Squeaking windshield wipers can be both annoying and problematic. Anything from dirty glass or dirty wipers to defective or worn out wipers can lead to squeaking.
Even brand new windshield wipers can squeak under the right conditions. Fortunately, preventing squeaking wipers is not a difficult task compared to other automotive projects.
There are a multitude of reasons for why windshield wipers can squeak, including: dirty glass, dry glass, dirty wipers, old wipers, defective wipers, or wipers that are incorrectly installed.
How Do Windshield Wipers Work?
It might seem that a wiper blade is one of the most straightforward pieces of a vehicle, and for the rubber blade itself, that is true. It is the part of the wiper that is in contact with your front windshield and is responsible for removing the window of water, dirt, and potentially other materials. Most squeaks that come from the windshield wipers are because of this rubber-to-glass contact rather than the wiper system itself.
In addition to the blade, wiper arms connect the windshield wiper motor to the blade to force the rubber back-and-forth over the glass. The wiper motor itself is more complicated than it seems at face value, but it consists of many different moving parts that work to move the wipers at any desired speed. In addition to the motor, the wipers also have to be able to press firmly enough against the windshield to remove fluids and debris but also not so hard that it damages the wiper or windshield in the process.
There are several different types of windshield wipers. The most common is the pivot wiper system which contains two or three wiper mechanisms that work and move together in the same direction to push fluids and debris to one side.
A less common but still widely-used system is the opposed wiper setup. This system uses two wiper mechanisms attached on either side of a windshield that act opposite each other, moving from their middle resting position to the outside of the windshield. This system is common in many vans with larger-than-average windshields. A less common wiper system is the singular blade. In this system, one wiper mechanism is responsible for clearing the entire windshield.
What Causes Windshield Wipers to Squeak?
There are many different reasons that windshield wipers can squeak, and it is not always because of the windshield wipers themselves. Similar to brakes where physical contact is made between two surfaces, any imperfection between the glass and windshield can cause wiper squeaking.
Dirty glass is the most common reason that wiper blades squeak. Any time a surface is not as smooth as it should be, especially when another object is coming into contact with it, there is a chance for vibrations to occur as one object is dragged over another.
This is the case when small dirt particles are present. For as small as these can be, they can cause vibrations through the wiper system and create a squeaking. A very dirty windshield can even cause the wiper blades to “skip” across the windshield surface which can cause another annoying noise.
Dirty Windshield Wipers
Just as dirt can accumulate on glass, it can also accumulate on wiper blades. Many people neglect or forget about cleaning their wiper blades when washing their vehicle, but this can cause the same result as when the glass is dirty.
Dirt on wiper blades can also have a similar effect to using paper towels to scrub a car or using dirty washcloths to clean a vehicle. Dirty wipers can leave marks and scarring on windshields if not cleaned. This can lead to obscured vision even after the windshield is cleaned, resulting in dangerous driving conditions.
Old Windshield Wipers
Windshield wipers that have not been replaced or taken care of will wear out and become less effective over time. Rubber is the best material to rid a windshield of rain and dirt, but it also wears out much quicker than metal and other materials. Old wipers usually begin to crack and disintegrate when they get older and changing them every year is recommended.
Defective Windshield Wipers
Windshield wiper blades can be distributed and bought with defects. There have been many different parts of many different vehicles that have been discovered to be defective.
Sometimes these defects cause major damage or can cause major potential damage if not taken care of immediately. With windshield wipers, the worst that usually happens is that they wear out quicker, are not as effective as they should be, or they make too much noise when working.
Frequent or Infrequent Use
Using your windshield wipers too often or not enough can contribute to the noise they make. Using wipers too frequently or when they are not needed can cause them to wear out quicker than they should. Not using them enough can cause them to become cracked and dry.
Most other parts of a vehicle do the same thing when they have not been used enough. If your vehicle has been sitting for an extended time, it is always a good idea to inspect the wipers before driving into a situation in which they could potentially be used.
Incorrect Windshield Wiper Installation
Installing anything incorrectly can result in unwanted noises, ineffective functioning, and potential damage. Windshield wipers are usually easy to install, but skipping a step or not checking them before use can cause them to squeak if they have not been fully or correctly installed.
Most wiper systems consist of a clip that opens and allows the blades to be switched out and replaced with new ones. Some wiper systems require that a blade slides into its housing. Most new wipers that you buy will come with installation instructions, and your owner’s manual will instruct you as to how large the blades need to be.
Windshield wipers can squeak when they slide over a dry windshield. Many times, turning your wipers on when it is not raining is the result of accidentally bumping the wiper stalk, but using the wipers on a dry surface can cause them to “skip” over the surface.
This is because liquids make it easier for the rubber to glide over the windshield; It acts like oil. When the surface is not lubricated, the rubber will stick and squeak as a result. This can cause the wipers to be damaged.
Some types of windshield treatment materials like Rain-X or other hydrophobic compounds can make the wipers squeak. This is not always the case and can be very dependent on the type of wiper blade and type of window treatment.
How Do You Prevent Windshield Wipers From Squeaking?
Fixing windshield squeaking is not complicated, and there are several relatively fast and easy ways to do this, depending on the problem.
Clean the Wiper Blades and Windshield
The easiest way to stop wiper blades from squeaking is to clean the windshield, the wiper blades, or both. Cleaning them will rid them of the small dirt particles causing vibrations and skipping across the glass. Windex and rubbing alcohol are both good supplies to accomplish this.
Moisten the Blades
Cracked wiper blades are not always able to be fully restored, but older and drier blades can be moistened in an attempt to stop them from squeaking. Rubbing alcohol usually does the trick, and it can be applied by a clean cloth.
Check the Wiper Assembly
Checking to make sure the windshield wipers are not loose, that they have been installed correctly, and that there are no obvious breaks in the mechanism can fix the problem. Any of these issues can cause the wipers to squeak.
Replace the Wiper Blades
If all else fails and the wipers continue to squeak after inspecting everything and conducting a thorough cleaning, it may be time to replace them. Wiper blades can cost anywhere from ten dollars to fifty dollars per blade depending on the size and brand.
Squeaking wiper blades usually turn out to be more of a nuisance than a problem, but they can be a sign that there is too much dirt on the windshield, your wipers are worn out, or that they have been installed incorrectly.
Fixing these issues is usually quite easy. Cleaning your windshield and wiper blades often fixes squeaking issues, but if this does not work, moistening the rubber blades or getting new ones may be the only remaining options.