, you just need a few ingredients, and the final product is safe and totally non-toxic (we still wouldn't recommend drinking it).

It's also inexpensive to make, even though it takes time to put things together. I'll cost about $1 a gallon, which is quite a bit cheaper than the $3-4 you can pay for the store-bought stuff. It can also be used to clean other surfaces like kitchens and bathrooms, so it is pretty useful.

  • 1 empty and clean plastic gallon jug
  • 2 cups of isopropyl rubbing alcohol 
  • 2 tablespoons of liquid dish soap
  • 1 cup of white vinegar
  • 3 quarts of clean water 
  • 1 funnel
  • 4 drops of blue food coloring (optional)

Mix the ingredients together, but do not shake the jug. The blue food coloring is a smart idea to remind kids that it's not safe to drink. Whatever method you choose for your winter washer fluid, now is the right time to change over to a winter formula. Don't do it too late when your reservoir and washer nozzles are totally frozen over just as you need to get to work.