Wipers a no-go
It’s a rainy Monday and you need to get the kids to school and yourself to work. So you get in your vehicle, turn the key, turn the wiper switch on and nothing happens - no movement and no noise. Your windshield wipers aren’t working.
You know that it’s raining too hard to drive without the wipers -- you need to be able to see out the windshield. This is something that you need to take care of right away; you can’t risk your safety and the safety of your passengers. Read on to learn how to go about troubleshooting this issue.
Whether your wiper switch is located on a wiper stalk along with the washers, turn signal and perhaps rear wiper system, or if your wiper switch is a standalone wiper/washer combination, check the other functions for functionality. Do the turn signals on the stalk work? Does the wiper fluid spray? Perhaps your stalk has rear wiper functions: do they work?
If nothing works, an electrical problem could be the culprit, possibly a blown fuse. A bad fuse on its own doesn’t occur often, but occasionally, finding and changing a bad fuse can get your wipers working again.
A word of caution: because you’re working with the wiper system, a blown fuse should be treated very carefully. If the fuse is blown, there’s a good chance that replacing the fuse won’t cure the underlying problem. Consult your mechanic at your earliest convenience to avoid a system failure under hazardous conditions.
Changing the fuse
Every vehicle is different, so consult your owner manual for the location of the fuse box containing the fuse for the windshield wipers, washer or stalk. Inside the box, you’ll find a small tool for pulling the fuse. Pull the fuse with the small tool and check it for breaks in the filament, or in the case of a glass fuse, check for fog in the tube. If the fuse appears damaged, replace it with a fuse of identical amperage.
If the fuse is good
If the fuse is good and undamaged, then the wiper stalk, wiper/washer switch or the wiring to-or-from either become the prime suspects. If you’re handy with tools and have some understanding of direct current electrical systems, you may want to check the wiper/washer switch for power and ground. If you’re not comfortable doing this or are dealing with a wiper stalk, you should take your vehicle your mechanic for further diagnosis of the stalk and accompanying circuitry.
If upon turning the switch, you hear either a buzzing or a noise coming from the wiper area but no movement of the windshield wipers, then it becomes likely that there is a mechanical problem. In front wiper systems, there are two moving parts, the wiper motor and the wiper transmission. In rear wiper systems with a single wiper, there’s a single moving part, the wiper motor.
If you hear a buzz, it could be a motor straining to move a jammed wiper transmission or a locked motor gear. If you hear a grind coming from the wiper area, it could be a stripped gear in either the motor, the transmission or where the wiper arm splines to the wiper motor in the rear. Don’t let the term transmission fill you with dread; it’s simply a term for a multi-lever set of arms and hinges that turn the circular motion of the wiper motor into the side to side motion of the wiper arms.
Generally speaking, you can reach the motor and transmission by removing the wiper arms, all the screws that hold the cowl beneath the wiper arms and the weather stripping. Once exposed, you should be able to remove the motor from the transmission and check to see if the transmission is binding or if the motor is the culprit. Simply, replace the culprit, and reassemble.
If the problem is with the rear wiper system, getting to the wiper motor can be more difficult with far more trim to remove than with a front system. You may elect to consult your mechanic for help.
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