Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Windshield Wiper Arm

The windshield wipers on your car do a great job of keeping your windshield free of rain, snow, dirt, and debris so you can safely drive your vehicle, when they are properly maintained. However, the wiper blades would be unable to perform this critical task without the assistance of the windshield wiper arm. The wiper arm is attached to a windshield wiper motor, commonly located under the engine hood and directly in front of the dashboard. When all these components work together, your ability to see clearly while driving is significantly enhanced.

Wiper arms are made from durable metals ranging from steel to aluminum and are engineered to withstand the constant use, extreme weather, including sun, and high winds. Due to these facts, the washer wiper arm typically lasts the life of your vehicle, but it is possible that damage could occur that would require the replacement of windshield wiper arms. When this component goes bad, it will display the following symptoms or warning signs.

If you recognize any of the warning signs listed below, contact a local ASE certified mechanic and have them inspect or replace your windshield wiper arm.

1. Paint is flaking from the wiper arm

Most wiper arms are painted black with a protective powder coat that helps them withstand the elements. This paint is very durable, but over time will crack, fade, or flake off the wiper blade arms. When this occurs, the metal underneath the paint will be exposed, causing rust or metal fatigue to set in which can make the wiper arm brittle and subject to breaking. If you notice that paint is flaking off the wiper blade arm contact a certified mechanic that can inspect the problem. Flaking paint can be removed and repainted if caught early.

2. Streaking on the windshield

When the wiper blades are working properly, they will evenly clear your windshield of debris and other materials when turned on. However, a damaged wiper arm can cause the blades to bow in or out, causing them to leave streaks on the windshield; even if they are brand new. If you're getting streaks on your windshield, the wiper arm may not be holding enough tension on the blade which keeps the wiper blade held evenly across the windshield.

3. Windshield wipers chatter

Similar to the above symptom, the problem with the blades chattering as they go across your windshield is also a warning sign to a problem with the wiper arm. This symptom is also common when the wiper blades are not properly lubricated with water, or if the windshield is cracked. If you notice that your windshield wiper blades tend to chatter or run rough over the windshield, especially during rain, it's very likely that you have a bent wiper arm that needs to be replaced as soon as possible.

4. Wiper blade does not contact the windshield

Another solid indication that a problem with the windshield wiper arm exists is when the blade does not actually touch the windshield. This is commonly caused by a wiper arm that is bent upward and does not supply the correct pressure to keep the blade edge on the windshield. When you activate the wiper blades, they are supposed to run evenly, and the wiper arm is primarily responsible for this action.

5. Wiper blades don't move when activated

Although this symptom is more likely to indicate a problem with the wiper motor, there are times when the wiper arm can cause this to occur. In this scenario, the wiper arm attachment to the motor may be stripped, come loose or have broken. You'll hear the motor running, but the wiper blades won't move if this problem has occurred.

In a perfect world, you'll never have to worry about the windshield wiper arm having any sort of damage. However, accidents, debris, and simple metal fatigue can lead to damage of this important component of the windshield washer system. If you notice any of the above warning signs of a bad or failing windshield wiper arm, take time to contact a local ASE certified mechanic so they can properly inspect, diagnose and repair the problem.


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