Sunday, January 10, 2010

Apple #430: Windshield Wiper Noise

I've had a few suggestions from people lately for Daily Apple topics, and I will get to them, but first I must talk about this one because it's been driving me nuts. What makes windshield wipers make those horrible farting sounds and how do I get it to stop?

  • The really annoying noise that windshield wipers make is sometimes referred to as "chattering." This happens when the blade doesn't glide smoothly over the windshield.

I found a video so you could hear what chattering sounds like (I also love this guy's expression as the wipers are making the noise). You can keep watching to see how he fixes it. But that's not the only reason wipers can chatter, so there are other things you may need to do if your wipers are making that sound.

    • Besides the cause described in the video, chattering may be caused by the rubber blade hardening or else developing kinks or cracks or bumps that somehow keep it from contacting the surface of the windshield smoothly all across its arc.

    Things that can screw up the rubber blade:
    • Solvents not designed for use on a windshield can swell or even disintegrate the rubber blades. Many people say that RainX can fall into this problematic solvent category.
    • Dirt and oil can build up on the blades. Solvents or waxes on the windshield can fix the dirt there.
      • Hot weather can warp the rubber.
      • Snow or especially ice that builds up on the windshield can cool and almost "freeze" the rubber.
      • Additionally, if ice builds up while the car is off and then you turn on the wipers, the wipers will have to push themselves out of their ice-packed position, which can cause damage, and then they will scrape over the bumps and knobs of ice on the windshield, and that can damage the blades, too.
      • The wipers simply wear out. On a car that's kept in a garage, windshield wipers should last about a year. If the car is kept outside, the wipers won't last that long.

      Things to do to fix the problem, or prevent it from happening in the first place:
      • Clean off your snowy and icy windshield before turning on the wipers. (Yeah, I've been hoping the wipers could do this work for me. All right, I'll do it myself. Grumble, grumble)
      • Any ice that's stuck to the blades or any part of the wipers, clean that off too.
      • Clean the blades with vinegar. This will help remove the solvents, dirt, etc. One car owner says he cleans his blades with Stridex pads. Somebody else recommends dish detergent. Yet another person says he used lighter fluid.
      • One common recommendation is to clean the blades with rubbing alcohol. But some people say that alcohol is too harsh and may damage the blades. These folks recommend purchasing a solvent designed specifically for cleaning wiper blades.

      303 Wiper Treatment is one of the specialty cleaners recommended by one particular driver.

        Stoner's Invisible Glass is designed to clean windshield glass, but people say it works on wiper blades, too.

        • People definitely recommend, no matter what liquid cleaner you chose, applying it with a microfiber cloth.
        • If cleaning the blades doesn't do the trick, perhaps you've still got gunk on your windshield. You can live with it, or you can do what some car enthusiasts do, which is to "clay" the glass. This involves cleaning the glass really well, then using a piece of soft clay that looks almost like Silly Putty and rubbing it over the windshield. I'm giving you a really brief overview here to give you an idea of the work involved. Complete instructions for how to clay a windshield are available at
        • But maybe the problem isn't dirt on the wipers or on the windshield. The problem could be due to the fact that the wipers are not contacting the windshield properly. I've seen all sorts of suggested fixes for this, too.
        • The first suggestion is to follow the advice given in the video about the mini Cooper and make sure your blade is contacting the glass perpendicularly. But as I've noted, that's not the only advice I found.
        • Another guy says to bend the wiper arm slightly inward so as to increase the curve of the wiper.
        • Others say to adjust the tension on the wiper arm.
        • One tool-less way to do this is to turn the car on, turn on the wipers, and then turn off the car when the wipers are in the upright position (perpendicular to the bottom of the windshield).

        These wipers are just about vertical. Of course you wouldn't want to try to clean the wiper blades in a downpour like this.
        (Photo from eihcter's blog)

        • Grasping the wiper at the point where the blade connects to the arm, pull the wiper away from the windshield about 2 inches, then let it go so it snaps back to the windshield. Do this a couple of times per blade.
        • If that doesn't work but you still think the wiper isn't contacting the windshield correctly, there is a more involved way to adjust wiper arm tension. Again, I've seen lots of different instructions about how to do this and they all sound slightly dotty in place. Here is one set of instructions that seems to be the most helpful.
        • Of course you can also try replacing the wipers. If they're six months to a year old, that may be the best solution.
        • If you need to replace one wiper, replace the other one with it. Because the second one is bound to wear out soon afterward anyway, and it's best to have an equally matched set.
        I have the feeling that on my car, I'll need to adjust the wiper arm and clean off the blades. I'm going to give both a try and see if that takes care of it.

        You might also be interested in: How do Day/Night Rear-View Mirrors Work?

        Auto Zone, Windshield Wipers and Washers, page 2 of 3
        Jeep Forum, Windshield Wiper Chatter Fix
        BenzWorld, Windshield Wiper Blade Chatter
        ToyotaNation, Windshield Wiper Chatter, Windshield Wiper Chatter . . . ?
        Autohaus AZ, Replacing Wiper Blades Regularly Saves Lives & Windshields
        Jamak Global Wipers, FAQ and Troubleshooting


        1. Perfect timing! Here in Phoenix we hardly ever get to use our wipers and the last time I did the noise drove me crazy. I'm going to try the vinegar solution first.

        2. So I just tried the vinager thing,and boy were the blades dirty, it did work on one blade but I had to bend one slightly as well. Thanks for the advice!!!

        3. Wow, thanks! My car wipers have just started to rattle, and I found that the reason for that are the cracks one the rubber attached to them. I plan to find time to fix them during the weekends. Thanks!

        4. Well, in my case, it's the squeak. I just can't stand the screech made by a worn windshield wiper. I got mine changed already, as I have been doing so every two months. Maybe there is something else wrong with my wiper...

        5. In case you notice this chattering sound from the wipers of your vehicle visit an auto shop to check them up, bad wipers can bring scratches on your windscreen and will also cause problems for you in rainy weather.

        6. I’m sure every car has had this annoying problem once or twice. And most often, the culprit of the chatter is loose spring tension. Some cars have adjustable wiper arms, but some do not. If they aren’t flexible, they can be tightened by a cable tie loop or can simply be replaced. On a different note, the man in the video really looks funny with the disturbed countenance he’s wearing whenever the wipers fart. XD

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