Windshield Wiper Problems

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wiper linkage image
Wiper Linkage

It is the season for windshield wiper problems. Overall the system was designed to be extremely reliable. With that said it is not invincible. Common driver complaints can include poor wiping where the windshield is not swept completely clean as the wipers pass up and back.

Another big complaint would be extremely noisy wiper operation this is addressed below. Other complaints related to the wiper linkage or arms may include situations where they are out of adjustment and could be slapping the windshield moldings.

I’ve seen situations were the blades are touching each other as they sweep back and forth. Although not as common would be other complaints such as intermittent operation and slower than normal sweeping action. We will discuss all of these windshield wiper problems below. I have made available some of the parts that are often required to solve these issues including new wiper blades.

Common windshield wiper problems

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New wiper blades

The driver complaint about the wipers not clearing the windshield properly is often due to problems with the wiper blade itself. Nicks in the rubber and bent brackets that hold the wiper blade insert are some of the most common problems associated with the windshield wiper that does not clear properly. In many cases replacing the windshield wiper blades will correct both of these conditions.

Also keep in mind that the rubber on the wiper blades themselves will harden over time which will reduce the efficiency of the blades and can cause extremely irritating noise. As a general rule of thumb I replace my own wiper blades about once a year whether they need it or not.

When the wiper blades become out of time or do not park low enough or hit a windshield molding this can be a sign of bent parts. Often this can be traced back to the wiper transmission linkage or the arms themselves. The most common cause of bent windshield wiper parts is a driver that does not clear the windshield of built up snow and just turns the wipers on.

Windshield wiper systems were not designed to move heavy loads. Also in some cases the wiper blades can become frozen to the windshield. When you turn the wipers on the force of the motor breaks the blades loose but at the same time can damage the wiper transmission linkage and other parts that are connected to it.

Windshield wiper motor problems

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Wiper Motor

If the wipers are working slower then would be considered normal one of the quickest ways to figure out if it is a motor problem or a binding linkage problem would be to disconnect the wiper linkage at the motor. Then turn on the wiper system and if the motor runs properly without laboring the problem is most likely not with the motor but with the wiper transmission or linkage.

If you are not sure on what the condition of the motor is, you can always take your automotive meter and measure the resistance and compare it to the specification in your service manual. You can confirm a binding wiper transmission or linkage by operating the wipers by hand. Not only should they be easy to move but they should be consistently smooth with no harder to move areas or binding taking place.

If the wiper motor does not run in a particular speed or not at all, an electrical problem should be considered. Checking the wiper fuse is a good place to start if the wipers are not working. On most vehicles a separate wiper fuse is supplied. If you suspect you have an electrical problem I recommend following the diagnostic tree chart in your car service manual for wiper problems. These systems are fairly straightforward and have not gone through too many changes over the years. Therefore the diagnostic charts are some of the easier ones to follow.

If you are interested in learning more about automotive electronics I have a repair module dedicated to not only some basic information but also theory and operation. You can read through this section from this next link that will take you to the automotive electrical problems area. For more of the latest posts on this auto repair information blog this next link will take to the home page from this page about windshield wiper problems.

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39 Replies to “Windshield Wiper Problems”

  1. Andrew Barnes

    My wife used to get tired of hearing me ‘remind’ her not to use the wipers to clear the windshield in the winter. Finally, it came down to installing a remote car starter or moving to a tropical country. It was worth the move.

  2. John Sobierski

    2001 GranM Merc..Just changed notice the passenger side blade starts to return a fraction at the end of the sweep..causing an annoying click. What can I do??

  3. Mark

    John: If it did not do it with the old blades I would put them back on. Otherwise a problem like you described can often mean replacing parts like the wiper transmission, arms or linkage. It would need to be inspected to know for sure.

  4. Leo Bao

    Mark, my 2002 Lexus IS300 has an issue where the wipers seem to have a mind of it’s own. About a year ago I moved my wiper switch to the off position but they never stopped. It will keep going until I stop the car, pull out the fuse or at some point, turn off on their own. Also, since this has started to occur, I have not been able to use my windshield washer fluid. The wipers seem to respond in the summer, or warmer weather (except for the washer) but as soon as it gets below 35 degrees, they seem to just go off on their own. Any ideas on what this could be?

  5. Mark

    Leo: Sorry, not real strong on the Lexus systems. They can get real complicated with windshield rain sensors and all that good technology. I recommend at least paying for an hour or 2 of dealership diagnosis. A Lexus dealer will be best equipped to handle a speedy and accurate diagnosis.

  6. ron stocking

    my 2001 corvette wipers keep going on even tho the wipers are turned off. it’s like it is stuck on intermitted wiper.

  7. Mark

    Bryan: The component for making the wipers stop in the right spot is called the Park switch. I believe on your model this part is integral with the wiper motor (but check with your dealer for more information).

    Ron: The Corvette also has a complicated wiper system with rain sensors and delay module functions. I would check for technical service bulletins or make your rounds on C5 corvette forums and see if this is a common problem with a known solution.

  8. brigette

    The wiper on driver side has stopped moving, the motor still runs and wiper on passenger side works fine, I was told that I need a windshield wiper transmission, why not just the windshield wiper arm? What does the windshield wiper transmission do anyway?

    • Mark Gittelman

      Brigette: Curious about the year, make and model car and the current miles. Generally speaking the 2 most common issues for this type of malfunction is a stripped wiper pivot or a defective wiper transmission. On some models the pivot can be replaced separate from the transmission.

  9. Ashley

    I have a 97 Buick park avenue and my drivers side wiper blade would go up and way past the window (fling off the side of the car) after looking the bolt was severely lose, we tightened and it didn’t help, now my husband just took it off completely. (Makes for interesting rain days….luckily te passenger side is long enough I can just lean a little and see) but we were told may need a new transmission for it? I don’t understand, the mechanism works (turns on and off, adjusts speeds accurately etc) just a matter of the one going to far to the left and it not seeming to clear the window properly…any ideas?? Something stripped? (Like the bolt)

    • Mark Gittelman

      Ashley: The post that the wiper arm attaches to has splines that grip internal splines on the arm. These can become striped. In this situation you wind up replacing the whole transmission for one small issue with the pivot post. Also Timing the wipers can be an issue. The arms should be installed when the wipers are in the parked position so they don’t run off the glass on the up swipe.

  10. Greg

    I have a 2004 Chevy impala my windshield wiper on the passenger side went halfway up then drop back in the position where it rests when it’s off. Then I turn it back on didn’t move. Then my driver sided wiper goes up passed the position it suppose to stop at. It ended up on my drivers door like its striped. My motor works all speed do you think I need some more windshield wipers arm.

    • Mark Gittelman

      Greg: It sounds like either the wiper pivot post or the splines inside the wiper arm are stripped. Could be both? You’ll have to remove the arms in order to see what’s damaged. I think the pivot posts are part of the wiper transmission on your model.

  11. John J

    My wipers started running painfully slow during a recent trip. However, after being turned off for several minutes, they seemed to get back to a normal speed, but the problem re-occurred later. Car is a 2004 Honda Civic with about 160K miles. Here is some potentially related information. The alternator was replaced a few days before we noticed this wiper issue. Any thoughts on whether this is a wiper motor issue, or potentially some electrical issue, or something else?

    • Mark Gittelman

      Tough call John as it could go either way. I would run a charging system output test when the wipers start to slow down. Seems to me the recent Alternator issue would be more than just a coincidence.

  12. Michelle

    We have a 2003 Honda Accord LX sedan. During a recent snow/ice storm my windshield wipers stopped working all together. Hoping things were just frozen, we waited until the car thawed out, but still no action. There is a possibility the wipers were left on when the car was parked just before the storm and they tried to run while frozen. We had the fuse checked, that is OK. We want to know how to tell what part of the wiper system needs service or replacement. When I manually try moving the wipers they move easily and smoothly. Is there a way to diagnose motor vs switch vs something else?

    • Mark Gittelman

      Michelle: I would start by checking for power at the wiper motor with the ignition on, engine off. If you have power and a good ground at the motor, it probably needs a motor. If there is no power at the motor with the switch on, then the rest of the circuit needs to be tested before replacing the switch. There might be a circuit breaker or a relay in between the motor and switch.

  13. Evelyn Chadwell

    I have a 2001 Lincoln Town Car Executive Series & the other day it was raining & I turned on the wipers & heard a noise that I had never heard before when the wipers would cycle. I know it’s not the wipers because they were just replaced & I have used them since then & didn’t hear the noise. The wipers work and don’t seem to be moving any slower or hesitating during the cycle it just has this new strange noise. Is it most likely the wiper motor or could there be another problem?

    • Mark Gittelman

      Evelyn: On your model the delay wiper feature is built into the wiper motor. They use plastic or nylon gears. So I would say that replacing the wiper motor would most likely take care of the issue.

  14. art roe

    After 6 to 12 months wiper blade bends where they attach to arm and coming off, this results in both blades getting bent. I replaced blades 3 times so far. It is 2005 Buick Rendezvous. the plastic pin pulls thru the wiper blade and that is where the bend occurs, they are tri-flex blades.

    • Mark Gittelman

      Art: Not a common problem on that model that I know of. I’m not a big fan of made in china Trico wiper blades. I’m still not sure what “Easy Connection Technology” is or if it has anything to do with your issue. My favorite wiper blades are by Michelin. You can get them at Walmart for about $7 each. They are powder coated steel frames and reinforced at the attaching area.

  15. Mason Swartz

    The wipers on my 1983 K5 Blazer with 40,000 miles go up and then coming back down they stop and slow way down. I can still hear the motor running and I’ve checked the gears that connect so I’m not sure what the problem is. I usually end up having to reach my hand out the window or door to give them a little push and then once they get past a certain point about 3 inches from where they slowed down they go down the rest of the way fine and park.

    • Mark Gittelman

      Mason: You can take the arm off at the motor and operate the wiper transmission and linkage manually. This is how you check for binding linkage or wiper transmission issues. If there is no binding and it operates well then the motor becomes the main suspect.

  16. Robin

    I have a 2002 Honda CRV EX, A few weeks ago my wipers started acting a little crazy, they would go over too far, and then not park correctly, until they stopped altogether. So this past week I had the motor replaced, a wonderful $200 repair and they still aren’t right. They are definitely better, but they seem to be very loud when go down, almost like they don’t know when to stop so they just hit against the bottom, and twice now it’s went past my driver side, other times it goes half way and back down. It’s definitely better but with a motor replacement I thought It would work better than this. Any suggestions?

    • Mark Gittelman

      Robin: The wiper motor is only the first step in the process of making your wipers sweep correctly. Linkage from the motor to the transmission should be checked. Then the wiper transmission itself and also the wiper pivots. all of these items can get bent, damaged or wind up out of time. Also note that when installing the wiper motor there is room for error and all of the previous items should have been checked before replacing the motor.

  17. Ron Corfield

    I have a 2002 Trail Blazer LS. The wipers work fine on continuous low or high speed. When on any intermittent setting both blades stutter on the return stroke only, even when the blades are retracted away from the windshield. I’m stumped.

    • Mark Gittelman

      Ron: I believe your model has the wiper delay control module inside the plastic cover, over the wiper motor. If the problem only occurs when delay speeds are selected this might be the area of malfunction. The delay module can often be replaced separate, but you’ll have to confirm that with the Chevrolet parts department.

  18. Stephanie Smith

    Have an 04 Honda accord ex 4 door, wiper blades just stopped working altogether. Replaced wiper motor, worked literally maybe 4 swipes up and down, went a fourth way up and quit working altogether again. Any thoughts if could still be a second bad motor, or something different?

    • Mark Gittelman

      Stephanie: It could be another bad motor. Especially if the replacement is a remanufactured or junk yard unit. With that said electrical problems or a binding wiper transmission can also cause repeat failures of the wiper motor.

  19. Sarah Wright

    I placed a washer nozzle to our hose on my car one day and forgot about it. I go to leave and turned the wipers on. Completely forgot about the nozzle and my driver side wiper arm got stuck on it, I finally get it out of the way, but now my passenger side wiper won’t make complete contact. Not sure what I need. Maybe a spring? Was hoping it would be an easy fix. I forgot to mention it’s a 2010 Toyota Highlander.

  20. paul N

    I have a 1999 Buick Century and started having issues with my wipers. what I’ve noticed is that when there is no load (wipers attached to posts) the wipers work fine under all speeds. as soon as I put the arms back onto the posts the transmission pops off the crank arm. is this a sign of the nylon bushing on the transmission arms has gone bad?

    • Mark Gittelman

      Paul N: Yes it’s either a sign that the nylon retainer is worn out or the wiper transmission is binding. In reality it could be both and it might pay to replace the wiper transmission since it should come with a new motor connection retainer.

  21. Catherine

    I just replaced my wiper blades and on the return sweep they just kind of jump the whole sweep back. The forward sweep is fine. This doesn’t happen when there is an abundance of rain, mostly when it is heavy mist or sprinkling. It is enough moisture to have to use the wipers though.

  22. Evelyn

    I have a 2004 Hyundai Sonata. My wiper blades keep bending where they get attached. I already replaced them twice in one day. I’m not sure what to do.

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