Why Don’t My Windshield Wipers Work?

Broken Windshield WipersI can only imagine how frustrated you are if you’ve found this article.  My guess would be you found out your windshield wipers didn’t work the hard way and had to drive home from where ever you were without them.  If we’re being honest driving without windshield wipers can be unbelievable frustrating and nerve racking, not to mention dangerous.  If you were one of the lucky ones and discovered your broken windshield wipers on a clear day, please fix them before using your vehicle again.  You never know when a rain storm will pop up, or you’ll need to wash your windshield due to road debris, bugs or other hazards.

Windshield wipers do not often break, but when they do it’s a small problem that can make your car undrivable.  Your windshield wipers are soft blades designed to clear your windshield of water or road debris.  This blade is connected to an arm that is fixed to pivot point, often a stud or bolt that is caused to rotate by a motor or control arm.  The limited rotary motion of this stud is what causes the wiper arm to travel through its arc clearing your windshield but not causing the wiper blade to pass off the top, side or bottom of the windshield.

Broken Windshield WiperVirtually every vehicle on the road today use a similar simple mechanism to create the desired motion of the windshield wiper blade.  The whole system looks something like the drive arm on an old steam locomotive.  A motor constantly rotating in one direction turns an arm that is connected to a linkage.  That linkage is then connected by an arm to the pivot point or stud.  In this way, the constant rotary motion of the motor is converted to a forward and backward motion of an arm, then back into an oscillating rotary motion, then finally into the arc of the wiper arm.  For a video of this linkage and motion, checkout http://auto.howstuffworks.com/wiper1.htm

There are 2 main ways windshield wipers will fail, either mechanically or electrically.  As we talked about, mechanically there is a lot of linkages all which need to be able to pivot and move in relation to each other.  Any of these moving connections points are possible breaking points.  As bushings wear out, bolts come lose or metal fatigues the joints can come apart allowing your wiper motor to still operate but no movement of your blades to occur.  This is easy to diagnose by having grabbing your windshield wiper arm and attempting to move it along its normal arc.  If you can freely move either of the wiper arms you mostly likely have a broken linkage.  If you cannot easily move the wiper arms you most likely have an electrical failure. You can start by checking the fuse for the wiper motor, but if that is not blown, you must be handy with a multimeter and be ready to disassemble some of your vehicles cowl for further inspection.

The reality is no windshield wiper system really works well without the proper windshield wiper fluid.  Dry wiper blades on a dirty window often just make the situation worse.  Even if it is raining, often rain water does not do a good job clearing dirt and grime stuck on your windshield and it can be necessary to use washer fluid.  Choosing windshield washer fluid should be about more than just finding what ever is easy to grab on the way out of the store.  BlueDevil Windshield Washer Concentrate is an industrial strength concentrated formula that you can mix with water to the desired strength.  It is a powerful road grime and bug remover while still being safe on your car’s finish and metal and rubber components.  1 bottle of BlueDevil Windshield Washer Concentrate can make up to 16 gallons of washer fluid and is the perfect companion to a properly operating windshield wiper system.

Pick up BlueDevil Windshield Washer Concentrate today at your favorite local auto parts store like:

  • Prime Automotive Warehouse
  • NAPA
  • O’Reilly Auto Parts
  • Bennett Auto Supply
  • Advance Auto Parts
  • AutoZone
  • Pep Boys
  • Car Quest Auto Parts

You can also purchase BlueDevil Windshield Washer Concentrate form BlueDevil here.

Pictures provided by: www.autozone.com and darcynorman.net

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12 responses to “Why Don’t My Windshield Wipers Work?

      1. Gene,

        If your fuses are good, we would recommend checking for voltage at the connector to the fluid pump while you are pressing the washer button. If you have 12V there with the button down then you have a bad windshield washer fluid pump. If you don’t have voltage there then you have a wiring problem between the button, fuse or pump.

        Thanks again for your question!
        -BD Auto Pro

  1. We have a 1994 z28 Camaro, our windshield wipers work when you spray the fluid, and occasionally work on high, when it wants to. We got a motor from a junk yard and put it in, it did the same thing, then we changed the resister, we also changed the switch in the column. We’ve tried the switch with the old motor and new resister and vise versa, but nothing works, so we took the motor and the switch off of our 94 Camaro and put it in our z28 but it still only worked when we sprayed the spray, not really sure what else to do.

    1. Chelbe,

      Thanks for your question about your Camaro. It sounds like you’ve got a short or break in the wiring somewhere in between all the components you’ve been replacing. Start by reading our article about electrical problems here: https://www.gobdp.com/blog/diagnosing-electrical-problems/. From there we would recommend unplugging the components and testing wires in between the connectors for continuity and grounding. When you find the problem, you can simply replace that run of wire and you should be back in business.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

    1. Wilfried,

      Thanks for your question about your Beetle. On a vehicle that old, there could be multiple things causing your problem, but it also should be pretty easy to track down. It is most likely an electrical problem so we would recommend starting by reading our article about electrical problems here: https://www.gobdp.com/blog/diagnosing-electrical-problems/.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  2. 05 Clio here.

    Suddenly stopped working during the rain, one wiper had been over-extending then both just stopped. I can manually move the wipers in the usual arc myself, and when I try turning them on a noise is heard but no movement.

    Any ideas?

    1. Hannah-

      Based on your description, we would recommend bringing the vehicle to an ASE certified mechanic. There is a gear inside that catches and turns the wipers, which may have stripped from trying to move the wipers manually.

      Thank you!


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