Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Windshield Wiper Switch

One of the most important safety devices on any car, truck, or SUV is a properly functioning windshield wiper system. Having quick and easy access to a clean windshield is imperative, especially during rain or snow storms when visibility is difficult. There are several components that comprise the windshield wiper system, but they are all activated with a simple flip of a windshield wiper switch.

Depending on the make and model of your vehicle, the windshield wiper switch will be located on either the turn signal indicator or a separate indicator level that is near your steering wheel. On the switch will be several options for the wiper speed, duration, and a switch for applying windshield washer fluid onto your windshield to help remove dirt, debris, bugs and other "stuff" so you have clear visibility. Most switches are very durable, however, from time to time, they can wear out through constant use or due to electrical gremlins.

When a windshield wiper switch begins to fail, there are often a few warnings signs that will alert you that a potential problem exists. If you recognize any of the symptoms listed below, make sure to contact a local mechanic as soon as possible, so they may inspect the problem, correctly diagnose what's damaged, and replace the right parts.

1. Windshield wipers won't turn on or off

When you turn the windshield wiper switch on, the wipers are supposed to move from drivers left to right in a curved pattern. However, sometimes you'll flip the switch and nothing happens. This can be caused by a malfunctioning switch, a bad wiper module, broken wiper motor, stripped wiper motor linkage, or damaged wiper arm. Because there are multiple components that might be causing this problem, it's a great idea to contact a mechanic that has experience working on windshield wipers that can arrive to your home or office to properly diagnose the precise issue and fix it for you.

2. Windshield wipers do not change speed or settings

As indicated above, one of the options of the windshield wiper switch is a setting for faster wipers or to set them to come on at a determined interval. The interval setting is commonly used during light rain showers or sprinkles and in some cases during dust storms. However, if you select a unique setting on the wiper switch and the wiper blades do not follow your input, this might indicate a problem with the wiper switch.

However, as indicated before, it might also be caused by a malfunctioning module, motor or linkage, so it's best to contact a professional mechanic to inspect the switch to verify that is what needs to be replaced.

3. Turn signals not working

On most cars, trucks, and SUVs sold in the United States, the windshield washer switch is on the turn signal indicator. This set-up helps drivers stay safer while driving as there are fewer manual controls to operate while driving the vehicle. Since both turn signals and wiper blades operate through the same device, it is possible that issues with the turn signal will also impact the wiper blade switch. Most of the time if the switch is broken the adjoining system will also show signs or failure. If you notice that your turn signals do not activate when you turn them on, it's highly likely that your windshield wipers will also be inactive.

This could be caused by a fuse that has burnt out, or another electrical failure. However, having operational turn signals and wiper blades is required by all US States.

Issues with the windshield wiper switch are incredibly rare. Most of the time, damage done to this device is either caused by a vehicle accident or trauma to the switch due to human error. If you notice any of these warning signs, make sure you contact a local ASE certified mechanic as soon as possible. Properly functioning windshield wiper blades is not a luxury like air conditioning or the stereo. It's vital to your safety and that of all motorists and pedestrians that travel the roads.


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