Windshield wiper problems
How To Guides | Windshield Wipers

6 Most Annoying Windshield Wiper Problems & How to Fix Them

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Probably one of the most underrated parts on your car is your windshield wipers. They are the very key to your visibility when the rain is falling, but they are often neglected until it is too late. Let’s take a look at the four most common annoying problems that you will see with your windshield wipers.

  • Wipers are juddering or chattering
  • Wipers are leaving a haze across your windshield
  • Wipers aren’t wiping away water droplets
  • Wipers are smearing in one or both directions

Whether it’s summer, fall, spring, or winter your wipers will have problems. We will see what causes these issues, and more importantly, how to fix them…

PROBLEM #1: Windshield wipers Juddering/Chattering

This is one of the most annoying problems you can face when driving.  It’s stressful enough to be driving in the rain, but then to have the irritating sound of your wipers chattering across the windshield, well, it’s no wonder road rage is a problem these days. 

Anyway, windshield wiper juddering or chatter is the result of too much friction between the rubber blade and the windshield. Essentially, the wiper’s rubber blade is sticking to the windshield causing it to “jump” across the windshield.

What causes the windshield to chatter and more importantly how do you fix it?

The most common cause of windshield wiper chatter is a dirty windshield and/ or dirty windshield wipers.  This is the easiest place to start looking and the easiest to take care of. Your windshield and its wipers take an incredible amount of abuse as you are cruising down the road at sixty miles per hour. 

All of that dust, road dirt, rubber, bugs, and whatever else you may come across while driving will build up a film across your windshield.

So get to scrubbing. 

Thoroughly wash your windshield changing your cleaning cloth often.  I like to use a regular paper towel and glass cleaner. Take your time and make sure you remove all the cleaner off the windshield because after this dries it will cause some build-up that you are trying to clean off right now.

While you are cleaning your windshield, give your wiper a rub down, too.  Dirt and grime can build upon these as well. A mixture of rubbing alcohol and water will do nicely on taking care of your rubber wiper blades. 

Cleaning your windows is the best place to start.  It is most likely the culprit if your windshield wipers are making some chatter while they are running.  But there may be some other reasons that your windshield is juddering. Let’s take a look.

Have you replaced your wiper blades lately?

 If you haven’t replaced your wiper blades lately check out Amazon’s Windshield wiper catalog; just enter your vehicle make and model, then you will get recommended wipers for your vehicle.

In some cases, you get what you pay for with wiper blades.  According to my research, brand new wiper blades come with a very fine powder over the rubber blade.  This powder film reduces the friction on the windshield until the rubber is worn a bit. Some less expensive brands of wipers do not have this powder film. If this is the case, you may just need to wait until the wipers break in a bit.

Another cause would be running your wipers when the window is dry.  I don’t know why you would do this, but it will cause the wipers to chatter.

One other cause that would be!d make your super blade chatter across a windshield is a bent wiper arm. This is the most serious scenario because you may need to replace your whole wiper arm assembly. Although if you are the adventurous type, you can try to bend it back yourself.

How to check for a bent wiper arm and fix it

You will have to conduct a bit of an investigation to see if your wiper blade arms are bent.  To do this, turn on your wipers and stop them halfway up your windshield. After they are stopped mid-stroke, examine the wiper blade.   The rubber should be in full contact with the windshield and it should also be parallel with the windshield.

If it is not.  You can carefully take a set of pliers or vice grips and bend the wiper arm back.  Be careful when doing this, because you can damage the wiper arm. However, the wiper arm is made of fairly thin metal and should bend easy.  If you can see where the problem is you may be able to reset your wiper blades and keep them from chattering.

Hopefully, this will help you to discover what that annoying chattering sound your wipers make and take care of it.

PROBLEM 2: Why are my windshield wipers leaving a haze across my windshield?

Not only is this an annoying situation it can be a dangerous one, too.  Anytime your vision gets impaired while driving, you are asking for trouble.  The haze combined with headlight glare at night can be a particularly bad combo.  So what causes the windshield wipers to leave a haze on your windshield?

According to my research, Rain-X or similar windshield wax would appear to be the main culprit here, which surprised me a little.  I love Rain-x, and I have never had a problem with it. 

Which leads me to believe that it is either worn out; it needs to be reapplied every few months. Or it was not applied properly the first time.  Rain-x can be a little tricky to apply correctly, it is definitely not a rush job.

Try scrubbing your windshield down with Rain-x Xtreme Clean or a similar cleaning product to remove the Rain-x from your window.  This, too, will take time and a lot of scrubbing but you will be able to remove the wax and see how the problem is after that. If the problem continues, here are some other options you can try.

Clean your windshield

A dirty windshield can be the cause of the haze.  As was mentioned, your windshield sees a lot of abuse over time.

 The dirt and oils that are collected from driving down the road will accumulate and may cause an issue like this.  Especially, if you live in a humid area will this be a problem. The oils and dirt combined with the moisture in the air will give you some visibility problems.

While we are talking about cleaning the windshield.  Again, clean your wiper blades. These collect the dirt and grime and hold on to them.  Then when you wipe them across your windshield, it spreads all that goodness out in front of you. 

The last option you can try is changing your windshield washer fluid.  Some who have used the Rain-X brand has had issues with haze being spread over the windshield.  Try using a different brand of washer fluid in your car. I do not recommend using plain water in the washer fluid tank, especially if you live in cold climates.

Finally, a temporary solution to this, if you are caught driving is using a combination of your defroster, air conditioner, and heater while you are driving.  The haze is caused by environmental factors out of your control. 

If you can find the right combination of temperature regulation in your car, you may be able to counteract the hazing effects for a time.  I turn my front defrosters all the on, turn on my A/C and turn the heat up. That seems to help me if I need an immediate solution to my hazing problem. Yes, you may be uncomfortable for a little while, but at least you will be able to see.

While you are cleaning your windshield, don’t forget to clean the inside. I know we are talking about wiper problems, but making sure your windshield is completely clean will prevent other problems as well.

Problem #3: My Windshield Wipers are not Touching the Windscreen, what do I do?

Having windshield wipers that don’t touch the glass kind of defeats the purpose of having them doesn’t it?  Unfortunately, this problem is not so clear cut and easy to remedy. There could be multiple reasons for this and even after you attempt to fix them, the wipers may still not work properly.  But let’s take a look and see what could cause these issues.

The first thing to check is to make sure you have the proper wipers.  

Wipers that are too big may only touch on the ends and curve up in the middle.  Wipers that are too small won’t cover the windscreen, duh. So if you have recently replaced your wipers check to make sure that you have the right size.

If you are not sure that you have the proper wiper blades, why not head on over to Amazon right now and check their Windshield wiper catalog. Just enter your vehicle make and model, then you will get recommended wipers for your vehicle.

A second reason is you may not have the correct type of wipers.  

I am speaking of the weather conditions. If you live up North or anywhere where you get snow and ice buildup, this could affect your wipers.  You see, snow and ice build can possibly build up on your standard wiper blades causing them to left away from your windshield.

Specialized snow and ice solid beam wiper blades will keep this build up from happening.  They are more expensive but well worth the price to keep your windscreen clean. If cost is a concern, you could switch them out during the warm summer months and put your standard blades back on.

A third reason that your wiper may not be in contact with the windshield is a bent wiper arm or a bad spring in the wiper assembly.  

Now, if this is the case, you could try to bend the wiper arm back as outlined above. But, if you are not mechanically inclined I would not suggest this course of action.  You could seriously damage an otherwise good wiper arm.

In the case of a bad spring, again, without some experience in dealing with wiper arms, I would recommend against trying to manipulate the spring or spring arm.  Each situation is different and again you may end up damaging the assembly.
If you believe that either of these two options is causing your problem, have a professional look at your vehicle.

Problem #4: Water Droplets Won’t Wipe Away…Why?

Clear vision is slightly important when you are driving your vehicle, wouldn’t you say?  So when you have water droplets that won’t wiper away, you are putting yourself and others in harm’s way because you can’t see.  So what do you do when its raining and the water droplets are not being whisked away by your windshield wipers.

First off, why does this happen in the first place?  Most likely, if you are experiencing this, you live in an area with high pollution.  Remember, your windshield is taking a lot of abuse, and is holding onto the microscopic particles of dirt, oil, and grease that get spread all over the road.  

When there is a rainstorm, all of that dirt, oil, and grease adhere to the water and actually cause them to stick to the windshield. So, what can you do about this?

You guessed it.  It is going to take some scrubbing.  Using a strong glass cleaner, thoroughly clean your windshield.  This collection of debris that is causing the water droplets to form and stay needs to be completely removed from your windshield.

The next step is using a water repellant such as Rain-x on your windshield.  I know, I know, I just wrote about how it can cause hazing, but for this particular problem, it helps.  This is basically a wax you are applying over the windscreen and it acts as a protective shield.

Problem #5: What causes windshield wipers to smear and how to fix it

Are both of your wipers smearing or just one?  If both of your wipers are smearing there could be several causes:

  • Poor windshield washer fluid
  • A very dirty windshield
  • Worn out or dirty windshield wiper blades
  • Poor or low-quality windshield washer fluid.

Did you replace your windshield washer fluid with plain water? Or perhaps did you attempt to make your own washer fluid?  This could be the cause of your double smearing wiper blades.

Now before you lambast me for criticizing a homemade formula; I’m not.  I’m all for DIY cheaper and environmentally safe alternatives. However, the quality of the water you used will make a difference in your cleaning solution.

So if environmental concerns are your issue, then look to a commercial cleaner that uses natural products such as ‘PEAK Natural Cleaning’ windshield wash.  They claim natural cleaning agents and effectiveness down to 32 degrees.

If environmental concerns are not your thing then any commercial cleaner at the store will be an improvement.

A perpetually dirty windshield

Ah, here we are again; this is the probably where you should start.  Cleaning your windshield. I don’t think I need to go into what abuse your windshield takes or the importance of how clean it is. 

Okay, so maybe you are not at home and can’t give your windshield an out-of-this-world clean.  What do you do? Well, when you stop to get gas, the gas stations have a handy little bucket, with a squeegee in it.  Use it. While your tank is filling up give your windshield a good once over.

Now true, sometimes the water in the bucket is a little suspect, but nine times out of ten you will be fine to clean your windows.

While you’re scrubbing your windows down, making sure to get all the grit and grime off the surface lift up your wipers, as well, and run the squeegee down the wiper blade.  It will get some of the dirt off the wiper blade as well. If you are at a particularly high-class gas station, they may even have some shop towels there.

Grab a few and run that down your wiper blade; you will be able to see how dirty the blades get. Also, they should work a little better.

Now if you are in the comfort of your own home.  Obviously, repeat these steps with good clean water and take your time about it!

Plain old Tired Wiper Blades

Sometimes all the cleaning in the world isn’t going to help.  You may just need to replace those wiper blades.

Wiper blades are recommended to be replaced every six months or so, anyhow.  Depending on the use you may be able to get a year out of them.

So, if you are not sure when you changed them last.  Maybe it’s time to go ahead and invest in a new set of windshield wipers

Problem #6: What if only one wiper is smearing?

Now you have a similar problem but different.  I saw only one blade smearing often when I was living up North.  It usually meant that I had a chunk of ice or snow stuck on my wiper blade.

If you have read this far into the article, I bet you know what you have to do now.  That’s right, you need to clean your blade off. If it’s a piece of ice, I used to lift the blade up slightly and let it slap back against the windshield. 

This broke the ice up and allowed me to pull it off the wiper blade.

If you are not in a cold climate and this is happening, check for obstruction on the blade.  Run a damp paper towel down the rubber part of the blade just to make sure.

Final Thoughts…

Your windshield wipers are the key to your visibility when you are driving in the rain.  They need to be taken care of.

The great thing is, they are relatively easy to maintain, anyone can do it.  So if you are dealing with any of the issues above, take a few minutes and try to remedy the situation.  And as always…

Safe travels…

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