If you live in an area that has very cold winters, the effects of cold weather on your car are something you will always need to be aware of. You will probably already be aware of the miraculous fluid known as antifreeze that not only helps keep your car cool in the warmer months but also helps prevent your engine from freezing in the colder months.
But what about your windshield wiper fluid, and what happens if that freezes? Windshield wiper fluid is one of those car components that we rarely worry about until it’s run out. Then all we need to do is refill it. However, if it freezes, it will create a more complicated problem, and you must know what to do when this happens.
This article will provide you with all the relevant information on what to do when your windshield wiper fluid freezes, and tips on how to prevent the fluid and its washer nozzles from freezing.
Consequences of Frozen Windshield Wiper Fluid
You may be reading this because your windshield wiper fluid is already frozen, and you don’t know what to do or don’t know what damage may be caused. Well, it is recommended you act as soon as possible.
If you have frozen windshield wiper fluid, you may not be able to see out your front window in rain or snow, which of course could have disastrous consequences.
Furthermore, frozen windshield wiper fluid can result in a burst water fluid reservoir and destroyed or torn pumps or nozzles. When this happens, there is nothing to do but replace the components that are damaged, which could end up being quite costly. Hence, the importance of knowing how to unfreeze windshield washer fluid.
How to Unfreeze Windshield Wiper Fluid
Let’s dive straight into the process of how to thaw windshield wiper fluid if you have frozen windshield washer fluid. You can do so by following these steps:
How to Unfreeze Windshield Wiper Fluid
- Fill pitcher
The first step is to get a pitcher and fill it with hot water. The trick here is to make sure that the water is hot but not boiling hot. If you are unable to touch the water because of the hotness, then it is certainly too hot of a temperature and the effect of this is that it can cause damage to your tank reservoir.
- Open bonnet
Open your car bonnet and then open the cap to your reservoir.
- Pour in water
Take a small cup of hot water and slowly pour it inside the reservoir. Does this small cup by small cup and allow each cup to sit in the reservoir for a couple of minutes.
- Suck out fluid
Get a turkey blaster if you have one available and suck out the fluid from the reservoir. Throw away the fluid and repeat the addition of the hot water and sucking process until you have removed all the fluid from the reservoir.
- Replace wiper fluid
When the reservoir is emptied, you can replace the wiper fluid with one suitable for and resistant to freezing temperatures.
It’s generally recommended to purchase a windshield wiper fluid that is capable of handling temperatures of below -10 degrees Celcius, like this example below readily available on Amazon:
It’s also advised to pay attention to the hoses that pass the fluid from the reservoir into the expenders that then spray the wiper fluid frozen onto the windshield.
With the aid of an electric hair dryer, you can carefully and softly blow warm air over the hoses for any frozen windshield washer fluid to melt from the hose’s diameter. It’s crucial you do not blow the air on a particular spot for too long of a time as that may cause the hose to melt.
Your last resort is probably to remove the reservoir from the car. You should take it out and place it near a radiator or other heat source making sure you have something to catch the melting ice.
Once the reservoir is removed, you could also try flushing it with hot water. However, this should be a last resort since taking the reservoir out can be a little tricky, and you don’t want to get a mechanic to do it for you as he may charge you an arm and a leg for this task.
After this, you can turn your car’s ignition and test whether the frozen windshield spray is thawed and back working properly.
How to Keep Windshield Washer Fluid From Freezing – Preventative Steps
If you want to prevent having to learn how to thaw windshield wiper fluid in the future, there are three clear cut effective ways of doing so:
- Parking your vehicle in a garage
- Providing heat for the fluid reservoir
- Using freeze resistant windshield washer fluid
Let’s look at each method in more detail!
Parking Your Vehicle in a Garage
In situations where you are able to predict the weather is going to be extremely cold, courtesy of your local weather forecast, then it is advisable to park your car inside your garage if you have one. This is so that the car is kept at a warmer temperature than the freezing temperatures outside.
It may be possible to regulate the temperature in your garage, so if you can make it warmer then this will be perfect for avoiding your windscreen wiper fluid freezing. However, even if you are not able to make your garage warm-up, if it’s connected to your house, I’m sure the temperature will not drop to temperatures where the fluid will freeze.
However, if your garage is detached from your house, it’s recommended to install a small heater to keep your car warm and avoid the freezing of vital components.
Providing Heat for the Fluid Reservoir
An alternative method, certainly if you don’t have access to a garage, is to provide a source of heat near the reservoir. To do so, you can purchase engine block heaters and attach them near your windshield washer reservoir to help to keeps its temperature regulated through the freezing temperatures of the night.
Or you can improvise by using any other form of heat source (ensuring it’s safe) such as an incandescent light bulb placed beside the windshield washer reservoir.
Using Freeze Resistant Windshield Washer Fluid
Our third tip to prevent your car windshield washer fluid from freezing is to buy freeze-resistant windshield washer fluid if you haven’t already. There are various types of windshield washer fluid available, and they all have varying resistance levels to freezing temperatures.
Always be vigorous with your checks to see if the windshield washer fluid is certified as freeze-resistant or not.
Note: You should not attempt to mix freeze-resistant fluid and non-freeze-resistant fluid together as this may only raise the temperature at which the fluid will freeze, which will ultimately lead to a damaged reservoir system.
How to Prevent Windshield Washer Nozzles from Freezing
To prevent your windshield washer nozzles from freezing, it is necessary to understand that the nozzles are most likely not shielded properly from outside water entry and as a result, the water is entering into the nozzles, diluting the surface washer fluid, and causing it to freeze.
You could pour a bottle of rubbing alcohol into the frozen windshield wipe fluid reservoir to help to prevent it from freezing while also dissolving any frozen effects on the windshield. Another option is a fluid booster; however, you will need to purchase one that will not spoil the rubber hoses.
An alternative method is to simply take your windshield washer wipers off and keep them indoors. Especially if they’re already frozen, a few minutes inside will be enough time for them to melt.
When the ice has melted off the wipers, you should blow through them before returning them back to their position on the car windshield.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Rubbing alcohol like Methanol is most commonly used in windshield washer fluid. However, due to issues with toxicity, ethanol is becoming a more popular choice. Both methanol and ethanol are types of alcohol that can aid in not only keeping your windshield washer fluid from freezing but also in defrosting a frozen windshield.
Alcohol can be used to winterize your windshield washer fluid because it is an anti-freezing agent. Rubbing alcohol freezes at a lower temperature than water, and so, mixing a cup of alcohol with warm windshield wiper fluid can reduce the fluid freezing point.
Yes, adding a bit of alcohol to the windshield washer fluid will prevent it from freezing. Alcohol has a much lower freezing point at -114.7 degrees Celsius (-174.6 degrees Fahrenheit), as opposed to water’s freezing point of 0 degrees C (32 degrees F). Therefore, alcohol can be used as an anti-freezing agent because it freezes at a lower temperature than normal water. Mixing a cup of alcohol with warm windshield wiper fluid can reduce the fluid freezing point.