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Windshield Wiper Switch

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Windshield Wiper Switch

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What is a windshield wiper switch and where is it located?

Your windshield wiper switch, located on the side of the steering column, is your input to activate your windshield wipers and washer pump. It starts the process of getting the vehicle’s wipers to move during a rainstorm, as well as getting the windshield washer pump to pump washer fluid from the windshield washer reservoir to the washer nozzles, allowing you to clean the debris off your windshield. Many of these are multi-function levers also include dials and switches to activate other systems, such as the headlights, fog lights, and turn signals. Some even include controls for the cruise control system. The lever connects to a switch inside the steering column which contains the circuitry that sends the driver’s input to the wiper motor and washer pump. Some assemblies will combine the lever and switch into one unit. 

Today’s windshield wipers can include an intermittent or delay function which causes the wiper to swipe the windshield periodically, rather than continuously. The driver can choose the length of time between swipes by adjusting a knob on the windshield wiper lever. Prior to the invention of intermittent wipers in the 1960s, cars usually had high and low speed continuous wipers, so the switch would allow the driver to vary the speed at which the wiper motor moves the windshield wipers only in this way. Intermittent wipers function by varying resistance in the wiper circuit. More resistance means a longer delay time.

How do I know if my windshield wiper switch needs to be replaced?

If any part of the windshield wiper switch input (e.g. the intermittent wiper knob) isn’t working, then you may want to replace the knob. Although the windshield wipers may not seem that important, if you can’t turn them on during a downpour, you may lose visibility and become a danger to yourself or other drivers. The windshield wiper switch may also experience failure due to faults in its internal circuitry.  

Since the wiper switch starts the process of activating your windshield wipers, it is one suspect (among many) if your windshield wipers will not start at all. That could also be caused by the wiper motor, though. Similarly, failure of the washer pump to activate could be a sign of failure in the switch or in the pump itself. The high, low, and intermittent speed settings for the wipers exist on different circuits in the wiper switch wiring. So, if one of these functions does not work, but the others do, that can be a sign of trouble in the wiper switch. 

If you are so inclined, you could check that the wiring inside the wiper control switch is working with a multimeter. This might involve opening up the steering column and removing the switch, but on the plus side, if the switch is found to be broken, you’ve already removed it and are halfway to replacing it.   

Can I replace the windshield wiper switch myself?

As mentioned above, replacing the windshield wiper switch will often involve opening up the steering column. Make sure to disconnect the battery and take any other precautions specific to your model to deactivate the airbags. You do not want the air bags to deploy while you are working in the steering column. Otherwise, the task should be completed easily enough with no need for special tools.

Need a windshield wiper switch replacement?

Being able to see in the rain or during a snowstorm, or to be able to clean off any dirt or debris that has accumulated on your car or truck’s windshield while driving is obviously extremely important to your safety and to the safety of others. Without a properly functioning windshield wiper switch, neither of these will be possible unless you pull over your vehicle. As you can tell, if you are in need of a windshield wiper switch replacement, it’s important that you get one and have things repaired as soon as possible. Luckily for you, 1A Auto has a large selection of aftermarket—as well as OEM—windshield wiper switches and lever assemblies for many makes and models, and at great prices.

At 1A Auto, we make shopping for a windshield wiper switch replacement for your car, truck, SUV or van easy—we're here to help you select the right part for your vehicle! 

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