Not being able to see out of the windshield is an accident waiting to happen. If you’ve ever driven with a dirty windscreen and chucked water over it at the traffic lights just so you can see for a few minutes, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
The wiper fluid not spraying after a refill shouldn’t cause you too much of a problem as, most of the time, it is a straightforward fix caused by a blockage in the nozzle. Even if this isn’t the problem, the wiper fluid system issues are easy to diagnose if you want to do it yourself. Diagnosing the fault involves tracing the problem, starting at the nozzle and following the pipes back to the washer pump and then to the vehicle electrics. The five checks below are the most common problems when you find the wiper fluid is not spraying after refilling.
5 checks and fixes to get the washers working again
1. Unblock the spray nozzle
It’s a simple fix, and probably one of the common problems found when wiper washers aren’t working. Dirt, dust, and debris get into the end of the spray nozzles, which are usually on the hood/bonnet of the car. They are straightforward to unblock with the help of a sewing needle. Push the needle into the hole in the nozzle and give it a wiggle around; this will usually free any debris. When spraying the washers, the remaining debris will shoot out of the nozzle.
You may sometimes find that one side of the washer is spraying but not the other. You can be sure it’s just a blockage that needs clearing. If the blockage is excessive, you need to remove the nozzle completely, which you can do from the underside by disconnecting it from the pipework. Soak in hot water and clean it; it usually works when refitted.
If you want to be sure it’s the nozzle blocked, try spraying the washers when the nozzle is removed. If the washer fluid comes from the pipework, then the clogged nozzle is the issue. If not, keep following and removing the pipework at joins until you find the problem.
2. Check the nozzles aren’t frozen
Screenwash has anti-freezing properties to lower the freezing point of the fluid, but the moisture that gathers in the pipework and the moisture in the air will freeze over at 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees celsius).
It sounds silly to say, but if there was frost overnight, expect the pipework and washer nozzle to freeze. It will take a long time to thaw out naturally if it’s a cold day. However, once the car has been running for a few minutes, it should warm and thaw out the wiper washer fluid system, including the nozzle. You can encourage the end of the nozzle to unfreeze by clearing out the nozzle with a sewing needle.
3. Listen for the pump
When you press the stalk to activate the washers, you should always hear a pump trying to spray the fluid. If you do not hear the pump working, either the pump has failed (which is pretty standard on most vehicles) or there is an electrical problem.
If you are pretty confident, check the fuse is ok and that there is power to the pump. Replacing the pump is cheap and straightforward. The pump is usually located at the bottom of the washer bottle. Unfortunately, the washer bottle location can be a little tricky to get to and sometimes require the use of a ramp. Your local mechanic will be able to replace this item hassle-free.
4. Check the pipes are connected
The washer fluid pipework passes from the washer bottle around the engine bay to the underside of the car hood for the front windshield washers. Pipework runs from the engine bay to the rear tailgate for rear windshield washers. The are several small plastic connectors between the pipework; on an older vehicle, these can become brittle and break.
To check for this fault, spray the washers, look for a leak under the engine bay, and trace the pipework until it leaks under the engine bay; trace the pipework till you find the culprit. Sometimes it’s as simple as the pipework isn’t connected.
5. Check the fluid hasn’t leaked
Cracks in the washer fluid bottle happen; if you’re pouring the washer fluid in, it can sometimes take a little while, depending on the severity of the leak. But it will be leaking straight out the bottom of the bottle. Again, like the pump itself, these are very easy to repair but can be a little tricky because of their location or what needs to be replaced to get to it.
Another leak that happens is the pipework splits and plastic joiners break, unfortunately there are a few which can make diagnosing the issue a bit tricky. The rear windshield washers has pipework work that runs the whole length of the car but water in the spare tire well is a good indicator of a problem with the rear washers. Small splits can be temporarily repaired with good sticky tape. Obviously, significant breaks will require the pipework to be replaced, which can be sourced from most good auto parts stores and purchased by the meter if you need to replace it.
Lastly, although this won’t empty the washer reservoir, if the cap is missing or broken, the fluid will leak out with some spirited driving. Cover the lid with a bottle cap and some tape to temporarily recover the reservoir filler hole.
How to fix washer fluid not spraying evenly
Washer fluid not spraying evenly is rarely anything but a blockage in the spray nozzle. Use a sewing needle or a pin clean the debris out of the nozzle. One thing to remember is you may need adjust where the nozzles spray on the windshield after cleaning them out. You can simply push the needle while in the nozzle and it will adjust the angle at which they spray.
Summary on wiper fluid not spraying after refill
As you’ve read, the most common problem is a blockage in the nozzle, causing the wiper fluid not to spray, which can be fixed with a sewing pin or needle. It is essential to have your wiper washers filled and working at all times. Not being able to see clearly through the windshield is a danger waiting to happen. If you aren’t confident enough to self-diagnose and repair the issue, have your mechanic take a look; replacing any of the components to the wiper washer system will be inexpensive.