Windshield Wiper Problems

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 (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 have 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

new wiper blades image

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

wiper motor image

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.

11 thoughts on “Windshield Wiper Problems

  1. Mark Gittelman Post author

    William: They call this condition Phantom Wipe. This was common on GM cars from the Nineties due to problems with switches inside the steering column or delay wiper module malfunctions.

  2. William

    My wipers go on 1 stroke anytime.It just turns on for 1 stroke then shuts off.

  3. Mark Post author

    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.

  4. Bryan

    The wipers on my 2004 Impala stop in a vertical position when turned off. Whats up?

  5. 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.

  6. Mark Post author

    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.

  7. 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?

  8. Mark Post author

    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.

  9. 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??

  10. 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.

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