The change in weather always ushers in a new wave of car troubles. In the colder months, this means different parts of your car freezing or not working. Today, I want to talk about frozen wiper fluid nozzles. It’s surprisingly easy to unfreeze them and prevent freezing in the future. Take a look at the rest of this article to find out exactly how.
The key is to heat up your nozzles without heating up your windshield. When cold glass gets heated up too quickly, it can crack or shatter. To safely unfreeze your wiper fluid nozzles, park your car in a warm garage, use a hairdryer, apply heating pads, or remove your nozzles and warm them up with water. Do NOT apply hot water to your windshield or nozzles to try to quickly de-ice them.
How Wiper Fluid Systems Work
The windshield wiper fluid system in your car is pretty straightforward. In addition, it’s nearly identical in all cars, so troubleshooting is a lot easier.
There’s a tank, pump, lines, and nozzle.
The tank is the reservoir that holds all the wiper fluid. When you refill your wipers with fluid, you’ll pour the chemical into a plastic bottle-looking thing. This is the tank.
Whenever you use fluid, it’s coming from this tank.
The tank has a pump at the bottom. The pump will help fight gravity and deliver fluid whenever you call for it — more specifically, it starts pumping when you hold your wiper switch inside your car.
The pump is an electric motor that creates pressure to move fluid from the reservoir to the nozzle.
Of course, the fluid won’t go anywhere without the help of a hose or line. This is no different than your garden hose. It creates a protected means of travel for the wiper fluid.
At the end of the hose is your fluid nozzle. This is the last step of the process. The nozzle is where the fluid sprays out and goes onto your windshield.
Locating the Wiper Fluid Nozzle
Due to its nature, the location of wiper fluid nozzles is pretty universal. In nearly every modern vehicle, you’ll find this nozzle at the base of your windshield.
If your car is snowed over, it’s a little tougher to locate.
If you’re looking at the front of your vehicle, the wiper fluid nozzles will either be at the very bottom of your windshield or close by on the hood of your car.
For nozzles that aren’t frozen, you can simply activate the wiper fluid nozzles inside your car and see where the fluid shoots out.
The nozzles are small, black, plastic pieces.
Alternatively, you can pop the hood and look for the nozzles in the very rear towards the top. You should see black hoses running to each nozzle.
Things to Avoid While Unfreezing Wiper Fluid Nozzles
Before getting into tips that do work, let me tell you some ideas that don’t work. Trying any of these can lead to worse damage to your car. If your friends suggest these tips, you should stop taking advice from them.
Don’t Use Hot Water
The biggest thing to avoid is using hot water. There is never a good reason to dump a pot of boiling water on your cold car.
It all comes down to “science.” A super hot pot of water will very quickly turn into ice and snow. If you dump boiling water on your cold car, two things will happen:
- The water will flash freeze on your car, instantly creating ice
- The glass of your car can shatter
With the first event, you’re actually doing the opposite of what you’re trying to do. Instead of thawing your nozzles, now you’re freezing everything else around the nozzles and making things worse.
In the second event, you just ruined your morning and lost hundreds of dollars. A shattered windshield means that you’re not going anywhere until a repairman comes and helps.
The bottom line? Hot water and cars do not go well together.
Don’t Hit Them
A surprising number of car problems can be fixed by simply smacking the area that isn’t cooperating. However, this technique doesn’t work when it comes to wiper fluid nozzles.
They are too delicate to withstand any type of blow. If you hit them to try to unclog them, you could break the nozzles and remove any chance of thawing them. After all, they’re just little pieces of plastic with thin metal in them.
Don’t Start Without Troubleshooting First
The best idea is to start by troubleshooting your problem. There are a few reasons why your nozzles might not be shooting fluid:
- A clogged (not frozen) nozzle
- A frozen nozzle
- Damaged hoses running to the nozzles
- You ran out of wiper fluid
- The fluid is frozen in the tank
- Broken pump
As you can see, simply thawing your nozzle won’t prevent most of the issues you might be having.
Take a quick look at the wiper nozzles and ensure you’re only dealing with a frozen hole.
Tips to Unfreeze Wiper Fluid Nozzles
Once you’re ready to start unfreezing your wiper fluid nozzle, take a look at the following tips. These will help you achieve a thawed nozzle with no damage done to your vehicle.
Give it Time in the Garage
If you have some time to burn, then you can just wait out the ice. This is probably the easiest technique since it takes zero effort, just time.
Park your car in the garage and turn on the heater (if HVAC is run to your garage). Wait some time and check on your wiper nozzles.
Make sure your car is NOT running while it’s parked in the garage, thawing. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a real concern when you have a car running in a closed space, and it can lead to death.
Use a Hairdryer
A hairdryer is a great way of shooting heat to a certain area. They can also get surprisingly hot, making them a great choice when it comes to thawing your wiper fluid nozzles.
Grab an extension cord and your hairdryer. Turn it on its heated setting and aim it towards the frozen nozzles.
I’d suggest holding the hairdryer with your hand near your windshield, shooting away from the glass and towards the nozzles.
If you heat the windshield while it’s too cold, the glass could crack and shatter. Try your best to prevent any of the hot air from making its way to your glass.
Alternatively, you can just hold the outlet of the hair dryer really close to the wiper nozzles. Make sure you don’t overheat the plastic and start melting the nozzles because that introduces another issue altogether.
Use a Pin if Ice Isn’t Your Only Problem
If the nozzles thawed but they’re still not working, check them for a clog. This is sometimes hard to troubleshoot when the nozzles are frozen to the point where they’re not working.
Once you notice the nozzle’s port is clogged, grab a pin, thumbtack, or unfolded paperclip. Carefully feed it into the outlet port of the nozzle and clear whatever debris is slowing you down.
With that out of the way, try firing up the nozzles again and see if they work. If they do, let fluid spray for at least 10 seconds to make sure any other debris is cleared from the nozzles.
Try a Heating Pad
Another great way to deliver some controlled heat is with heating pads. That’s right, those little pads you use to keep your hands warm during the winter can also help your nozzles thaw.
Activate one of your heating pads and just place it on top of the wiper nozzles. As the ice melts into water, try to dry the nozzles with a towel to make sure it doesn’t re-freeze after the heating pad is removed.
Repeat the process on the second nozzle or simply put two heating pads down in the beginning.
Remove the Nozzles and Dunk Them in Warm Water
As a reminder, you should never pour hot water over your car. It becomes even more unsafe when you pour it near your windshield.
Applying hot water to a cold windshield can cause the glass to crack a ton or completely shatter. Suddenly, your problem becomes ten times worse.
If you’re still struggling and need to thaw your wiper nozzles, you should start by removing them. You’ll notice a gasket on the underside of your hood along with the wiper fluid hose. Remove both of these and you should be able to pull and remove your nozzles from the top.
When they’re removed, you can dunk them in hot water to quickly thaw them.
Make sure you thoroughly dry them before going back outside. If they still have hot water on them, they could flash-freeze and bring you back to square one.
Prevent Freezing Nozzles in the Future
Preventing your nozzles from freezing in the first place means you won’t have to waste time in the morning again thawing them. There are a few tips I could come up with when it comes to preventing freezing — take a look.
Be Careful When You Scrape Snow and Ice
This won’t exactly prevent a frozen nozzle, but it will avoid damage to the nozzle which can result in the same symptom.
If you scrape the base of your windshield and top of your hood too aggressively, you can break the wiper fluid nozzles on your car.
As I mentioned earlier, they’re just weak pieces of plastic and metal. Any type of blow to them could damage them and prevent fluid from coming out.
Apply Rubbing Alcohol
Rubbing alcohol does a great job of preventing your nozzles from freezing in the future. Alcohol has a much lower freezing temperature than water does.
You should apply it with a towel or Q-tip to the exterior face of the wiper fluid nozzles. Doing this semi-regularly will make sure you don’t wake up to frozen nozzles on especially cold days.
Swap Out Your Fluid Seasonally
Wiper fluid actually has to be changed seasonally. Winter-specific fluid is made with anti-freeze in it to prevent freezing in the first place.
Simply using a summer fluid or “all-season” mix can lead to your tank, hose, or nozzle freezing.
This answer might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s always best to park inside whenever possible. I have friends who reserve spots in their local parking garage during winter months so they don’t have to deal with frozen or snowy cars in the morning.
If you have a garage, this is the best place for your car. Alternatively, covered parking can help alleviate some of the issues that come with freezing rain or snow during the winter.
Unfreezing your washer fluid nozzles isn’t as difficult as you might think. I just reviewed some easy ways to do it and prevent it in the future. If you found it helpful, leave a comment below. Be sure to check out the rest of my site for more car guides. As always, see what products I highly recommend for drivers just like you.