We’ve all done it at some point, jumped into the car, started the engine and watched the windscreen wipers dragging across the screen as they were left on the last time the vehicle was used. Now that winter is looming and the drop in temperature is being felt, spare a moment to consider what your poor wiper motor and windscreen wipers will do when they have become frozen to the screen and are unable to move freely.
How windscreen wipers work
The majority of windscreen wiper linkages (the bit that makes them go back and forth) are held together by a simple plastic ball and cup technology. This is fine when the wipers they are propelling can swipe along without hindrance. However, when a wiper is stuck to the screen due to ice or snow, it will place the linkage and motor under increased stress and that can cause the weak point, the ball, and cup, to part company and when that happens there is no alternative to either replacing the parts or getting a temporary fix done. This, of course, is both costly and inconvenient as you will not be able to drive the vehicle without working wipers. Depending on your car, repairing the windscreen wiper linkage starts at £100 and goes up to costs of £300 or even higher. Faulty windscreen wipers can also land you with a hefty fine if you are stopped. But it doesn’t stop here as damaged wipers will also put passing the MOT the first time into jeopardy if they fail to clear your windscreen for visibility.
Taking care of your wipers
Whenever you end your journey, make sure your wipers are turned off before you stop the engine. This will not only allow them to park in their correct position but ensure that they do not try and move the moment you start the car the next time.
If you forget or cannot remember if you parked the wipers and there is a hard frost, lift the blades off the windscreen before you start the car. They will still judder across the frozen surface which doesn’t do the wiper blades any good, but at least it prevents the linkage being damaged.
PS – Don’t forget the rear wiper too if you have one!
Photo by Thibault Valjevac on Unsplash
In frosty weather, it can happen that you will end up with a frozen car window. Any ice that has formed around the window rubbers of one of the windows on the side can freeze it shut. Usually, you won’t even notice the issue as it’s unlikely you will open the window in freezing temperatures. However, it can be an inconvenient issue should you really need to wind it down.
It’s important if you notice that your window doesn’t go down not to try and force it down. Forcing it down can do a lot of damage, which is not really worth the risk. If you have electric windows, for example, it could be that you damage the electric motor. You could burn out the motor by the excess pressure that is put on it by continuously pressing the button.
Equally, if you have non-electric windows then the force put on the winder could lead to damage. You could break some of the plastic pieces on the window regulator that makes the window go up and down. In some cases, you may even break the window itself.
What To Do If Your Car Window Has Frozen Up
If you find that your window has frozen up when you need to lower it, then it’s best to wait a moment. Give it some time for any ice to defrost by the heat generated inside the car’s cabin. This process can, of course, be accelerated by turning the heater a little higher. Another option would be to use an ice scraper of some kind to remove any ice and free up the window. That said, always make sure to follow manufacturer guidelines to make sure there is no damage.
Preventing Car Windows Freezing Up
As with so many things, prevention is always better than having to deal with the consequences. One way to prevent the windows from freezing up is to treat the window seal rubbers with an anti-freeze product. This can be found in most car maintenance supply shops. Usually, these solutions will contain wax or chemicals that help prevent any moisture from freezing up on the surface. Make sure to check the guidelines suggested by your manufacturer. Some types of dispersants may be bad for your particular car.
Your electric windows move up and down by way of a mechanism inside your door. Sometimes you may find it is not working. Sometimes it may just be a temporary problem, but often it means the window is broken.
Electric windows have a couple more parts that can go faulty in comparison to manual windows. They are therefore more prone to failure. Often it can simply be a case of the mechanism having seized and needing replacement. But sometimes it may be that the window motor which powers the mechanism is faulty. A fault in the electrical system might have been the cause of this. A minor part in the system like a blown fuse or faulty relay can cause the window to stop working.
Before getting anything replaced it is worth to check the electrical system of the car first. After inspecting the electrics, the mechanical parts should be checked. That way potential causes can be eliminated one step at a time. Checking first could save you a lot money as it may be that your window mechanism is not actually broken.
What Can I Do To Get A Broken Electric Window Fixed?
If you’re not sure what you need it’s best to just get help from a professional and get the things checked over. Rather than replacing a part and hoping for the best. A mechanic will be able to find the exact fault in the system, and pinpoint what part needs replacing during a window inspection.
The window regulator, or window mechanism, assists in opening and closing the side windows on the car. Most cars nowadays are fitted with an electric regulator, which is controlled by a window switch on your door or dashboard. Cars with basic trim levels and older cars are usually operated by a manual mechanism. In that case, the door is fitted with a window winder.
What parts does the window regulator consist of?
The window regulator is fitted inside the door underneath your window. It consists of a bracket that holds the glass in place and the actual mechanism. On some cars this is a ‘scissor’ type mechanism, on other cars this is a cable-type window regulator. Attached to that is either the window motor or a manual window winder, depending on your car.
With a ‘scissor’ type, or gear driven regulator the mechanism the X-shaped regulator part will effectively close itself as the window is lowered. When the window needs to close again it will return to its normal position pushing the window back up.
The cable-type regulator on the other hand consists of the bracket that holds glass which is moved across a sliding bar inside the door by the cables. As the bracket moves up and down the door window glass is closed and opened respectively.
How To Diagnose Window Regulator Problems
Sometimes problems can occur with the mechanism itself. Or if you have electric windows, with the electrical parts of the regulator. It can be tricky to get to the bottom of the problem. So if you’re not sure make sure to get an inspection first, so that a mechanic can select the right parts.
As you drive the car, the car collects dirt and debris in all kinds of nooks and crannies. Usually a bit of dirt won’t affect the car’s functionality, it only ruins the looks of your car. In some cases though it can be that dirt prevents parts of the car working properly. Take, for example, water leaks which usually come about due to inadequate drainage of water in wet weather conditions. A common drainage problem usually occurs at the drain holes just under the windscreen.
How does it happen?
Dirt (like sand, decomposing leaves and so on) can block the drain holes preventing water to clear from the plastic windscreen scuttle (or cowl) underneath the car’s windscreen. If, added to that, the seals around this area are not in a good shape it can be that water drips into the passenger compartment, in many cases it will run into the footwell. If not addressed, the affected areas can ultimately start to corrode leading to further, more expensive repairs.
Thankfully, preventing the drains from clogging up is super simple. It just takes you, your hands and some regular effort. With other words you ought to make sure the scuttle is clear of leaves and sludge whenever possible, to reduce the chance a drain clogs up. Especially because water drains are not usually cleaned at regular services. Remember to raise this at your next service with your mechanic too. The drains and scuttle should be cleared of any dirt and debris at your next service. Of course, if you can, do remember to clean the scuttle of leaves and dirt yourself daily.
How to clean?
Should you be so unlucky to already have a blocked drain hole, then try following the following to clean the drains:
- Accessing the drain holes depends on your car, in some cases it might mean that you would have to remove the windscreen wipers and scuttle.
- Once having gained access to a drain hole it can usually be cleaned with a flexible wire and flushed with warm water.
- Seek professional advice if you find that the water still does not drain correctly or if water still leaks into the passenger compartment.
Don’t forget that every car is a little different and might need a different approach to unclog the drain holes than the one presented here. Seek professional advice if you find that water has seeped through to other areas, risking corrosion of underlying components. Especially, as water leaks around the windscreen are not necessarily down to clogged drain holes (in this case consider one of our other guides).
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