How to Troubleshoot a Windshield Washer Pump

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A washer pump in a car's windshield wiping system moves washer fluid from a reservoir through hoses. The motorized pump pressurizes the fluid to allow it to be squirted from the hoses through nozzles onto the front and/or rear windshield of a car. The washer fluid helps windshield wipers get rid of rain, dirt, or other objects that can interfere with a driver's visibility. If your washer fluid is not being sent out when activated, the solution could simply be filling the washer system's reservoir with more fluid or cleaning the nozzles and hoses. In more severe cases, the washer pump may need to be replaced. Here are steps to troubleshoot a windshield-washer pump.

The Four Steps:

Part 1 - Checking the washer's condition 

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1)  Check the washer fluid reservoir for dirt. If dirt has sunk to the bottom of the reservoir, remove the reservoir from the car and clean it well inside. Reconnect the necessary wires and hoses when reinstalling the reservoir.

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2) Look for cracks, leaks, or breaks in the plastic or rubber hoses connected to the washer reservoir. Replace any faulty hoses.

Part 2 - Adding more washer fluid

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1) Add more washer fluid if necessary.

  • Mix a washer fluid solution according to the fluid product. Fill the pump's reservoir to the necessary level with the solution. Use a funnel to help you.
  • Use a formulated, non-freezing washer fluid in the wintertime.

3 - Cleaning the washer

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1) Unclog dirt from nozzles, hoses or screens. Use a long pin or fine wire to pick out or poke through clogged dirt. Follow by rinsing the parts that are exposed with water.

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2) Have someone else turn on your car's ignition. Ask them to activate the washer system to send out fluid. Let the washer fluid solution flush the system of remaining dirt or deposits.

  • Detach hoses one at a time to make sure that washer fluid is exiting through them. If hoses are clean or new but fluid is not reaching them, the cause could be an electrical problem.

3) Try an alternative cleaning method. Rather than having to remove the washer fluid reservoir from the car to clean out dirt, etc., try filling it with water. Then siphon it out. Do this several times until the water comes out clean. It works a treat and will save you the job of trying to extract a rather difficult-to-access reservoir.

4 - Fixing other issues

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1) Check the aim of your washer nozzles. They should squirt fluid above the windshield's center. Adjust them if necessary.

  • Washer nozzles may be found on the windshield wiper arms. The nozzles could also be on the car's hood panel and aimed separately at the windshield. Other nozzle configurations are having one nozzle for the left and right sides of the car or having adjustable offset nozzles arranged on a base.
  • Washer nozzles on wiper arms should not need adjusting because they are already centered and move with the arms.
  • Individual nozzles may be adjusted by moving a tab connected to each nozzle by hand. If no tabs are present, gently adjust the nozzles with pliers.
  • Adjust fixed nozzles by loosening a retaining nut for the entire nozzle body. Find the nut under the car's hood. Turn the nozzle so it sprays as much of the windshield as possible. Hold the nozzle in place and tighten the nut.
  • Nozzles that can be adjusted in their body can be aimed properly with a screwdriver, wrench, or pliers. If the tools cannot grab onto the nozzle, insert a thin needle or wire into the nozzle's opening. Move the nozzle in the direction you want, but do not force it or your wire or needle could break and get lodged in the nozzle.

2) Check your washer pump's power if the fluid is still not appearing when activated.

  • Turn off the car's power.

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  • Look for the pump on or in your washer fluid reservoir. It may also be attached to your windshield wiper's motor.

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  • Unplug the washer pump's electrical connector.

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  • Turn the ignition back on. Have someone else activate the washer and keep it on.

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  • Use a test light to see if the pump is receiving power. You can also listen for a humming sound and feel for a vibration from the pump to see if it is powered.
  • If it is not getting power, check for a blown fuse. Access your car's fuse box, find the fuse for your washer pump, and replace it if necessary.

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  • You may need to take your car to a professional mechanic or auto shop to fix wiring or electrical problems, especially if the washer is activated by a button on the car's steering-column.

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  • If the pump does receive power but still does not send out fluid, it may need replacing. Take the pump out from its location and replace it with a new one. You will also want to replace the seal that the pump goes through into the tank.

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