Though this story may seem apocryphal, it does have a certain ring of truth, so here goes.
This Is An Explanation
In the last century – the 1920s or early 1930s – racers faced a considerable problem. It seems that as they drove their vehicles through specific courses during the rainy season – or the humidity season, it could have been one or the other – their windshields would start to fog up. Usually, this happened during enduros as the drivers hauled their vehicles through the depths of the night.
The story goes that one of these old-time racers came up with a fix for the problem – though how much of a fix it could have been is open to question. Still, if this was true – and some say it is – it was rather ingenious for the day. You'd have to guess that drivers of that era must have noticed that when their windshields were heated – perhaps by a fan blowing across a kerosene heater or something – the haze that covered the windshield on very humid days disappeared, leaving the driver with unimpaired vision.
To fix the problem, the race driver involved took a feed from the exhaust manifold and directed it across the windscreen so that it would remain clear. Of course, since the exhaust is where a vehicle generates its carbon monoxide load, the driver would have had to drive with the windows open at all hours. And, who knows, maybe back then, they did.
Defrost Story Has Long History
This apocryphal story has had currency for nearly a century, and it seems that it also drove the car industry to develop a safe form of windshield defrosting gear. After all, it wouldn't do to have folks keeling over from carbon monoxide poisoning to drive their vehicles when the weather turned humid or cold.
If you have driven a vehicle for longer than 15 minutes, you know that defrosting is one of the critical features of driving. Indeed, it has been rolled into every vehicle's climate control systems, and we all take it for granted. As you can see, though, there was a time when it wasn't available, and it took an innovative moment – like most of the moments in the vehicle industry when things moved forward – for vehicles to become much safer. Perhaps one of the reasons that it wasn't a big deal until the late 20s or early 30s is that most vehicles were open. Yes, they had tops, but, like convertibles, the "roofs" were fabric, and you had to raise and lower them by hand. To keep the weather out, most vehicles offered coverings like those of carriages, fabric, and isinglass (an early plastic substitute).
With this brief history of the origins of defrosting out of the way, you may wonder why we've gone to the trouble of telling you this information. Quite simply, Ford has announced a recall of about 31,000 Transit vans because of problems with the climate-control system.
In the notice filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the automaker says that drivers may lose the ability to control the defrost or defog functions of the vehicle, thus decreasing the driver's visibility under certain driving conditions. The problem can increase the risk of a crash.
Reason For The Recall
Loss of the ability to control the defrost or defog function decreases the driver's visibility under certain driving conditions, increasing the risk of a crash.
In its summary to the safety agency, Ford noted that in the recalled 2022-2023 Transits, the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system controls, including those of defog and defrost, may become inoperative, cutting the driver's ability to see. As you would expect, with winter coming, along with the season's ice and snow, defrosting is crucially vital for safety.
To ensure the safety of the Transits involved in the recall, the automaker will be mailing notification letters on Nov. 7. Once owners have received the letters, they can take their Transits to dealers, where the climate control module software will be updated for free.
For more information, owners can contact Ford customer service at 86604367-7332. Ford's id number for this recall is 22S65. Or owners can contact the NHTSA's Vehicle Safety Hotline at 888-327-4236 or the agency's website, www.nhtsa.gov, where they can enquire about recall 22V791.
Marc Stern has been an automotive writer since 1971 when an otherwise normal news editor said, "You're our new car editor," and dumped about 27 pounds of auto stuff on my desk. I was in heaven as I have been a gearhead from my early days. As a teen, I spent the usual number of misspent hours hanging out at gas stations Shell and Texaco (a big thing in my youth) and working on cars. From there on, it was a straight line to my first column for the paper, "You Auto Know," an enterprise I handled faithfully for 32 years. Not many people know that I also handled computer documentation for a good part of my living while writing YAN. My best writing, though, was always in cars. My work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Mechanix Illustrated, AutoWeek, SuperStock, Trailer Life, Old Cars Weekly, Special Interest Autos, etc. You can follow me on: Twitter or Facebook.