Windshield wipers are one of those small parts of your car that contribute to your overall safety. Without them, driving through snow, rain, dirt, and frost would be a huge challenge. Different parts of the wiper system work in unison to ensure that your wipers clean the windshield whenever you need them to.
These parts include the switch, control module, wiper relay, wiper motor, wiper linkage, and wiper arms. When you switch on your wipers, the switch sends that information to the control module which then activates the relay.
The relay then sends 12 volts of power to the motor which operates the wiper linkage. As the wiper linkage moves, the wiper arms also move. This helps to remove dirt, snow, and rainwater from the windshield. The wiper linkage is also referred to as the wiper link assembly or wiper transmission.
Sometimes, the motion of the wipers can be affected if you have a broken or bent wiper linkage. This can happen if you use them to remove heavy snow or ice during winter. In this post, we’ll go over a step-by-step process on how to fix a broken windshield wiper linkage.
But first, how do you know your wiper linkage is bad?
Symptoms of a bent or broken wiper linkage
1. Slow wipers
The wiper linkage comes fitted with two shafts to hold the wiper arms. The shafts tend to seize up due to corrosion and rust. This can cause the wiper arms to move slower than usual.
In severe situations, the seizing can cause overheating inside the wiper motor. You may be able to temporarily solve the problem by cleaning the shafts and applying some lubricant. However, the best solution is to replace the wiper linkage altogether.
2. Clunking noise
Clunking noises are mostly caused by a wiper linkage that has separated from its rubber or plastic socket. This connection moves the wiper arms using ball joints. If it’s corroded or worn out, it can produce clunking noises and even cause the wiper arms to pop out.
Sometimes, you may notice that your wiper arms are swinging loosely and too far. You may even lose one of your wipers if the connection becomes too wobbly. The best solution here is to replace your worn-out linkage as a unit.
3. Wiper blades rotate in wrong sequence
Wiper arms are designed to move in sequence to help clean the windshield. If they move in a different pattern, this could be due to a loose nut that attaches the linkage to the wiper arm, a worn-out linkage, or loose windshield wiper arms.
This problem requires a diagnosis from a professional to determine what’s wrong. If it’s coming from a loose nut, tightening and lubricating it should solve the problem. However, if it’s due to a stripped linkage, the wiper link assembly should be replaced.
4. Wipers don’t move
If your wiper linkage breaks, chances are your windshield wipers will not move when you turn them on. This is, especially if you can hear the wiper motor working. It means that the electrical system works but the mechanical components of the wiper system need to be checked.
Driving with wipers that don’t work can earn you a traffic ticket. It’s best to have the issue taken care of immediately as you may forget about it once you go about your day. The last thing you want is to realize you forgot to take care of your wipers while in snow or rain.
5. Grinding noise
If you hear a grinding noise coming from under the hood, you may have a wiper blade arm that is too tightly attached to the wiper linkage. This can cause the wiper motor gears to grind against each other, hence, creating a grinding noise. If not checked, the motor could burn prematurely.
Windshield wiper linkage diagram
Step-by-step process on how to fix broken windshield wiper linkage
Tools you’ll need:
- Flathead screwdriver
- Philips Head screwdriver
- Ratchet and socket
- New wiper linkage for your car
Step 1: Put your wipers in the proper position
Start by lifting the windshield wipers outward and away from the windshield. Depending on the type of vehicle you drive, you may need to first switch on your car, turn the wipers on, and stop them when they are at their highest point. This allows you to lift them without obstruction from the hood.
Step 2: Pry out the wiper arm tab and remove the wiper
Use your flathead screwdriver to pry out the tab that secures the wiper arm to the transmission. In some vehicles, a metal clip is used in place of a tab. You’ll need to unclip it to release the wiper arm.
Step 3: Remove wiper arms
Remove the wiper arms by pulling them out of the transmission. You may have to use a bit of muscle if they are tightly fixed on the shafts. Set them aside in a safe place. This should be somewhere the wiper arms can’t be stepped on accidentally.
Step 4: Remove the cowl
To gain access to the wiper linkage, you’ll need to remove the cowl. This is the plastic cover that is found between the windshield and the hood.
In some vehicles, it is installed in form of two overlapping halves secured in place by screws or clips. Use your flathead screwdriver to remove the clips or your Philips screwdriver in the case of screws.
You may need to pop the hood to gain access to some of the screws. Don’t yank the cowl out of its position. Remove it carefully to avoid ruining the plastic. Some cars have windshield washer hoses connected to the cowl. Disconnect those as well.
Step 5: Unscrew the wiper linkage(s)
Loosen the wiper linkage by unscrewing it from the transmission. You can gain access through the space left after removing the cowl or by popping the hood. Use the ratchet and socket of the appropriate size for this step.
Step 6: Unscrew the wiper arms transmission
Use a ratchet and socket to unscrew the transmission from its position. This will help release both the linkage and the transmission.
Step 7: Pull the wiper linkage out
Push or pull the wiper arm transmission and the linkage to remove the whole assembly. Cars are designed differently. You may have one linkage for the driver’s side and another for the passenger’s side. You can unscrew them from where they attach to each other and pull them out individually.
Step 8: Install the new wiper linkage
For most cars, it’s not possible to buy the windshield wiper linkage in parts. You’ll have to replace it as a unit. You may need to replace the wiper motor as well. Since the wiper motor is an electrical component, it’s best to replace it while the negative battery terminal is disconnected.
For the new wiper linkage, all you’ll need to do is reverse-engineer the process you followed to remove the old one. Start by screwing the transmission in place followed by where the linkage secures to the car. The next step is to put your wiper arms back on.
Step 9: Test your new wiper linkage
The last step is to test your wiper linkage. Check to see that your wiper arms go up and down the way you want them to. If they stop too far up when going down or do the opposite, loosen the transmission, adjust them, and retighten the transmission. If the wiper linkage keeps popping off, check for any loose components that you may have left behind. Remember to replace the cowl once done.
Read more: How to Fix a Leaking Axle Seal the Right Way
Knowing how to fix a broken windshield wiper linkage can save you some time and money. However, some jobs are best left to professionals. This is especially if your car has a complicated windshield wiper linkage assembly that is not easy to maneuver for a beginner. Furthermore, you may just not have the time to figure out how to fix a broken windshield wiper linkage on your own. Stick around for simpler guides that can help you fix some of your car problems.
How much does it cost to fix windshield wiper linkage?
A windshield wiper linkage costs between $35 and $130 for parts. Labor will put you back between $80 and $160. Costs might change depending on the type of car you drive, taxes, and labor costs in your location.
How do you know if your wiper linkage is bad?
The most common signs of a bad wiper linkage include wipers that are not moving at all, clunking noises, grinding noises, slow wipers, and wipers that do not move in sequence. You should have your windshield wiper system checked to determine the main cause of the problem.
How do you know if your windshield wiper motor is bad?
The most common symptoms of a bad wiper motor include wipers that move only at one speed, wipers that don’t work at all, slow wiper blades, and wipers that stop at the wrong position when switched off.
How do I reset my wiper park position?
You can reset your wiper park position by unscrewing the wiper arms from the transmission and positioning them at the correct park position. Screw them back into the transmission once you’ve set the correct park position.