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Panel: Steve Risotto
Media: Bryan Goodman

Learn about solvent uses and the benefits of solvents.

Driving More Safely Because of Solvents

Dirt and insects on a windshield can really make driving tough. Thankfully, the solvents in windshield washer fluid help it dissolve these things and wipe them away, improving windshield visibility in all seasons. And in winter, added solvents help windshield wiper fluid from freezing by lowering the temperature at which the mixture will freeze.

What is the role of solvents?

Solvents help washer fluid to remove the dirt, grime and bug goo from your windshield. Have you ever tried to remove the tar or grease residue that seeps out of car doors? It seems nearly impossible. Special tar removers work to cut through those sticky messes in part because they contain solvents that dissolve.

Do you remember when your parents’ or grandparents’ cars wouldn’t start because of water in the gas line? Well, water can still get into the gas line today, but you are less likely to get stranded thanks to additives in modern gasoline. These additives include solvents that help keep the water from separating out of the gasoline. In addition, solvents help the fuel burn cleaner, which in turn can help reduce tailpipe emissions.

Solvents help maintain cars in many other ways. Solvents help de-ice frozen door locks, clean carburetors, keep the engine cool, and clean upholstery and carpet.

What is a solvent?

Solvents are chemical substances that can dissolve, suspend or extract other materials usually without chemically changing either the solvents or the other materials. Solvents can be organic, meaning the solvent contains carbon as part of its makeup, or inorganic, meaning the solvent does not contain carbon. For example, “rubbing” alcohol is an organic solvent and water is an inorganic solvent. Hydrocarbon and oxygenated solvents are examples of types of organic solvents that can effectively dissolve many materials.

Modern solvents make it happen.®


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