Information about some common windshield washer problems on cars and light trucks. We all know that windshield washers spray cleaning fluid onto the windshield that works with the wiper blades to remove dirt from the front windshield. In some cases the same windshield washer pump is used to spray fluid on headlights and in some cases on the rear glass of an SUV or station wagon.
Some manufacturers will use one pump to service all of these surfaces. Other manufacturers will have separate pumps and reservoirs for the rear glass or headlight washer system. Your owner’s manual can give you a few clues about the kind of system that is equipped on your vehicle by showing you the filling locations and therefore where the reservoirs are located.
In most cases vehicle manufacturers will install a washer pump in the fluid reservoir. Although a few vehicles will use a pulse type pumps that gets its power from the wiper motor. Just about all windshield washer systems or activated by pushing and holding a washer switch. A slick feature on many vehicles is that when the washers are operated the windshield wipers are activated at the same time. You may need a car repair manual to diagnose malfunctions in these kinds of systems.
Problems with windshield washer systems
Some vehicles are equipped with a low fluid indicator. The warning systems are most often operated by a float connected to a switch. when the washer fluid level drops to less than a quarter of a tank the float drops and closes the switch which allows current to flow to the fuse panel and turn on the low washer fluid lamp to notify the driver to refill the washer fluid.
As with any parts that are constantly submerged in water these floats and switches can malfunction and provide an inaccurate warning or you may find that the bottle is completely empty but the warning light has not come on. In many cases removing the float and switch and cleaning off the corrosion or rust buildup coupled with applying a very small amount of lubricant can get the system working again.
One of the most common windshield washer problems that I see is that the fluid in the reservoir becomes contaminated. I have seen many different types of contamination. Sometimes somebody will put the wrong fluid into a windshield washer reservoir such as engine oil or coolant. This can cause clogs in the system and other kinds of issues with the electrical parts such as the washer pump and fluid level indicators.
I have also seen people install some additional detergents they think will do a better job of cleaning the windshield. The windshield washer reservoir was made to hold specialized windshield washer fluid only. It was not designed to have dishwashing detergent or harsh chemical bug removers in the reservoir tank or flowing through the hoses and pump. The rubber impellor inside the pump is easily damaged!
Many times when I have come across these detergents that were installed in the system it was necessary to replace all of the rubber hoses and the windshield washer pump itself. Sometimes a standard windshield washer fluid does not appear strong enough to remove what is on the windshield.
In this case take the time to physically clean the glass with an approved glass cleaner. The windshield washing system was designed to remove light dirt and debris. Not baked on stains or even stubborn deposits.
For more information about common auto repair problems you can return to the blog’s home page from this page about windshield washer problems.