Removing Ice Buildup on Wheel Wells

by Richard Rowe

Ice buildup in wheel wells may seem like an esoteric concern, but it's anything but to those who have to deal with arctic and sub-arctic conditions every year. While getting rid of rock-hard ice may be a bit of a pain, keeping it from building up or sticking in the first place is the work of a few moments a day.

Smack It With a Hammer

This is the simplest and most caveman-esque way to get rid of ice, and it'll undoubtedly work if you hit the car or inner wheel well hard enough and with a big enough hammer. It also has the unfortunate side effect of leaving some nice, round dents in your car if the ice is too thick. Try giving the ice itself a few hits with a recoil-less hammer to fracture it, then give the inner wheel well a few solid taps with a rubber mallet. If it doesn't break free immediately, proceed to another method.

Hammer and Chisel

This method works well if you've got the room to fit a hammer and chisel into your wheel-well, but is fairly labor intensive. If you're using this method, try chiseling out the ice at the very top of the wheel well first; this ice is like the keystone in an arch and helps keep the rest of it in place. Once you've removed a chunk from the center-top of the wheel well, the rest may just fall out with a few taps from a hammer or mallet.

Melt It Out

This method requires some care, but it may be the only one if you can't get in with a chisel and mallet. Acquire a propane plumbers torch from a hardware store, turn it on low, then carefully slide it all the way to the back-top of your wheel well. Angle the nozzle so it points at the ice at an angle; otherwise, water from the ice will fall directly into the flame. Ideally, place a piece of leather over the top of the tire to protect it, but otherwise, just keep the torch pointed away from it. Don't burn all the way through the ice -- just get it thin enough that a mallet breaks it loose.


There are a lot of deicers on the market, and any of them will help to prevent ice buildup inside wheel wells. You may use an 80-20 mix of propylene glycol -- not far-more-poisonous ethylene glycol -- antifreeze and dish detergent in a spray bottle if you're caught in a pinch. Use it sparingly, because even that "environmentally friendly" propylene glycol isn't entirely safe around pets. The old-school approach is to get rid of the ice, then liberally spray the fender well with penetrating oil. It won't necessarily keep ice from building up, but it helps it to release much easier.

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