You’re driving along and a little rain starts falling, you turn on your windshield wipers, but nothing happens. What should you do? The first thing is to pull over. Driving with non-functioning wipers can be dangerous. That is why you should check them regularly when inspecting your car. The next thing is to troubleshoot and fix the problem.
What Causes This?
There are a few possible culprits that may cause your wipers not to work. The most common are a malfunctioning switch and a seized or burnt motor. Unfortunately, identifying which is the problem can be a problem.
The good news is that you can easily find replacements for both parts using a VIN lookup at your local auto parts store. However, you don’t typically want to just replace things and hope for the best.
Troubleshooting the problem
One of the best ways to figure out which component is the problem is to use the windshield wiper stalk for other uses. Typically, they have more than one function. For example, you likely have multiple settings for the wipers. Try all of them and see if anything happens. Your switch probably also has the controls for your windshield washing fluid. Try activating that.
Some vehicles also have the turn signals integrated with the wiper control, try turning those on. Even if your turn signals are not on the same stalk, try turning them on and off. If they work, it isn’t a definite indicator that the problem isn’t the switch. However, if they don’t work, the problem is most likely with your controls.
You can also check the wiper motor wiring with a multimeter. Unplug the motor and connect your meter to the wiring harness. Check if you are getting a current to the motor when you use the controls.
Replacing both parts can be done without too much technical knowhow. However, the wiper stalk is a somewhat long process due to needing to remove some trim pieces.
Nonetheless, once you know which piece is the problem, fixing it is relatively easy. This is a common theme in automotive maintenance. Troubleshooting is the most challenging part. It is much easier with a multimeter. If you don’t own one, you can find them relatively inexpensively at many auto parts stores. AutoZone also has a loan program for various tools and diagnostic equipment.
Other Wiper Maintenance
Even if your wipers are working fine, you should consider installing windshield wiper replacement blades. This is very easy on most vehicles and will require, at most, a screwdriver. However, on many modern vehicles, you don’t even need tools at all. You can simply unclip them then slide the replacements into place until they snap-in.
Whether you are replacing the wiper motor or just the blades, working on your own vehicle is very rewarding. It can also be a lot of fun once you get the hang of it. Don’t forget to make sure you are getting the right windshield wipers size and the correct motor or control stalk. Fortunately, finding the right parts is easy using the lookup tool described above.