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Beware of car thieves whilst defrosting your vehicle

Alert message sent 12/01/2021 14:21:00

Information sent on behalf of Durham Constabulary


Are you breaking the law when you defrost your car?

We've all done it. You go outside on a freezing cold morning to find your car windscreen and windows covered in a thick layer of ice.
You start the engine, whack on the heater and head back into the warm house while the ice melts away.
It may surprise you to learn, though, that if you leave your vehicle unattended with the engine running in the cold weather, you're actually breaking the law.
That's because drivers are expected to always be in control of their vehicle while the engine is running, even when they're de-icing the windows.

How am I breaking the law?
Anyone who needs to defrost their vehicle must ensure they stay with it and don't leave it unattended with the keys inside. Leaving the engine running to 'warm up' during the winter months not only risks having the vehicle stolen, it's against the law.
Don't make it easy for opportunist thieves because they don't even have to go to the trouble of breaking into your vehicle if you have left it running for them.
Insurance companies may not pay out if a vehicle is stolen in this way.

So how should I defrost my car?
Turn on the engine. It sounds obvious, but before you do anything get your engine on. The most effective way of de-icing your car is to turn on the heater and let the warm air circulate.

Get rid of any snow on the bodywork and especially on the roof of your vehicle.

Use a brush to wipe off all the snow from the car, making sure the front grille is clear.

Start de-icing the outside. Make sure you keep a scraper and some de-icer in the car for mornings when you are stuck. As the engine warms the car from the inside get scraping from the outside.

Don’t wipe windows with your hands - your mitts will leave greasy smudges.

Never use boiling water on glass. The rapid expansion and contraction of the ice can cause the screen to crack.

Wait until all the glass is clear before you drive off

Be absolutely sure your car is safe to drive before you head out in the icy weather.

Remember that, a running car with the keys in the ignition is a thief’s dream.

Message sent by
Brian Donnelly (Police, PCSO, Neighbourhood Police Team - Chester le Street)

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