Why Don’t My Windshield Wipers Work?

windshield wiperI can only imagine how frustrated you are if you’ve found this article.  Most of us find out our windshield wipers don’t work the hard way, but getting stuck in the rain, or having to pull over to scrape mud off our windshield that a passing truck carelessly splashed on it. If we’re being honest driving without windshield wipers can be unbelievably frustrating, not to mention extremely dangerous.  If you were one of the lucky ones and discovered your broken windshield wipers on a clear day, it is important to fix them before using your vehicle again.  You never know when a rainstorm will pop up, or you’ll need to wash your windshield due to road debris, bugs or other hazards.

Windshield wipers can fail one of 3 ways:

  • Mechanical Failures
  • Electrical Failures
  • Wiper blade failure

Mechanical Failures

Virtually 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, which moves the wiper arm in an arc across the windshield.  For a video of this linkage and motion, check out http://auto.howstuffworks.com/wiper1.htm.  Like any mechanical system, the pivot points can wear out over time causing the linkage to fall apart or at least get sloppy.  This can easily cause your windshield wipers to be unable to clear your windshield properly.  In this case, the only good solution is to replace the linkage from the motor to the wiper arm pivot point.

Electrical Failures

Since your windshield wipers are driven by an electric motor, there could also be an electrical problem in the system that is causing problems.  The most common electrical problem in your windshield wiper system is a blown fuse so that’s a good place to start.  The fuse will most likely be in the main fuse block under the hood.  Other problems could include a burnt out wiper motor, a problem with the wiper control switch or a problem with the delay module.  For more information about hunting down electrical problems like this, try reading our article about diagnosing electrical problems.

Wiper Blade Failure

windshield wiperBad or poorly performing wiper blades can cause your windshield wipers to not work in a way as they won’t properly clear your windshield.  New wiper blades are easy to install and relatively inexpensive so we recommend replacing them anytime your old ones aren’t working properly, or every 30,000 miles.

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.  Rainwater 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 whatever 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:

  • AutoZone
  • Advance Auto Parts
  • Bennett Auto Supply
  • CarQuest Auto Parts
  • NAPA Auto Parts
  • O’Reilly Auto Parts
  • Pep Boys
  • Fast Track
  • Bumper to Bumper Auto Parts Specialists
  • S&E Quick Lube Distributor
  • DYK Automotive
  • Fisher Auto Parts stores
  • Auto Plus Auto Parts stores
  • Hovis Auto & Truck Supply stores
  • Salvo Auto Parts
  • Advantage Auto Stores
  • Genuine Auto Parts stores
  • Bond Auto Parts stores
  • Tidewater Fleet Supply
  • Bumper to Bumper Auto Parts
  • Any Part Auto Parts
  • Consumer Auto Parts

Pictures Provided By:

windshield_wiper_switch.jpg – by Prasit Photo – Licensed by Getty Images – Original Link
winshield_wiper.jpg – By IndyEdge – Licensed by Getty Images – Original Link

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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!

      -BDP

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