Winter can be tough on a lot of cars, and especially if you’ve been through as much snow as I have. One of the most pressing issues that I’ve faced is ice in my car’s intake, so how to de-ice the air intake system?
Given that the air intake feeds much-needed air for your engine to combust, any sort of ice (as well as any blockage in general) could lead to reduced engine performance and even potential long-term damage.
Thankfully, de-icing your car’s frozen air intake system is quite simple. There are plenty of off-the-shelf de-icing sprays for cars that you can buy and spray on the air intake system to get rid of any ice formations.
De Ice Air Intake System
So, why is de-icing the intake that important? The air intake system is crucial for your car’s performance and operation. It allows your engine to breathe, drawing in air that’s mixed with fuel for combustion.
In colder climates, moisture within the intake system can freeze in the intake, leading to obstructions. You might notice symptoms like the check engine light, bad performance, and odd hissing or whistling noises.
The good news is that trying to de-ice your car’s intake system is easier than it seems, and here’s a step-by-step guide by yours truly on how to de ice the air intake system (click on each one to skip to the section):
- STEP 1: Manually inspect and remove larger bits of ice
- STEP 2: Warming up the engine to melt excess ice formations
- STEP 3: Use commercial de-icing solutions for more stubborn ice formations
- STEP 4: Cleaning and drying your engine’s air filter
- STEP 5: Checking and sealing all points of entry for the ice
- STEP 6: Prevention tips and regular maintenance
1 – Manual Inspection and Removal of Ice
Before resorting to any specialized de-icing solutions, you could try removing more obvious ice formations on the external sections of the air intake system.
- Safety First:
- Turn off your car.
- Wait for at least 30 minutes to ensure that the engine has cooled down sufficiently.
- Open the Hood:
- Release the interior hood latch, typically located beneath the steering column.
- Locate the exterior latch beneath the hood’s center and lift.
- Visual Inspection:
- Using a flashlight, inspect your air filter housing, intake manifold, and associated hoses (and other parts of the air intake system).
- Look for any white frost or ice formations.
- Manual Removal:
- With a soft-bristled brush, you can gently brush away any visible ice or frost.
- For hard-to-reach areas, I’d recommend using a soft cloth to dab and remove ice.
- Avoid scraping or using excessive force to prevent causing any collateral damage to the air intake system.
2 – Engine Warm-Up & Melting Away the Ice
Once the more obvious sections of white frost and ice formations have been removed earlier in Step 1, you should be able to start your engine, and use heat from the engine to melt some of the ice away.
- Idle the Engine:
- Start your car’s ignition and crank the engine.
- Let your engine run without revving or driving for about 10-15 minutes (just leaving it to idle is enough).
- Monitor the Engine Temperature:
- Keep an eye on the dashboard’s temperature gauge.
- Ensure the needle stays within the normal range and doesn’t approach the red zone. This is crucial, as any excessive formations of white frost and ice might’ve clogged your car’s cooling system, too.
3 – Use Off-the-Shelf De-Icing Solutions & Sprays
If you’re still noticing any white frost or ice formations, or if the ice is proving too stubborn, you can head over to a local auto parts store and get some de-icing sprays.
- Commercial De-icers:
- Purchase a reputable de-icing spray from an auto parts store. Make sure that you get ones that could be safely used for cars – the label on the spray should make it clear enough.
- Follow the instructions on the label, which typically involves spraying onto the affected areas and waiting for a few minutes. The waiting time is often specified on the product label.
- DIY Solution:
- In a spray bottle, mix 2 parts of isopropyl alcohol with 1 part water. This is a great way to make a DIY de-icing solution.
- Shake this mixture well and spray onto white frost and icy areas.
- Wait for 3-5 minutes, then wipe away with a soft cloth. Remember to be gentle, so as to not cause any damage to the air intake system.
4 – Clean and Dry the Air Filter
When all that white frost and ice formations have thawed and melted away, it’s also a good idea to clean up and dry your air filter. This ensures that no excess moisture is left behind to cause more frost later on.
- Remove the Air Filter:
- Unclip or unscrew the air filter housing cover.
- Carefully remove the air filter.
- If you’re not sure about how to do this, consider consulting a local mechanic, or check your car’s service or owner’s manual for specific steps on how to remove the air filter.
- Inspect for Moisture:
- Once the old air filter has been removed, check your air filter for any dampness or ice crystals.
- Drying the Air Filter:
- If the air filter is slightly damp, place the filter in a warm, dry area for several hours. This will help it to dry thoroughly.
- Otherwise, if your air filter is soaked or icy, consider purchasing a replacement air filter. If you are planning to replace the air filter anyway…
- Consider using dry air filters instead of oiled ones (if it’s compatible with your car). Oiled air filters can sometimes introduce excess oil into the system, which can attract dirt and moisture.
5 – Check and Seal Potential Entry Points
With the air filter housing cover removed, and as you’re waiting for the air filter to dry anyway in Step 4, it’s a good idea to double-check for any further areas that might be exposed to moisture, frost, or ice.
- Inspect Hoses:
- Examine all your intake hoses for any signs of wear, cracks, or damage.
- Sealant Application:
- For minor cracks, clean the area and apply a silicone sealant. A silicone sealant can readily help to prevent the build-up of excess moisture that might further cause frost or ice formation in the future.
- Allow the silicone sealant to dry as per the product’s instructions.
- Replace Damaged Parts:
- For larger cracks or damages with any part of your car’s air intake system, purchase a replacement part.
- Install the new air intake componentry, ensuring a snug fit. Make sure you double-check and refer to any service or repair manuals, and other guides online, for the specific steps and procedures for your car.
6 – Prevention Tips & Future Maintenance
Once your air intake system is put back together and with all that white frost or ice formations removed, here are some tricks that I’d highly recommend to prevent future ice build-ups in your air intake system.
- Sheltered Parking – Whenever possible, consider parking your car indoors or under a carport, or any form of shelter for your car. This reduces exposure to freezing temperatures and moisture.
- Service Appointments – Schedule regular check-ups with a trusted mechanic or service center. I would also suggest doing so before wintertime, as to ensure that your air intake system is in good shape.
- Moisture Check – During each visit to your local mechanic for a regular service, ask the technician to check for any moisture or potential leak points in the air intake system, which can cause build-ups of ice.