Removing snow from the top of a minivan?
November 12, 2019 2:47 PM   Subscribe

I have spent 20+years cursing people who drive with snow flying off their cars. Now I am one of *those* people because I have a minivan and am too short to actually get all the snow off (and honestly in too much of a rush to do a great job on the areas I can reach). What are my options?

I have a dream that I could somehow retrofit a leafblower or high-powered handheld vacuum to blow the snow off? Is this at all feasible? What risks or down sides should I be thinking of?
posted by dotparker to Home & Garden (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
A telescoping snow brush and scraper is probably your best bet.
posted by a halcyon day at 2:51 PM on November 12, 2019 [5 favorites]

Maybe try an extending snow scraper? Those do work pretty decently.
posted by larthegreat at 2:52 PM on November 12, 2019

You can get extendable scrapers that are well over four or five feet long and combine it with a folding step stool of some kind that you could tuck in the back of the minivan.

Heck, you could even screw or duct tape a scraper/brush to a broom handle.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:52 PM on November 12, 2019

You can probably do this with a push broom (depends on your height, the angles). Just don’t use a broom you also use for sweeping; dirt in the broom can scrape up your roof.
posted by mskyle at 2:59 PM on November 12, 2019 [5 favorites]

If you can get to the snow when it's fresh/powdery, an electric or (quieter) battery-powered leaf blower works for some people, apparently.
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:03 PM on November 12, 2019

posted by Comrade_robot at 3:19 PM on November 12, 2019 [6 favorites]

Yeah - SnoBrum is your answer. I'm tall and own an SUV and it's a lifesaver in winter.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 3:22 PM on November 12, 2019

Bad bad advice (totally making this up, oh no, I'd never do this) first get up really early before anyone else is on the road, start the car and turn the heat way up. Go back in and have a tasty strong coffee. Clean the windows real well, then start down the empty empty road and ... slam on the breaks. It all slides off.

But, really, get a strong scraper or push broom.
posted by sammyo at 3:26 PM on November 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

Cover your car with a tarp for easy snow removal; significant caveats (tarp must be anchored, the importance of a clean car surface beneath that tarp) at lifehacker.
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:28 PM on November 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have to admit that when I drove a Honda Pilot in snow country, I used a combination of an extendable broom + an early quiet neighborhood brake check to get all the snow off before I hit the freeway.
posted by muddgirl at 3:32 PM on November 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have an old household broom that I keep in my car for removing the snow from the roof. No snowhawk here.
posted by Gray Duck at 3:34 PM on November 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

The simple, inexpensive, and effective answer is a push broom, eg here.

They don’t help with ice but for a wide variety of snow types they make short work of clearing cars, SUVs, minivans, even for short people. I only usually need mine at home, but it should stow in a minivan just fine if you unscrew the head.
posted by SaltySalticid at 3:40 PM on November 12, 2019

A conventional leaf blower works just great with no retrofitting, but only for very light and powdery snow.
posted by SaltySalticid at 3:42 PM on November 12, 2019

I use a push broom, more or less like the ones used in schools.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:06 PM on November 12, 2019

I had one of these that worked well for snow above my head.
posted by counterfeitfake at 4:59 PM on November 12, 2019

Depending on how strong/ heavy (as reaction mass) you are and whether the snow you get is fluffy or the heavy/ thawed-refrozen kind, a poor angle of attack with whatever you decide to use is going to be taxing.

Since this is a minivan that you're talking about, there might be some place to stash a lightweight folding stepladder.

I keep a folding dolly in my wagon; if I couldn't reach the roof with enough strength, I'm sure I could fit a folding stepladder in there, too. I got one of these for the lab and it's sturdy, locks, and isn't very heavy.

You can find lighter versions with cheap (thin) aluminum tubing and crappy plastic parts that will definitely be lighter, though. Wouldn't trust them in the snow especially not at home/ trust the surface.
posted by porpoise at 8:31 PM on November 12, 2019

Note of caution re. brake test technique - if snow has been wet and slushy followed by an overnight drop in temperature, there can be a very solid ice and wet snow layer at the bottom. Heavy enough to snap a windscreen wiper clean off when it all slides forward on braking.

Lesson learned; in those conditions it's usually quite easy to poke off the ice and snow in very large chunks with a broom, once the vehicle's heated up enough to melt the roof / ice interface.
posted by protorp at 1:33 AM on November 13, 2019

Have you tried opening the side/rear doors (so 5 different locations, 4 side doors + 1 rear) and standing on the inside frame for the extra elevation? I'm 5'3" and that is what I do. Of course do it safely - you know not to do stupid things on a ladder so don't do them here either. To remove safety judgements literally storing a stepstool alongside your snow removal tool would work.

Also re: being in too much of a rush personally I consider it a safety/financial/legal risk that is almost never worth cutting corners on. Not trying to lecture you or anything but I would highly highly highly recommend some rescheduling to avoid rushing.
posted by ToddBurson at 6:05 AM on November 13, 2019 [5 favorites]

Thanks everyone! These are great answers. I should have stipulated that I also have a roof rack on the minivan, which complicates the push-broom/snow scraper concept. I will try them nonetheless :).
For the days when I know snow is in the forecast overnight, I am definitely going to try the tarp trick and will report back.
posted by dotparker at 8:58 AM on November 13, 2019

Can you get one of those tarp things for the top when the heavy snow starts and then pull it off, I swear I've seen people do that.
posted by catspajammies at 9:51 AM on November 13, 2019

I’ve lived in the northern U.S. most of my sixty years and I just brush what I can reach and let the rest take care of itself. Just curious why letting some blow off is seen as antisocial? We don’t have any motorcyclists on the road in the winter, and I can’t imagine a piece of hard snow damaging a car. Now gravel trucks without a cover on the load are a different plate of beans entirely...

Anyway, speaking for some tranch of Northern drivers, I grant you absolution for the snow you can’t easily reach. Climbing on a ladder or pulling a tarp over your car every night is beyond what I expect of my fellows.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 6:32 AM on November 14, 2019

Just curious why letting some blow off is seen as antisocial?

In Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and hopefully soon Maine, you can be ticketed for not clearing your roof. Hard frozen snow/ice flying from a roof can and does damage cars and often causes accidents as people swerve to avoid it. The law in NH came about after a woman was killed in such an accident.
posted by donnagirl at 2:13 AM on November 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

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