Winter-Proof Your House and Car: 4 Common Mistakes We All Make

Cutting corners on certain winter habits may leave you with chilly regret.

december january 2016 AOL home icicleRalph Smith for Reader's Digest

1. Mistake: You knock down icicles on your house.
Never whack icicles with excessive force; this could cause building damage at the bases. Tap formations with a broom, from a window if possible (never stand below icicles, which can injure you when they fall). If icicles don’t dislodge, call a professional to remove them—the frozen mass can cause structures like gutters to collapse.

2. Mistake: You assume you have to idle your car before driving.
Idling was necessary with older cars that used carburetors, devices that twisted open to move air and fuel into the engine. Cold air could affect the balance of air and fuel, causing the car to run smoky or seize up. Cars made from the late ’90s on have electronic systems that use sensors to keep the air-to-fuel ratio balanced. Even in frigid temperatures, 30 seconds is all you need to get the oil circulating.

3. Mistake: You pour warm water on a frozen windshield.
Nice try, but if the temperature outside is freezing, you’ll only add another layer of ice to your windshield. Depending on the temperature difference between the air outside and the water, this trick could even crack the glass. Instead, spritz your windshield with a solution of one part water to two parts rubbing alcohol to melt ice immediately. Get your car ready for winter with these potentially life-saving tips. 

4. Mistake: You nap next to a space heater.
It may seem harmless to doze off, but the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that space heaters cause more than 25,000 residential fires every year. That’s mostly owing to human error (like leaving a space heater too close to long drapes). If you want to fall asleep next to the heater, put the appliance on a timer so it will shut off automatically.

Sources:,, HGTV Magazine,,,,

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