Car Windshield wipers

When something breaks down in a car on the road, the driver has two options: call a tow truck or an evacuation vehicle, or try to fix the problem on his own. The first is expensive and time-consuming, the second requires skills, tools and often spare parts. But malfunctions can be different, and very often they can be eliminated with your own hands. For example, when windshield wipers fail.

The wiper can break in different ways: not start after switching on, stop suddenly, move incorrectly. It is important to fix the moment of breakdown for yourself – this can help in diagnosing and troubleshooting the problem.

Windshield wipers do not contain particularly complex components. But there are a lot of mechanics in this system, and therefore it causes problems on an older car. So, eventually, let’s put the main troubles in context.

Wipers Do Not Turn Off Or Have Stopped

First of all, you should check the fuse. This “small thing” can be the cause of both the unexpected stop of the wipers and their strike from the first moment after switching on. If the fuse is really blown, the wipers show no signs of life. Keep in mind that the fuse can not only burn out, but also cause problems due to oxidized contacts – both its own and in the box socket. You can find out which fuse is responsible for the wipers by the inscriptions on the lid of the fuse box, in the owner’s manual or on the Internet. Fuses could be tested with multimeters easily, almost all the modern ones are capable to do this.

Windshield Wipers Work And Then Do Not

It looks like you have a problem in the connectors or broken wiring harness wires. Problems with the contacts in the wiring harness can cause the wipers to work on and off and move slowly. Identifying the problem area is not easy: you need to inspect all the plug connectors on the harness that leads to the wiper motor: there may be corrosion and oxides inside the pads. They should be removed, contacts should be washed or cleaned.

burnt electric contact
Burnt electric contact / Photo credit by

Oxidation in connectors is a typical problem of old wiring. It rarely comes to the destruction of contacts, but floating faults are guaranteed.

First of all, inspect connectors located in humid, poorly ventilated places. Wire breaks should be looked for primarily where the harness can rub against something – engine parts, ribs at the joints of body parts, holes in the partitions through which these wires pass.

Wiper Blades Do Not Clean The Glass Properly

Make sure that small debris or ice (in winter) has not fallen under the blade or into its structure. In addition, the wiper may be badly worn: the frame “loosens”, the rubber blade loses its working edges. The wiper blade should be replaced, in some cases the metal frame should be bent with pliers to eliminate backlash.

In many models, you can move the right or rear wiper to the driver’s side leash to get home or to the car shop. The powerful leash spring can cause similar problems when cleaning the glass: in winter it can get clogged with ice, in addition, it can jump out of place or weaken from age.

Windscreen wipers
Two windscreen wiper types / Photo credit by Shutterstock

The “loosened” frame of the wiper blade causes a lot of problems to the driver. But frameless models (in the left hand) have their own “proprietary” problems.

Wipers Move Slowly Or Jerkily

There may be several reasons – both wiring problems (see above) and mechanical ones. First of all, check whether the leash is attached to its axis: deformed splines or a poorly tightened nut can cause problems. The nut should be tightened, try to temporarily bypass the problems with the splines by placing metal foil on the cone, for example, several layers of chocolate packaging. By the way, the axle itself, after running the car for 60 – 100 thousand miles, can also cause poor-quality glass cleaning – due to a large backlash in its bearing. The problem is solved by replacing the trapezium as a whole.

Also, the reason for the stepped, jerky movement of the blades on the glass is their wear – “looseness” of the frame and poor condition of the rubber band. To get home safely, try to put the wiper with the best condition on the driver’s side – if its size allows it.

car wipers drive
Wrench tool unscrews the wipers drive / Photo credit by Shutterstock

The landing point of the wiper leash on the shaft is another place with the prospect of problems. The axle itself also often “swings” in its bearing.

If the wipers move very slowly but evenly, the cause may be demagnetization of the drive motor stator (in particular, due to overheating). It is hardly advisable to repair the motor in the field.


In windshield wipers, most breakdowns occur without warning. Therefore, we advise you to monitor the work of the wipers from time to time on a car with a mileage of more than 60 thousand miles – for example, looking closely at their work during the next rain. Or order diagnostics when visiting the service station for other reasons. Blades should be replaced with new ones if not every season, then at least every year. Keep in mind that the failure of the wiper, among other things, can be dangerous, because without wipers the driver suddenly becomes “blind”. Just imagine that it will happen, for example, during overtaking on a narrow road?


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