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Here's the Story of Ford's Unusual Heated Windshield

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author photo by Bill Leedy April 2018

Some time ago, I wrote a piece on the original, manual transmission-equipped Ford Taurus. A Facebook comment on that article led me to discover a seemingly short-lived feature that Ford dubbed "Instaclear."

Before I cover Instaclear, consider this: Let's say you live in a snowy, cold, icy climate, which probably means you're sick of clearing off your windshield with an ice scraper and waiting 20 minutes for the windshield defroster to get going. Right?

I live in Vermont, and I've always thought there has to be a better way ... other than always parking your car in a garage. For instance, what if you had an initial defrost heater that used a small wire grid like that little electric heater under the desk in your cubicle? That way, some heat can be sent to the windshield instantly, clearing it quickly. Then, once the engine is up to temperature, the electric grid can shut off, since it will likely require a fair amount more juice to operate, and the normal defroster system can take over. Well, it seems that all the way back in the mid-1980s, Ford was thinking along similar lines.

For the all-new 1986 Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable, Ford came up with a great new idea. They took a nearly invisible mesh of silver and zinc-oxide wires, about a 100-billionths of a meter thick, and placed them between the two sheets of glass that make up the windshield. With power applied, these wires would heat up and clear the windshield automatically, within a couple minutes. Functionally, it's just like the rear defrost that's standard in everything these days, except that you can see out of it.

So, how has this not caught on and become standard on every single car sold north of Virginia? Well, like most things, it was about cost. For the Taurus/Sable, it added $250 to the price of the car. This may not sound like much these days, but let's not forget that this was a $10,000 car, not a $30,000 car, like the current Taurus. Not enough people wanted their windshields easily cleared that they were willing to add 2.5 percent to the price of their car. And then there was reliability. When you have to make wires that tiny, their structural integrity is severely compromised. And when Instaclear would inevitably fail, the only way to get it working again was to replace the windshield, since the grid was sandwiched between the panes of glass -- which I'm sure was at great cost to the consumer.

Despite the lack of real interest, Ford kept trying -- and in the early 1990s, Ford tried to introduce this feature on a couple of other cars from Lincoln. But, like with the Taurus, it never really caught on with mainstream models (though many high-end vehicles, including Land Rovers, have used it for years). Or, at least, it never caught on here in the United States.

However, if you take a look at the Ford.co.uk website, you'll find something interesting. Many of the vehicles offered by Ford come equipped with a feature called "Quickclear." It turns out that, in Europe, it's available on everything from the Fiesta on up. Best I can tell, more cars have it at this point than don't, and a replacement windshield costs around $560, which doesn't make it much different than the cost of most current windshields. To me, at the tail end of another Vermont winter, it sounds like a brilliant idea.

I know the plastic ice scraper industry's enormous political clout will be difficult to overcome, but, how about it Ford? Can we try again?

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Here's the Story of Ford's Unusual Heated Windshield - Autotrader