Unless you live in an arid climate where rain is only a distant memory, windshield wipers are a necessity.
Any situation that compromises visibility when you’re driving is dangerous, for you (the driver), for your passengers, and for anyone else who happens to be on the road near you at the time.
If your windshield wipers are not working and it’s raining or snowing, your visibility is going to be affected, and you could risk an accident. Another potential danger is if the rubber flies off and hits another car, putting other road users at risk.
So, what should you do? It’s a tricky situation to be in, but don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place for answers.
This article will not only show you what to do if this happens to you, but we’ll also explain what the most common causes are, how to prevent this problem from arising in future, and how to solve any issues that already exist.
Don’t Delay – If you have even just one faulty wiper, address the problem ASAP.
Multiple Possible Causes – Some of the faults that may cause this issue include torn wiper blades, a burned-out fuse or motor, a loose pivot nut, or an obstructed nozzle.
Prevention Trumps Cure – Use proper washer fluid, clear off debris and snow, and keep the blades clean to prevent this problem occurring.
What to Do If Your Windshield Wipers Stop Working?
If you ever find yourself in such a situation, and you’ve only realized this now without ever getting the chance to notice that the symptoms of bad windshield wipers exist in your vehicle, here’s what you should do:
The key thing to do is not panic – instead, stay calm, slowly decelerate, and assess the situation.
If you can see well enough to keep driving, even if at a slower speed, do so. If you’re on a highway, your best bet will be to get to the nearest gas station.
Keep Your Distance
If it’s raining, keep your distance from the car in front of you.
You don’t want them to spray even more muddy water on your windshield, as this is only going to make your life more difficult than it already is.
The situation will resemble driving when it’s snowing or foggy, so you need to be focused and alert.
Turn down the music, check the mirrors more often, keep both hands on the steering wheel, go slow, and be extra careful with everything you do.
When it’s safe to do so, pull over and stop the car.
If your windshield was simply dirty because someone passed you and sprayed mud or other debris on it, clean it. You’ll then be able to safely reach a service station or repair shop.
Assess the Problem
After safely pulling over, check what the problem is.
If you can fix windshield wipers right then and there, and have the spare auto parts needed, go ahead and do so. If not, either wait for the rain to stop, or call for help.
It’s always best not to drive long distances with poor visibility, unless you absolutely have to.
Why Do Windshield Wipers Stop Working?
Now, let’s take a look at everything that could possibly cause your wipers to stop working.
Knowing why this problem occurs can help you avoid it from happening again in the future.
The most common causes of the wipers not working are:
- Torn wiper blades.
- Wipers are stuck.
- Windshield wiper fuse has burned out.
- The wiper motor has burned out.
- Pivot nuts are loose.
- A nozzle is obstructed.
- Blades on your car are not put on properly.
- Control switch failure.
Now, let’s look at each of these potential causes in more detail. (P.S.: Not all of these reasons require you to change the blades on your car completely).
Wiper Blades Are Ripped
If the wiper blades are not in good condition, the wipers will not serve their function well. This happens often if normal wipers are used in frosty conditions, where you’d be far better placed to use the best winter wiper blades you can source.
They may still move to and fro, but your windshield will not look any clearer. All they’ll do is glide over the ice, or smear the water over your windshield instead of sweeping it to the sides.
This means that you’ll have to change your wiper blade. Luckily, they are relatively cheap and easy to replace. This should be done after 30,000 miles at most.
Windshield Wipers Are Stuck
This is more likely to happen in winter if they are covered in ice or snow.
Windshield wipers will remove light snow, and they are not powerful enough to deal with huge amounts of wet snow or ice.
Before you get on the road, make sure you brush excess snow or ice off of your car. Otherwise, there is a high chance of damaging the wiper blades and even the mechanical parts.
The same could happen in the fall, as sticky leaves piling on your car could also prevent your windshield wipers from working properly.
The Fuse Has Burned Out
Windshield wipers work thanks to an electrical motor. If there’s an issue in the electrical system (electrical problems), the fuse will burn out in order to protect the more important (and much more expensive) wiper motor.
It is much easier and cheaper to replace a blown fuse than the entire motor. This should be the first thing to check if the wipers are completely dead.
Another possibility is that the entire motor has burned out, which happens when the fuse doesn’t do its work correctly.
In this case, the damage is more costly, since the motor is an electrical component and will have to be replaced.
Wiper Pivot Nuts Are Loose
Pivot nuts connect the wiper transmission to the wiper arms. If these are loose, the wipers might move a little, but will not have full power.
Each wiper arm is independent, so you could be in a situation where only one wiper works well, and the other one doesn’t. All you have to do in this case is check the pivot points, tighten the loose pivot nuts, and you’ll be all set.
Nozzle Is Obstructed
If the car windshield washer nozzle is clogged up, the washer fluid for your windscreen will not be able to reach your windshield. You’ll get a very weak (or non-existent) washer fluid pump.
Even if the wipers work fine, without fluid, they’ll be pretty much useless.
In this case, all you have to do is use a needle to clear the obstruction. The holes are tiny, and a bit of dirt will be enough to clog them up.
Blades Are Not Put On Properly
If your windshield wiper blades are not mounted correctly, they won’t work.
If you’ve never mounted them yourself, you may want to check with a professional mechanic.
The Dangers of Not Addressing Broken Wipers
The main dangers of broken wipers are:
- The blades scratching the windshield glass.
- Rubber seal coming loose.
Not only do the rubber edges wipe the water from your windshield, it’s also a soft material against the glass shield.
If the rubber goes, there is a serious risk of the metal scratching the glass.
Visibility can be reduced with a scratch and if there is a weak spot in the glass, the scratching can exacerbate the weakness and cause a crack.
Loose Rubber Seal
The seal coming loose doesn’t just prevent the windshield being cleaned.
If you’re traveling at a speed, there is a serious risk of the seal flying off the car. This endangers pedestrians, as well as traffic behind you or coming in the other direction.
Tips to Avoid Your Windshield Wiper System Not Working
Here are a few tips to help keep everything in working order. Take care of these problems and you’ll minimize the chances of being faced with any unpleasant surprises on the road:
Check Before You Drive Off
Get into the habit of checking your wipers are functioning properly before you drive off. That way, you’ll most likely avoid being caught unprepared if it does start to rain or there’s heavy snowfall.
Keep the Blades Clean
We’ve seen that if the blades are torn, they won’t work. The same happens when they’re not clean.
Pollution, grease, and dirt are very common when driving, especially in cities. Every once in a while, give your blades a nice, thorough cleaning with warm, soapy water.
Do Not Overload the Wipers
Always keep in mind that your wipers are designed for a light load. So, do not overload them!
Brush off excess snow or any other debris on your windshield whenever it builds up.
Use Proper Washer Fluid
Windshield washer fluid plays an important role in keeping your wipers working properly.
Always use good quality washer fluid, and make sure it never runs dry before topping it up. Also, check that there are no obstructions in the nozzle.
Get Help From a Professional
If you don’t have the time or motivation to “get your hands dirty” and deal with all of this on your own, there’s nothing wrong with leaving it to the experts.
Repair estimates, on average, are between $20 and $40 to replace windshield wiper blades. The only part that will be more costly is the motor. If you need a new windshield wiper motor, be prepared to spend between $250 and $700, depending on your car model.
In this article, we’ve seen that windshield wipers are pretty simple (yet delicate) car parts. Even when you forget they exist on sunny days, when it starts pouring, it’ll be a completely different story!
You’re now aware of some of the most common reasons your windshield wipers malfunction, and you know all about what to do if they were to stop working abruptly.
Before we sign off, we want to leave you with a curious fact: Did you know that the first ever hand-operated windshield wipers were invented in 1903 by a woman from Alabama? Twenty years later, a motor was added, and they haven’t changed much since!
For now, have a safe driving experience!