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Windshield Wiper Wackiness: When They Smear, Chatter and Malfunction

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Windshield Wiper Wackiness: When They Smear, Chatter and Malfunction

The Wipers are Whining – What’s Going On?

I’ll never forget the day my windshield wipers started acting up. It was a rainy Monday morning, and I was already running late for work. As I turned on the wipers, they just… didn’t work. Well, they kind of worked – but in the most ridiculous, infuriating way possible. Instead of smoothly sweeping the rain off my windshield, they kept stuttering and skipping, leaving streaks of water all over the glass.

It was like my wipers had a mind of their own and were staging some kind of rebellion against me. I tried adjusting the speed, but that only made the problem worse. The wipers would either move at a glacial pace or start spasming uncontrollably, flicking water everywhere except where I needed it. Ugh, talk about a frustrating way to start the day!

Have you ever experienced this kind of wiper wackiness? Maybe your wipers have started chattering, or leaving those annoying streaks that obstruct your view. It’s enough to drive any driver up the wall! But what’s actually causing these issues, and how can you fix them?

Well, as the resident car care expert here at, I’m about to share my hard-won wisdom on all things windshield wiper-related. From common problems to easy DIY solutions, we’re going to get to the bottom of this wiper weirdness. So buckle up, and let’s dive right in!

The Anatomy of a Windshield Wiper

Before we can tackle wiper malfunctions, it’s important to understand the basic parts and mechanics of a windshield wiper system. At its core, a wiper is made up of a few key components:

  • The wiper arm: This is the metal or plastic “arm” that attaches to the windshield and provides the sweeping motion.
  • The wiper blade: The rubber or silicone strip that actually makes contact with the glass and clears away water/snow/debris.
  • The wiper linkage: The internal mechanism that translates the motor’s rotational motion into the back-and-forth wiping action.
  • The wiper motor: The electric motor that powers the entire system, causing the wipers to move.

When everything is working properly, the wiper motor spins, the linkage translates that into linear motion, and the wiper arm/blade sweeps across the windshield, keeping your view clear. But problems can arise with any of these components, leading to all sorts of weird and wonderful wiper behaviors.

Common Wiper Problems (And How to Fix Them)

Okay, so now that we’ve got the basics down, let’s dive into some of the most common windshield wiper issues and how to address them. Shall we?

Smearing and Streaking

As I mentioned earlier, one of the most infuriating wiper problems is when they leave behind streaks and smears instead of clearing the windshield effectively. This is usually caused by a few different things:

  • Worn wiper blades: Over time, the rubber or silicone on the wiper blades can become cracked, torn, or just plain worn down. This prevents them from making full contact with the glass and leads to skipping and streaking.
  • Dirty windshield: If your windshield is coated in grime, road grime, or other contaminants, the wiper blades won’t be able to glide smoothly across the surface. This causes them to skip and leave behind streaks.
  • Improper wiper angle: The wiper blades need to make full, even contact with the windshield as they sweep across. If the angle is off, it can result in uneven pressure and streaking.

The fix for smearing and streaking is usually pretty straightforward. First, inspect your wiper blades and replace them if they’re worn out. You can find replacement blades at most auto parts stores or even order them online. Just make sure to get the right size for your car.

Next, give your windshield a good clean with a quality glass cleaner. Use a microfiber cloth to wipe away any built-up dirt or grime. And finally, check the angle of your wiper arms – they should be sitting perpendicular to the windshield for maximum effectiveness.

If the streaking persists after those steps, you may need to have your wiper linkage or motor inspected by a professional. But in most cases, a simple blade replacement and windshield cleaning should do the trick.

Chattering and Vibrating

Another common wiper issue is a persistent chattering or vibrating sound as the blades sweep across the windshield. This is usually caused by one of a few things:

  • Worn wiper blades: Yep, those pesky wiper blades strike again! When the rubber starts to deteriorate, it can create an uneven surface that causes the blades to chatter.
  • Incorrect wiper size: If the wiper blades aren’t the proper size for your windshield, they may not be able to maintain consistent contact, leading to vibration.
  • Windshield irregularities: Things like small cracks, pits, or uneven surfaces on the windshield can disrupt the smooth motion of the wiper blades.

To address chattering wipers, start by inspecting and replacing the wiper blades if needed. You can also try adjusting the wiper arms to ensure proper, even pressure across the windshield.

If the problem persists, take a close look at your windshield for any small cracks or other irregularities. These can usually be repaired with a windshield repair kit. And if the chattering is really severe, it may indicate a more serious issue with the wiper linkage or motor that will require professional diagnosis and repair.

Stuck or Unresponsive Wipers

The absolute worst is when your windshield wipers just… stop working altogether. They might get stuck in one position, or fail to respond when you turn them on. This is usually caused by one of these issues:

  • Faulty wiper motor: If the electric motor that powers the wipers fails, the whole system will become unresponsive.
  • Broken wiper linkage: The internal mechanism that translates the motor’s motion into the wiper’s sweeping action can sometimes seize up or break.
  • Blown fuse or wiring issue: A problem with the electrical supply to the wiper system can cause the whole thing to stop working.

When your wipers refuse to budge, your first step should be to check the fuse. Locate the fuse box (usually under the dashboard or in the engine bay) and see if the wiper fuse is blown. Replace it with a new one of the same amperage, and try the wipers again.

If the fuse is fine, the issue is likely with the wiper motor or linkage. You may be able to hear or feel the motor trying to engage when you turn the wipers on, but if it’s faulty, the system won’t be able to move the blades. In that case, the motor will need to be replaced by a mechanic.

And if there’s no response whatsoever when you turn the wipers on, the problem could be in the wiring – a loose connection, damaged wire, or other electrical fault. This is best diagnosed and repaired by a professional auto electrician.

Windshield wiper malfunctions can be incredibly frustrating, I know. But with a little know-how, you can usually get to the root of the issue and have your wipers back in tip-top shape in no time. And if all else fails, remember that you can always pull over and clean your windshield the old-fashioned way – with a squeegee and some elbow grease!

Speaking of which, have you ever had to resort to that “MacGyver mode” when your wipers conked out? I’d love to hear your wiper war stories in the comments below. And if you have any other questions about maintaining or repairing your vehicle, be sure to check out the rest of the content here on We’re always happy to lend a helping hand (or a microfiber cloth)!

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