Windshield Washer not Working: 5 Common Causes

By Vlad Samarin December 9, 2023
Windshield Washers Windshield Washers.
Clear front visibility on the road is paramount for safe driving. If you find your windshield washer not working, in this guide we explore the four common reasons behind the issue and provide insights into diagnosing and resolving each one.

1. Washer Pump Failure:

  • No washer function and no sound when activating the washer fluid.
  • Washer pump motor runs, but no fluid coming out.
Solution: The washer pump is the part that pushes the fluid through the hoses and nozzles and onto the windshield. If there's no audible sound when activating the washer, the pump electric motor may be faulty, which is very common. In most cars, the washer pump is located at the bottom of the windshield washer fluid tank. Replacing the washer pump is a relatively straightforward task and can often be done with basic tools.

2. Washer Fluid Hose Disconnected or Damaged:

  • Washer fluid pump sound is audible, but no fluid reaches the windshield.
  • Washer fluid leaks on the ground, often under the front of the car.
Solution: See where the fluid leaks on the ground and trace up to the spot where the hose has been cut or disconnected. A disconnected hose will prevent the fluid from reaching the windshield or the liftgate glass. Reattach the hose securely or replace it if damaged. Many car dealers and part stores sell the washer fluid hose in bulk.

3. Low Washer Fluid and No Warning:

  • The washer fluid pump produces the sound, but it results in no fluid on the windshield.
  • Low level or no washer fluid in the reservoir.
Solution: Refill with a suitable windshield washer fluid that won't freeze in cold temperatures. If the low washer fluid warning light does not come on when the fluid is low, it's possible there is a problem with the washer fluid level sensor, read more below. Regularly check and replenish the fluid to prevent interruptions in the system.

4. Frozen Washer Fluid or Nozzles:

  • The washer stopped working in freezing temperatures.
  • Washer fluid pump sound could be audible or not, depending whether the pump itself is frozen.
Solution: In cold climates, washer fluid in the reservoir or in the nozzles can freeze and stop working. To prevent this problem, use a winter-grade washer fluid to prevent freezing. If already frozen, park the car in a warmer area or use a windshield washer fluid with de-icing capabilities. When the windshield washer fluid is frozen, it may take up to an hour for the ice to melt when parked in a warm garage. Another way is to pour warm water over the outside of the washer fluid reservoir.

5. Leaking Washer Fluid Reservoir:

  • Visible leaks around the washer fluid reservoir.
  • Rapid depletion of washer fluid.
Solution: Inspect the reservoir for cracks or visible damage. In many cars the reservoir is placed behind the side of the front bumper and can be easily damaged. If it's cracked or damaged, the part can be ordered from or replaced at your local dealership. The replacement of the windhsiled washer fluid tank typically costs from $150 to $250 (part and labor).

Windshield Washer Pump:

Windshield washer pump Windshield washer pump (motor).
The windshield washer pump is a little electric motor with built-in pump that pumps the washer fluid out of the tank and onto the windshield. How it works: When you activate the washer, it signals the control module, which tells the pump to start. The pump then sends the washer fluid through hoses to clean your windshield. Read more: Windshield washer pump: how it works, symptoms, problems, testing.

Testing and Replacement and : The washer pump is relatively easy to diagnose and replace. Mechanics check the fuse and then measure voltage at the pump. If there's 12-volt power but no action, it's likely time for a new pump.

Windshield Washer Fluid Level Sensor:

Windshield Washer Fluid Level Sensor Windshield Washer Fluid Level Sensor.
What often happens is the washer fluid runs out, but you get no warning. It means there is a problem with the windshield washer fluid level sensor. The sensor is attached to your car's washer fluid tank, monitoring the fluid level. How it works: Using a magnetic switch called a "reed switch," the sensor activates when the fluid level drops. When the float inside the sensor sinks, the magnet triggers the switch, turning on the "Low washer fluid" warning light.

If the sensor malfunctions, it might wrongly signal low fluid even when it's full or not signal at all when it's empty. This could be caused by a bad sensor, a stuck float, wiring problems, or a connector issue.
Testing and Replacement: Testing the sensor involves checking its resistance, ensuring it closes the circuit when the fluid is low. If faulty, replacement is usually straightforward, and the part is cheap, but in some cars, it might require changing the whole reservoir.