How To Turn Your Windshield Wipers On-2 Easy Steps, With Pictures




Windshield Washer Stalk

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It’s a dark and stormy night and you are driving home.  As the rain begins to fall you realize that you don’t know how to turn the windshield wipers on!  You can’t see, what are you going to do?

Don’t fret, we are going to cover how to turn your windshield wipers on.  Generally speaking, windshield wipers are controlled by the stalk on the right side of your steering wheel. Simply moving the stalk down will turn your windshield wipers on.  However, there is more to it than that, read on.

Moving the stalk down will turn your you wipers on.  But the controls do more than simply turn your wipers on.  Let’s take a look at the controls to see exactly how they work and what they do.

Yes, different model cars will have different designs but after researching through several models of cars, the same general principles apply.  You may want to refer to your owner’s manual for a specific model of car.  

Let’s start with the basics.

Where is the Windshield Wiper Located?

Windshield Washer Control Stalk
To the right of the steering wheel-windshield washer controls

As I mentioned, the windshield wipers are controlled by the stalk on the right side of the steering wheel.  It will usually have a wiper symbol on it and some other cryptic markings (We will talk about these later). 

Again, this is a generalized guide, but the location of the wiper stalk should hold true for most models of cars in the USA.  

Let’s get into the actual operation of the windshield wipers. 

How To Turn The Windshield Wipers On?

Okay, so this is what you are here for.  As was mentioned, to turn the windshield wipers on, simply push the stalk down.  This lever controls all operation of the windshield wipers.

To turn the windshield wipers on; follow these steps:

Wiper Stalk Operation
  1. Turn the vehicle on (duh!).  Or at least have the key in the ‘on’ position.
  2. Pull down on the stalk. On most vehicles, this will activate the ‘intermittent setting of the windshield wipers. Your wipers are on but moving sporadically.  Let’s look at the different positions of the wiper stalk.

Windshield Wipers and Headlights

Some states in the United States require that your headlights be on when operating your windshield wipers. Click here to see your states requirements.

Variable Speed Windshield Wipers.

Wiper Intermittent Controls
This controls the intermittent speed of your wipers

It used to be that your windshield wipers were either off, working slow or working really fast.  For most newer cars that is not the situation. When you move the windshield washer stalk to the first position you put the wipers on the intermittent setting. 

This is good for light to moderate rain conditions.  The intermittent setting even has various speeds that it moves at.  Notice the collar on my windshield washer stalk. It has three bands.  These indicate the intervals between a wiper cycle.  

The thickest band indicates the longest time between wiper swipes (around ten seconds or so). This is good for foggy conditions or very light rain.

The next band shortens the time between wiper cycles (around five or six seconds)

The most narrow band adjusts the wiper cycle to around three to four seconds.

So depending on how heavy the rain is, it is easy to adjust the intermittent settings of the windshield wipers.

However, the windshield washer stalk continues to go down, past the intermittent setting. What is this?  This is a moderate-speed wiper cycle setting.

If you are driving in a steady somewhat heavy rain, this may be the setting that you need.  This will keep the wipers moving at a steady speed of two to three seconds. We are not done yet though!

The windshield washer stalk has one more setting.

This is the fastest setting, going through a wiper cycle every second or so.  This is used for very heavy rains, as it is constantly moving the water off of your windshield.  That’s your standard windshield wiper operation.

Now some vehicles are equipped with a fourth setting that I find most convenient. It’s called the misting setting and it turns your windshield wiper on for one cycle.

Mister Setting on Windshield Washer
Push Up for the secret mister setting(not on all vehicles)

In my Toyota, I push UP on the wiper stalk from the ‘OFF’ position.  This turns the wipers on temporarily, like I said, for one cycle.  This clears my windshield and reduces wear and tear on my wiper motor.  This is great for when another car throws water on your windshield or a very light mist.

One thing to note; if it is wintertime, make sure that your windshield wipers are not frozen to the windshield.  This will cause serious problems when the wipers try to move across the windshield. 

Now that we know how to turn the wipers on, what’s the trick to turning them off?

How to Turn Windshield Wipers Off.

Okay, so this is an easy one.  By pushing up return the wiper stalk to its original position.  You will feel it click into the off position and if everything is working well; the wipers should turn off. 

Now, if you want to reduce the frequency of the intermittent setting, do the same thing.  Reverse the collar to increase the time interval between wiper cycles.

That’s it, generally speaking, that is how you turn off your windshield wipers.


Are You Looking For New Windshield Wipers?

Check out my review of Clix Wipers. These are the wipers I use on my vehicles and am very happy with. You can read my review over here. Thanks.

How Do I Use My Windshield Washer Fluid?

Again washing your windshield, with your washer fluid is controlled by the windshield washer control stalk. In every vehicle I have had, pulling the wiper stalk towards me activated my windshield washer fluid. 

Hold it as long as you want the fluid to spray out; this will simultaneously activate the windshield wipers so that all the gunk comes off your windshield.

Assuming you have the correct washer fluid, you should be all set to go.

How Do I Turn On My Rear Windshield Wipers?

Ah, this question is a little trickier because controls for rear wipers are not so standardized.  Numerous types of vehicles have rear wipers, from SUV’s and minivans to hybrid sedans.

For instance, in my Toyota Sienna, the controls for the rear wipers are on the wiper control stalk; along with all of the other wiper functions.

However, in my previous van, a Chrysler Town and County, the controls for the rear wipers were on the dashboard.  There were two buttons, one to operate the wipers and the other to operate the rear washer fluid.

Going back even further, my Nissan Xterra, also had buttons on the dashboard that operated the rear wipers.

So, to best answer this question, it is probably best to Google your specific vehicle to find out how to operate the rear wipers.

Final Thoughts…

If you made it this far in the article, thank you for reading.  Operating the windshield wipers is a fairly simple process, but an important one.

Again, this is generally speaking based on the vehicles I have owned.  If this guide doesn’t fit your description of your vehicle you will need to consult your owner’s manual.  In the meantime,

Safe travels…

Do you have other windshield wiper related questions? Check out these articles.

6 Most Annoying Windshield Wiper Problems and How to Fix Them
Should You Put Your WIpers Up When It Snows

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