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How to Replace a Windshield Wiper Motor 

Getting caught in bad weather with windshield wipers that don’t work is hazardous. The wipers are a crucial safety system that help ensure you can see where you’re going through a clear windshield. And if the wiper motor packs it in, it needs to be replaced immediately.

A new wiper motor could be as little as $50 or more than $500, depending on the style your vehicle needs. There could be additional parts you need too, like a wiper transmission or new wiper arms or blades.

Here’s what you need to know about replacing a windshield wiper motor on your vehicle.

What does a windshield wiper motor do? 

A windshield wiper motor is a small electric motor that powers the windshield wipers on a car. The wipers are attached to the motor by two metal arms attached to a wiper transmission or linkage, and when the motor spins, the arms flap back and forth quickly, wiping away rain, snow, or dirt from the windshield. 

There are two main types of windshield wiper motors: those that use a gearbox to spin the wipers at different speeds, and those that use a DC (direct current) motor to spin the wipers at one speed. Most modern cars use DC motors, although some older models still use gearbox-powered motors. 

What can go wrong with a windshield wiper motor 

best wiper blades

The wiper motor is an electrical part, and a failure usually only appears in a few different ways:  

  • The wipers stop moving altogether. If the motor quits completely, the wipers simply won’t activate when you turn the switch on. The motor can fail with the wipers parked or while they’re in motion, so they might be partially up if it goes. 
  • The wiper motor fuse blows often. A wiper motor that’s failing could still operate at times, but with any load on it like snow or wiper friction against a dry windshield, the circuit could be drawing more power than normal. The fuse burns out to protect the circuit, but it indicates early failure. 
  • The wipers move slower than usual. The wiper motor can have extra resistance from dirt or debris clogging the moving parts, or the electrical components could be in suboptimal condition, causing slower speeds. 
  • They park in an incorrect position. The wipers are meant to part at the bottom of their sweep. If that’s not happening, there’s often a problem with the electrical side of the wiper motor. 

Causes of failure range from simply a defective part to trying to operate the wipers with too much load on them. It’s often seen in northern areas with an abundance of heavy snow, and the operator turns on the wipers without sweeping the bulk of the white stuff off first. Typically, wiper motors last more than 10 years, and often outlast the rest of the vehicle. But if it fails, there’s no other long-lasting or safe correction than replacing the motor with a new one. 

Steps to replace the windshield wiper motor 

The process of replacing a windshield wiper motor varies greatly between different makes and models. Generally, there are a few steps to take to remove the faulty part and install a new one. 

1. Remove the wiper arms (if necessary)

Some wiper arms need to be removed if the pivots are through the windshield cowl. If yours don’t obstruct the cowl removal, then they might be able to stay on. To remove the wiper arms, remove the lock nut holding them in place. Then, use a wiper arm puller to separate the wiper from the splines on the pivot.

2. Pull the cowl off

In many vehicles, the wiper motor is either in the engine bay or underneath the windshield cowl. If yours isn’t under the cowl, it likely has to come off anyway to disconnect the wiper motor from the wiper linkage or transmission. It’s normally just a handful of screws to remove, then lift it out of place.

3. Disconnect the wiper motor

The wiper motor is attached with an electrical connector, a connection to the linkage, and three or more bolts keeping it in place. First, disconnect the harness from the wiper motor and tuck the pigtail out of the way to prevent it from getting pinched and damaged. Then, unbolt the wiper transmission from the motor. It could be just one bolt or nut in the middle, keeping it meshed with the gear on the motor. Finally, unbolt the wiper motor from its mount and remove it.

4. Install the new motor

To install the new windshield wiper motor, begin by bolting it to the chassis and connecting the electrical harness. Before attaching the linkage, cycle the wipers once to ensure the motor stops at the bottom of its sweep. If you don’t do this step, its likely not going to be an issue, but it’s a safeguard from turning the wipers on for the first time and having the wiper arms move in the opposite direction and bend the arms, blades, and damage your windshield frame and hood.

With the motor ‘parked’, ensure the wiper arms are down in the parked position also and attach the wiper linkage. Then, install the cowl and fasten the wiper arms to the pivots. It’s a great time to install new wiper blades too.

What does a new windshield wiper motor cost? 

Installing a new windshield wiper motor will most often cost between $90 and $225 for the parts, although there can be more or less expensive options too. If you have a technician install it for you, expect to pay around an hour in labor charges. If you’re a capable DIYer, it’s a great opportunity to save a little money.  

Buy your new windshield wiper motor at AutoZone. Whether you drive an older truck or a newer model sedan, you’ll find the parts you need to keep it in great shape right here, along with the tools to get it done right. If the job is too big for you, seek out one of our Preferred Shops to help you do the job.

Do you need a more in-depth look into your vehicle to help you with your project? ALLDATA, the leading provider of automotive repair information, is now providing DIYers with the same information that the pros use with ALLDATAdiy’s single-vehicle subscriptions.

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FAQ

What are the symptoms of a failing wiper motor? 

A bad wiper motor will operate sluggishly, might stop working mid-sweep on the windshield, blow fuses, or it might not work at all anymore.  

Why did my wiper blades stop in the middle of the windshield? 

If the wiper motor isn’t working properly, it might not be able to sense the correct position for the wipers to ‘park’. A new wiper motor is usually required. 

How long does it take to change a wiper motor? 

While it can take more or less time, a good estimate for wiper motor replacement is around an hour. 

Advice, how-to guides, and car care information featured on AutoZone.com and AutoZone Advice & How-To’s are presented as helpful resources for general maintenance and automotive repairs from a general perspective only and should be used at your own risk. Information is accurate and true to the best of AutoZone’s knowledge, however, there may be omissions, errors or mistakes.

Be sure to consult your owner’s manual, a repair guide, an AutoZoner at a store near you, or a licensed, professional mechanic for vehicle-specific repair information. Refer to the service manual for specific diagnostic, repair and tool information for your particular vehicle. Always chock your wheels prior to lifting a vehicle. Always disconnect the negative battery cable before servicing an electrical application on the vehicle to protect its electrical circuits in the event that a wire is accidentally pierced or grounded. Use caution when working with automotive batteries. Sulfuric acid is caustic and can burn clothing and skin or cause blindness. Always wear gloves and safety glasses and other personal protection equipment, and work in a well-ventilated area. Should electrolyte get on your body or clothing, neutralize it immediately with a solution of baking soda and water. Do not wear ties or loose clothing when working on your vehicle.

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