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Hey, Why Are My Windshield Wipers Not Working?

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Four common causes for bad windshield wipers in a vehicle and their related parts.

Your windshield wipers are often forgotten until the weather starts to change. You're out on the road traveling along, and suddenly, it starts to rain. You flip the switch, and the wipers come on, and if everything is working properly, your vision is clear. But more often than not, the result is just a smeared mess because the wipers are neglected and always in the elements, which causes them to wear out rapidly. Please check your wipers on a regular basis to keep your vision 20-20

Are Your Windshield Wipers Not Working?

The windshield wipers aren't working because the wiper motor is damaged. Alternatively, this might happen if the wiper transmission, control module, or switch gets internally damaged.

Your car's windshield wipers are essential for keeping your windshield clear when it's raining or snowing. If they're not working correctly, it's like driving with impaired vision, and that's not safe at all!

To avoid this, pay attention to any strange behaviors from your windscreen wipers. If they're not clearing the windshield properly, making weird noises, or getting stuck, it's time to take action. Once you know the problem, don't hesitate to take your car to your trusted auto shop. 

Let's Get To The Bottom Of It!

  • Q: Are the wipers doing jerky back-and-forth movements against the windscreen and loud clunking noises?

    The wiper motor has its own transmission system. The transmission has arms and odd-shaped mechanisms. When the wiper motor rotates in a circular pattern, the transmission makes the wiper arms move back and forth across the front windshield. Over time, the windshield wiper transmission wears out. Then, the arms can detach and start making clunking sounds as the wiper motor rotates them. It's like they're drumming around instead of moving as smoothly as they should.

  • Q: Is there only one windshield wiper working?

    The wiper arms are connected to the wiper through a special metal pin. The knurls on the pin and arm work together to keep the arm in the correct position and timing. If the pin holding the wiper arm is loose, the arm can slip and degrade the knurls. The wiper stud is made of steel, while the wiper arm is made of aluminum. Since aluminum is softer than steel, the wiper arm damages more quickly than the metal pin. This might happen faster with one of the wipers, making it stop moving and stay in one place while the other works normally.

  • Q: Are the wipers still running after you set them to stop?

    The wiper control module is like a small electronic brain controlling the different speeds of your windshield wipers and the pause between swipes. Since it's an electronic part, it can eventually wear out or develop internal issues. It might experience a short or an open circuit when it wears out. When the module shorts, it means there's a wiring problem, and as a result, the wipers may keep running even after you turn the wiper switch off. It's like the module gets confused and doesn't respond correctly, causing the wipers to keep going when they shouldn't.

  • Q: Are the wipers only working at one speed?

    The wiper switch is where you set the speed of your wipers. The switch has tiny electrical contacts under the hood, which can wear out over time. At this point, the switch can start acting up and cause issues. A common issue from this is that only certain speeds of the windshield wipers might work, while other speeds won't respond properly. It's like the switch gets a bit tired and doesn't work as smoothly as it used to.

Find Professional Help

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Vehicle Health Inspection Proof

Explore the following typical inspection results that show a potential cause for the symptom and select the one you believe is similar to your vehicle's issue.

Torn Wiper

The proof image shows the rubber coming out of the wiper blade.

A customer brought their vehicle in because the windshield wipers weren't cleaning the windshield properly after a recent rainstorm.

During a test drive, the technician confirmed that the windshield wipers were not cleaning the windshield and were leaving streaks behind.

As part of the vehicle health inspection, the technician checked the condition of the wiper blades. They concluded that the wiper blades had worn out and needed to be replaced.

Does the issue look like this? if not accessible your shop will document it
Bad Motor

The proof image shows an odd voltage value for the wiper motor, indicating it had an internal failure. This can be wiring issues to a blown fuse.

A customer brought their vehicle in because the windshield wipers were not working. So, the technician took the car for a test drive and confirmed the malfunctioning of the wipers.

During the vehicle health inspection, the technician found no cause for the wiper problem. To further diagnose the issue, the customer authorized additional diagnostics.

Firstly, the technician checked the wiper fuses to see if they were blown, but they had good power and were working fine. Next, the technician referred to the shop manual containing wiring diagrams to understand the wiper system better.

To access the wiper motor for further testing, the technician went under the front cowl of the vehicle. The technician verified the power and ground of the wiper motor using a digital voltmeter and back-probing. Strangely, despite having power and ground, the wiper motor was still not functioning, indicating internal damage, so it needed to be replaced.

Does the issue look like this? if not accessible your shop will document it
Wiper Trans Failure

A proof image was taken to provide visual evidence of the wiper transmission issue, clearly showing that it had come apart. The mechanic removed the front cowl to have better access.

A customer brought in their vehicle because the windshield wipers were acting strangely. When they turned the wipers on, they would bounce and jump slightly, and a loud knocking came from the dashboard.

During a test drive, the technician checked the wipers and confirmed they weren't working properly. They also heard the loud knocking noise the customer mentioned.

As part of the vehicle health inspection, the technician didn't find what caused the problem. To investigate further, the customer authorized additional diagnostics.

To investigate the issue thoroughly, the technician had an assistant activate the windshield wipers while they looked through the small gaps or vents near the windshield. This revealed that the wiper transmission arms, the parts responsible for moving the wipers, had come apart.

Next, the technician removed the wiper arms and the front cowl to get a closer look. They found that the wiper transmission had worn down significantly, causing the bearing pivot points to come apart. This wear and tear on the wiper transmission meant that it would need to be replaced to fix the problem.

Does the issue look like this? if not accessible your shop will document it
Wiper Arm

The proof image shows that the knurls holding the wiper arm in place show completely torn wiper blades.

A customer brought their vehicle in because the passenger's wiper stopped working. They explained that it worked sometimes but moved around oddly. However, now it's completely stuck.

During a test drive, the technician confirmed that the passenger's wiper arm was not moving at all. As part of the vehicle health inspection, the technician found no issues. To investigate further, the customer authorized additional diagnostics.

To investigate the problem, the technician opened the cover on the passenger's wiper arm. They discovered that the nut holding the arm was loose. The technician removed the nut and the arm and found that the part called the transmission stud was fine. However, the wiper arm knurls, which are small ridges providing grip, had completely stripped out, causing the wiper arm to become ineffective. As a result, the wiper arm on the passenger side would need to be replaced.

Does the issue look like this? if not accessible your shop will document it
Failed Wiper Module

The proof image shows the damaged resistor inside the wiper control module, which clearly indicates that it needs to be replaced to resolve the issue. This can be wiring to wiper fuse issues.

A customer brought their vehicle in because its windshield wipers were acting strange. Sometimes, without warning, the wipers would turn on by themselves even if the switch was off. Additionally, every time they turned off the wipers, they ran for about a minute or two before finally stopping.

During a test drive, the technician observed the issue firsthand. They operated the windshield wipers and found that when they tried to turn them off, they kept running independently. As part of the vehicle health inspection, the technician couldn't identify the exact cause of the problem.

To investigate further, the customer authorized additional diagnostics. The technician accessed the windshield wiper control module, which is the electronic component responsible for controlling the wipers.

With an assistant switching on the windshield wipers, the technician used a digital volt meter to measure the voltage going to the control module from the wiper switch. They noticed that the voltage was normal, but the wipers were still running when they were supposed to be off.

To get a closer look at the control module, the technician opened its cover and made a crucial discovery - the circuit board inside was shorted, meaning there was an internal electrical problem. The windshield wiper control module will need to be replaced to fix the issue.

Does the issue look like this? if not accessible your shop will document it
Bad Wiper Switch

The proof image shows the exposed wiper switch, which was tested and found to be faulty. This can be affected by issues with the vehicle's fuse box.

A customer brought their vehicle in because the windshield wipers only worked on either the intermittent mode or the highest speed setting. So they wouldn't move at other speeds.

During a test drive, the technician confirmed the customer's concern. They tried different wiper settings but found that they only worked on the highest speed and the intermittent mode. The vehicle health inspection couldn't pinpoint any issue causing this problem.

To further investigate, the customer authorized additional diagnostics. The technician then accessed the connection end of the wiper switch. This switch is responsible for controlling the wiper speed. Upon testing the voltage, the technician discovered that the switch was not sending the necessary voltage to the other speed settings of the windshield wiper motor. 

This issue was due to internal damage to the switch's electrical system. This finding led them to conclude that the wiper switch must be replaced to fix the issue.

Does the issue look like this? if not accessible your shop will document it

Typical Fixes to Address the Cause(s)

The following chapters bases themselves on experiences from our auto repair shop; we'll describe related problems' causes and fixes.

"Wiper Blade Replacement" fixes "Damaged Wiper Blades"

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Hey, Why Are My Windshield Wipers Not Working?
Sometimes a problem is more challenging to describe than it initially looked like. If you are not sure your problem is described by this article, please find below similar vehicle symptoms, which might describe better the issue you are experiencing.

Vehicle Symptoms

Below are just a few examples of typical Symptoms and Fixes your car might be experiencing

Other things your auto repair shop might talk about:

wiper pivot. expensive wiper mount. expensive wiper motor. replacement fuse. pivot nuts