After enjoying summer and having autumn full of activities; its time to bundle up and get ready for another winter. You make all of your preparations for your car, switching the summer tires for the winter tires, checking the antifreeze level, etc.
One thing that may fall off your radar is your windshield washer fluid. One day you go to clean all of the salt, sand, and grime that has accumulated on your windshield and….NOTHING
Well, windshield washer fluid is a liquid like any other in your car (your welcome for stating the obvious). Will your windshield washing fluid freeze if it gets too cold?
The answer is ‘yes’, your windshield washer fluid can certainly freeze during the bitter cold of winter.
You hear the pump running but there is no washer fluid coming out of the nozzles. You forgot to make sure that you had a winter blend of windshield washer fluid in the reservoir tank. Does the type of washer fluid make a difference?
Why does my windshield washer fluid freeze?
Just like everything else in life, there are so many choices when it comes to your windshield washer fluid. There are washer fluids in concentrate, in tablet form, designed to remove bugs, with Rain-x and the list goes on.
The one thing that all of these different types of washer fluid have is that their base ingredient is water. And what happens to water at 32℉? That’s right it freezes. So, you actually need to look for a windshield washer fluid that is appropriate for the season.
So during the summer you may be in the store and see a special formulation of washer fluid that will remove bugs. You may think to yourself, ‘self, the black flies are really bad right now. I am going to buy this bug remover washer fluid.’
That is all well and good in the summertime. However, the ingredient that keeps the washer fluid from freezing, anti-freeze, is a very small component of a summertime washer fluid blend. In fact, it is about a 1:10 ratio; one part antifreeze and ten parts water.
When winter comes all that water is going to freeze. Whereas a special winter blend has a ratio of 1:1 water to antifreeze.
There is simply more water in a summer blend washer fluid than in a washer fluid specially made for winter. That is why your windshield washer fluid freezes.
How do you check to see if your washer fluid is frozen?
Well, when your washer fluid freezes it is a pain in the butt. At least it is easy to diagnose. A simple visual check will determine if it is frozen.
Simply pop your hood and look for the reservoir tank. It is usually against the side wall of your car and towards the front. It’s in an easy location to see.
Also, there will be a cap that will have the wiper with a drop of water symbol on it. This is the reservoir tank for the washer fluid. It is usually clear, so a visible inspection will immediately tell you if your fluid is frozen or not.
What do you do when your windshield washer fluid freezes?
By the time you discover your washer fluid is frozen it is to late to do anything about it.
So your first order of business is to get the washer fluid thawed. Failure to do so may cause damage to the tank, the pump, or the lines getting the fluid to the nozzle. There are several ways to do this.
Put the car in a garage
This is the easiest way to get your reservoir tank to thaw is to park it in a heated garage. This will take some time obviously, but you don’t have to do too much work. So, if you have the option, park it in the evening and let the heated garage do its work.
Once the washer fluid has thawed, you need to drain it out of the reservoir tank. And replace it with a winter blend washer fluid.
A heated garage is a luxury that not all have the advantage of. So what are some options if you do not have a heated garage?
A salamander heater
Okay, so what if you have access to a garage but it is not heated. One option is to make it a heated garage by using a salamander heater. Most people don’t have one of these either, but if you can get your hands on one it is very useful.
Just quickly, a salamander heater runs on propane or kerosene along with electricity to produce a blast of forced hot air.
I have used these to warm up the engine compartment in cars before I worked on them. These heaters will warm up a small garage in no time.
Just point the heater in the direction of your engine compartment, turn it on, and wait. After some time your washer fluid will thaw and you can drain it from your system.
Please use caution if you are going to attempt using one of these. And it is best used by a person who has experience with them. If you are borrowing from a friend, most likely since they have one they know how to use it. Ask them for help.
A salamander heater needs to be used in a ventilated area, place it by a semi-open garage door if you are going to use it.
This should go without saying, but a salamander heater will get very hot…DON’T TOUCH IT!
Use a heat gun or hair dryer
Okay, so you don’t have a heated garage or a salamander heater, now what can you do?
A hairdryer is something that most of us have access to and it is on the same principle of the salamander heater. You are going to heat up the frozen fluid until you can drain it out of your system.
This option will take some time. You need to point the hair dryer at the frozen tank and hoses until the fluid begins to thaw. The advantage of it is that you can concentrate the air right on the washer fluid, rather than heating the air all around the car, too.
So, get an extension cord, pop the hood, and make yourself comfortable. You may be here a while.
Remove the reservoir tank
For a more advanced technique to get your washer fluid thawed, you could remove the whole reservoir tank.
This is may not be as easy as it sounds; so unless you know what you are doing or have a friend who knows what he/she is doing; I don’t recommend this method.
The advantage of it is that you can bring the tank to wherever you need it to be. You can easily bring it inside and allow it to that naturally. Or you could flush it with hot water.
The problem then is you need to reinstall the tank and hook all the hoses back up. You also take the chance of damaging the reservoir tank or hoses.
Ask a mechanically inclined friend for help
Nothing wrong with asking for some help. If you feel that it is too much for you. Find someone who has the ability to help you out.
As a last resort, you could take it to a mechanic. Yes, he may charge you for his services, but at least you know the job was done right.