Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Wiper Gearbox

It would surprise many people to learn there are several individual components that make up today's windshield wipers. In the "good old days" the windshield wipers were comprised of a blade, attached to a blade then attached to a motor that was operated by a switch. However, even back then, that windshield motor had multiple speeds that were activated by a wiper gearbox.

Even with multiple electrical and computerized additions that make up today's modern windshield wiper system, the basic elements that comprise the wiper gearbox have not changed very much. Inside the wiper motor is a gearbox that contains multiple gears for different speed settings. When a signal is sent from the switch through the module into the motor, the gearbox activates the individual gear for the setting selected and applies this to the wiper blades. Essentially the wiper gearbox is the transmission of the wiper blade system and like any other transmission, can be subject to wear and tear and may sometimes break.

It is extremely rare for the wiper gearbox to suffer mechanical failure, but there are some rare occasions when issues with the windshield wiper blades are caused by a malfunction of this device that will require the assistance of a local ASE certified mechanic to replace the wiper gearbox if needed.

Listed below are a few of the common warning signs that you should be aware of that might signify a problem with this component. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact a mechanic so they can properly diagnose the issue and repair or replace the parts that are causing trouble with your windshield wipers.

1. Wiper blades move erratically

The wiper motor is controlled by the module, which receives a signal from the switch that was activated by the driver. When a speed or delay setting is selected by the driver, the gearbox stays in that selected gear until the driver changes it manually. However, when the wiper blades move erratically, as in moving fast, then slow or staggered, this could indicate that the gearbox is slipping. This condition may also be caused by loose fitting wiper blades, worn out wiper blade linkage, or an electrical short in the wiper switch.

Either way, if this symptom occurs, it's best to contact a mechanic as soon as possible to diagnose the problem and make the appropriate repairs.

2. Only one wiper blade is working

The gearbox drives both sides of the windshield wipers, however there is a small rod that is attached to both wipers and the gearbox. If you turn the windshield wipers on and only one of them is moving, it's possible and highly likely that this rod has broken or is detached. A professional mechanic can repair this problem most of the time, however if it has been damaged, it may be required to replace the wiper motor which will include a new gearbox.

Most of the time, if this is the problem you're experiencing it is going to be the driver side windshield wiper blade that moves by itself, indicating that the broken linkage is on the passenger window.

3. Wipers stop working when selected

When you activate your wipers, they should operate until you turn the switch off. After turning the wipers off, they should move to the park position which is at the bottom of your windshield. However, if your wipers quit working in the middle of operation without you turning the switch off, then it is mostly likely a failed wiper gearbox, but it could also be a problem with the motor, or even a blown fuse.

If you experience any of the above warning signs of a failing wiper gearbox, it's very important for you to have this fixed before operating your vehicle. All 50 US States require functional wiper blades on all registered vehicles, which mean that you may be cited with a traffic infraction if your wiper blades don't work. Your safety however is more important than traffic tickets. If you notice any problems with your windshield wipers, contact a local ASE certified mechanic so they can help you diagnose the right problem and fix what's broken.


Next Step

Schedule Vehicle Body Mechanical Inspection

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Vehicle Body Mechanical Inspection. Once the problem has been diagnosed, you will be provided with an upfront quote for the recommended fix and receive $20.00 off as a credit towards the repair. YourMechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7-days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews... LEARN MORE

SEE PRICING & SCHEDULING

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Recent Vehicle Body Mechanical Inspection reviews

Excellent Rating

(171,627)

Rating Summary
161,099
5,644
1,174
834
2,876
161,099
5,644
1,174
834
2,876

CURTIS

6 years of experience
8 reviews
CURTIS
6 years of experience
Nissan Altima L4-2.5L - Vehicle Body Mechanical Inspection - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Curtis was outstanding and went out his way to education me about my car! I am very happy with the service I was provided!
Chevrolet Impala - Spark Plugs - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Curtis was a excellent mechanic, very Professional and knowledgeable about the work to be done. Very friendly and great to talk to. His work is spot on, done in a very timely manner and done right. It was a absolute pleasure to have Curtis out to work on my car. Highly recommend him.

Kevin

33 years of experience
234 reviews
Kevin
33 years of experience
Honda Civic L4-1.7L - Window Motor Replacement (Driver Side Front) - Los Angeles, California
Kevin was great. He was early, very professional, and answered all my questions. I will definitely call him again if needed.

Shawn

12 years of experience
285 reviews
Shawn
12 years of experience
BMW 328i L6-3.0L - ABS Speed Sensor Replacement (Passenger Side Rear) - Douglassville, Pennsylvania
Professional, knowledgeable and fast worker..

Travis

13 years of experience
579 reviews
Travis
13 years of experience
Cadillac Escalade V8-6.0L - Battery - Minneapolis, Minnesota
All went well! He replaced my dead battery in no time! Thx

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

Related articles

How to Get Rid of Windshield Streaking on Your Car
Windshield Windshield streaking is not only annoying, it can actually build up a real visual obstruction when driving. Before throwing in the towel and having the streaks professionally cleaned, there are steps you can take to care for the window...
How to Replace a Windshield Wiper Blade
Car windshield wiper blades need to be replaced if you see streaks or hear scraping. Keep wiper blades in good condition to maintain good visibility.
B2110 OBD-II Trouble Code: Front Wiper Motor Relay Circuit Open
B2110 trouble code means there's an error in the front wiper motor relay circuit, caused by a faulty front wiper relay or electrical components.

Related questions

How do I turn on the windshield washer?
The windshield washer will help you clean your windshield when it gets dirty. It can be crucial to helping you see well when driving. To turn the windshield washer on your 2012 Ford F-150. Press the end of the windshield...
How do I use the windshield wiper mist feature in a 2012 Chevrolet Equinox?
The windshield wiper mist feature is perfect for when there’s a one-time occurrence of moisture on your windshield. To use the mist feature, locate the windshield wiper lever that protrudes from the right side of your steering column. Pull the...
Windshield wipers get stuck
Hi there. It sounds like there is a restriction in the linkage (https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/windshield-wiper-linkage-replacement) that your wiper motor (https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/windshield-wiper-motor-replacement) is connected to. It is possible that one of the rods has been bent and now does not move as it was...

How can we help?

Our service team is available 7 days a week, Monday - Friday from 6 AM to 5 PM PST, Saturday - Sunday 7 AM - 4 PM PST.

1 (855) 347-2779 · hi@yourmechanic.com