Why Are My Windshield Wipers Not Working?

Despite mostly being used in inclement weather, windshield wipers are often susceptible to failure. In this post, we will go over the 5 most common causes and solutions for malfunctioning windshield wipers.

1. Torn Blades

Torn wiper blades

Excessive wear is the most common cause of windshield wiper failure. As they wear out over time, wiper blades develop tears along the rubber. These tears turn into gaps that leave streaks on the windshield. It’s recommended that you replace your windshield wipers once every six to twelve months depending on where you live. To replace your windshield wipers, you need to:

  1. Figure out which part(s) need replacing. Sometimes you need to replace only the wiper blades. Other times, you may need to replace the arms, too. Whatever windshield wiper part needs replacing, we may have what you need. We carry a variety of genuine OEM GM wiper parts. Check out the following parts in our catalog:
    1. OEM GM windshield wiper arms
    2. OEM GM windshield wiper refills
  2. When you have your replacement part(s) on hand, lift the windshield wiper arms up from your windshield. Next, flip the wiper blade up. 
  3. Find the joint where the wiper blade meets the wiper arm. There's a small plastic tab holding the wiper in place. Press on the stopper and then gently push it down to separate the wiper blade from the arm. 
    1. Make sure you are holding the wiper away from the windshield. 
    2. Be careful with the metal wiper arm. It is spring-loaded and can cause damage to your vehicle if it snaps back. 
  4. Slide the new windshield wiper into the same end of the metal arm. Maneuver the new wiper until it audibly snaps into place on the metal arm. Gently place the completed wiper arm down against the windshield. 
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 for the second wiper.

2. Dirty Windshield

Windshield wipers are designed to clear light snow and ice from the windshield. Yet, heavy snow and accumulated ice can damage your wiper blades and even bend them. Always clear piled snow and ice from your windshield prior to using your windshield wipers to prevent damage. 

3. Failed Motor

Failed GM wiper motor

Image Credit: ThiloVonGrafenstein

Have your wipers stopped working altogether? You're most likely dealing with an electrical issue. The wiper motor can short out. This will cause the wipers to fail. When you're experiencing windshield wiper motor problems, the motor needs to be replaced. A loose or disconnected wire in the circuit could also make the system inoperable. In either case, inspect all the components and connections and replace all necessary items. 

4. Bad Fuse

A blown wiper fuse is a more common issue than a failed wiper motor. The fuse serves to protect the wiper motor in the event the motor gets overloaded. The fuse will blow first in order to prevent damage to the motor. Don’t replace the bad fuse right away. First, make sure that the wiring and connectors leading to the motor aren't the culprit. If these parts look fine, then the fuse is the only issue.

5. Loose Pivot Joint

Wiper pivot joint

Over time, your windshield wipers can become loose. This causes the wipers to lose their effectiveness. For example, if your windshield wipers are out of tempo, it's likely that one of the wipers came loose.

A loose pivot joint is usually the culprit. To remedy this, you need to:

  1. Turn your windshield wipers off. 
  2. Locate the base of the wiper arms. (More on wiper arms in this article.)
  3. Pry up the plastic dust cap covering the nut. 
  4. Use an appropriately sized socket and tighten the nut. 
  5. Test the wipers and adjust accordingly. 

6. Clogged Windshield Washer Nozzles

Is the windshield wiper fluid not coming out? You're likely dealing with a clogged windshield washer nozzle. Sometimes it's easy for the nozzles to get clogged up. For example, automotive wax or polish can drip into the nozzles and clog them up.

The good news is it's pretty easy to clear clogged windshield washers. Here's what you need to do:

  1. Grab a pin and then use it to clear the washer nozzle.
  2. Disconnect the nozzle from the hose.
  3. Use compressed air to blow the debris out of the nozzle from the end where the nozzle connects to the hose.
  4. Check the hose for any debris. If you find anything, remove it from the hose.

If the nozzles are already clear but the fluid isn't coming out, the windshield washer pump may be broken. In this case, you would need to replace it. You can order an OEM replacement windshield washer pump from us here.

7. Bad Park Switch

Wiper motor park switch

If your windshield wipers won't turn off, the culprit could be one of the following:

  • Bad wiring
  • Bad relay
  • Broken wiper controls at the steering wheel
  • Bad park switch

If the first three parts seem fine, it's likely that you're dealing with a bad park switch. The windshield wiper motor comes with a park switch. The switch controls the flow of electricity to the motor. It also determines whether your wipers are on or off.

When the park switch fails, there's no longer something telling the motor to turn off the wipers. So the motor will think that the park switch is in the "on" position, therefore it'll keep the wipers running.

If your wiper motor has a bad park switch, you'll need to replace the entire motor.