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How To Fix Windshield Wipers Not Returning to Rest Position

in Ownership
Wipers on a car

Source: Pixabay

Windshield wipers are an important part of driving. While they may not be used daily, they’re used often, and are necessary in order to maintain safe driving conditions. With this in mind, it’s obvious that windshield wipers need to be maintained and taken care of.

But what if they’re broken? What if one day, they suddenly appeared to be stuck in the upright position? How do you fix windshield wipers that won’t return to their resting position?

If this sounds like something you’ve encountered before, and you’ve had trouble getting your wipers fixed, we’re here to help.

The Anatomy of a Windshield Wiper

Most windshield wipers consist of three simple parts, and are fairly simple in their operation. The wiper is made up of the base, where it connects to the motor that allows it to move back and forth across the windshield. The base then extends into the arm, which holds the third component, the blade, in position. The blade is the easily replaceable part that’s found at most big box stores.

With knowledge of how windshield wipers are assembled, we can then start to deduce how and why they’re not returning to the resting position.


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Reasons They Could Be Stuck

When we’re trying to determine how to fix windshield wipers that are not returning to the resting position, there are a few components to look at, and a few reasons that they may be stuck in the first place.

Before trying any of these solutions, it’s important to remember to clean your windshield. A dirty windshield can cause issues with your wiper blades, and can even be the reason that they’re getting stuck. Be sure to thoroughly clean the glass, checking for any sort of debris or residue. 

Aged or Worn Wiper Blades

Wiper blades are normally made from rubber or silicone composites. These composites are designed to make uniform contact against the windshield, but only firmly enough to move water from the glass. When fresh, the rubber and the silicone will smoothly, removing water and debris from the windshield with ease.

As the blade ages, the smooth nature of the gliding across the glass begins to worsen. Rubber and silicone will dry out and deteriorate over time, making the compounds sticky.

There’s a chance that if your windshield wipers will propel themselves to the upright position but then have trouble returning, that your blades need to be changed. This may solve your problem, and is the easiest solution available.

Electrical Failure

Where there are electronics in cars, there can be electrical failure. The same thing goes for windshield wipers. The switch for windshield wipers is often in the steering column at the driver’s seat, though sometimes the controls can be found on the dash. Electrical failure in these switches can be an issue, though normally any electrical failure in the dash or steering column is accompanied by other components going out, as well.

The switches are not the only area in which the electrical components related to windshield wipers can fail. Some instances are easier and some are worse. One of the easier issues at hand is checking the wiper fuse. Using the guide that comes with your vehicle, check the schematics for the fuse box, and locate the fuse. Check the fuse to determine if it has been blown. If it has been blown, then replacing the fuse could very well fix your problem.

After changing the fuse, check to see if the windshield wipers are operational again. If so, the fuse was the issue. If the windshield wipers are not operational after changing the fuse, or they are only operational for a short time, then a larger electrical issue may be at hand, and would most likely need to be diagnosed by a mechanic.


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Mechanical Mayhem

While it may not be the most straightforward issue when it comes to windshield wipers, mechanical issues are not the most complicated either. Most people can diagnose and fix this issue on their own without much hassle. When it comes to mechanical breakdown of the windshield wiper, most times the problem comes down to the windshield wiper transmission.

Follow these simple steps when attempting a mechanical fix of your windshield wipers:

  1. While you should have already done this, it’s worth mentioning again. Clean your windshield. Removing any debris or residue from the windshield will make this job a whole lot easier.
  2. Open the hood and remove the driver side wiper. When the hood is open, you’ll see where the driver side wiper attaches to the vehicle. These are held in with a plastic capped screw. Remove the cap and remove the screw, and the windshield should come free.
  3. Where the wiper is attached to the vehicle, there will be a black weather stripping and a plastic panel in most cases. Remove the stripping and the plastic panel to access the transmission. The panel is most likely held in with plastic tabs, and should be easy to remove.
  4. Reset the transmission. On the transmission you’ll find a metal tab that is designed to catch the wipers when they are supposed to be in the resting position. Over time, the tab can be bent away from the proper position, allowing the wipers to move freely after being reset. Turn on the car and run the wipers, taking care to see where the resting position should be by following the passenger side wiper. When you’ve found it, turn the wipers off and reset the tab at the correct position.
  5. Reinstall the wiper and check your work. If everything was done accordingly, your windshield wipers will now travel to the rest position properly! If not, take a look at the transmission again, and try to mark the spot accurately. It may take a few tries.


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If you’re having trouble with your wipers, it is probably best that you take care of the issue right away. Wipers are an integral safety feature in all vehicles. Most people need to know how to fix windshield wipers when they don’t return to the rest position. Even if you aren’t the most automotive savvy, using this guide is a sure step in the right direction to getting it done yourself!

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