A Winter Nuisance That Can Become a Real Danger

A Winter Nuisance That Can Become a Real Danger

Windshield Safety

It’s something you never think about until you need it or it fails to work. You’re driving down the road, drizzling rain or sleet rushing toward your windshield, and you pass a truck that sprays a mix of moisture and mud all over your field of vision. You push the lever for your windshield wiper fluid to come out and it doesn’t. This poses a real safety hazard, and you must pull over immediately, if possible, to clean it manually. What can cause your fluid to fail? And what can you do about it?

First things first. You should check under the hood to the container where the wiper fluid is stored. Check first to make sure you haven’t run out of it. If you have, it’s an easy fix. Most all gas stations carry wiper fluid, and you can refill it yourself without having to go to a mechanic. If the fluid container is full, or there’s an adequate amount, check for other causes.

When Windshield Wiper Fluid Freezes

In the winter, the cause of the fluid not coming out is usually because it’s frozen. Many washer fluids will freeze at any temperature below freezing, which is 32 degrees. If you are in a steady period of snow storms and below freezing temperatures, you may find this problem particularly troublesome. If you live in an area like New England, where these weather conditions can last for months, it’s in your best interest to get a washer fluid antifreeze. These are available in a variety of formulas with varying freezing points. The reason the washer fluid antifreeze works is because it contains ethanol, methanol or other alcohol mixed with water.

A Word about Washer Fluid

Note: If you’ve had washer fluid with methanol sitting in your garage or under a hot car hood, there may be a chance that some of the alcohol will evaporate, possibly making the freezing temperature higher than advertised on the bottle. You’d need to empty out what’s left of the old fluid and put some fresh fluid in there to be sure you’re ready for winter.

How to Unblock the Washer Jets

If it doesn’t appear that the fluid is frozen, check the nozzles where the fluid comes out. Sometimes something as simple as a safety pin can work to dislodge any ice or debris that may be preventing the fluid from squirting out.  If the ice is wedged deeply in there, try a hair dryer if you can get close enough to an outlet. Sometimes the jet nozzles just need a little thawing out!

If you know that your washer fluid has frozen, you could be at risk for the container or the pump that pushes the fluid out to be cracked. In the event that this happens, you’ll need to see a mechanic to replace your washer fluid system or whatever the damaged part is.

When the Washer Fluid System Doesn’t Work

You may need a mechanic if you’re not comfortable fixing this yourself. But if it isn’t the washer fluid, there could be a blockage in the line underneath the hood. Or there could be some kind of damage to the pump.

Whatever the case may be, make sure you have a fully working windshield washer system. It’s an important safety feature all year long, but especially during a season when there can so easily be precipitation and other obstructions to your vision.

Good luck and safe travels!

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