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Summary
  • Homemade windshield wiper fluid is a budget DIY maintenance hack for your vehicle. Most of the ingredients for it are common household items like distilled water, rubbing alcohol, and liquid dish soap.
  • Some alternative solutions for windshield washers include white vinegar, vodka, and household glass cleaner. Making the fluid yourself can save you money, but it also takes time and you need to get the recipe correct if it’s to be effective. Commercial washers also contain helpful additives that you can’t mimic.
  • There are different types of commercial washer fluids including standard washer fluid and de-icing washer fluid. The windshield wiper system contains different components and works using a centrifugal-type pump in a washer reservoir.
  • A blown fuse or open circuit, an empty reservoir, and clogged jets or hoses are some causes of failed windshield washers.

Owning a car doesn’t come cheap. Aside from monthly payments, you also need a budget for maintenance tasks like getting an oil change, replacing filters, etc.

With many expenses in tow for average drivers, it’s common for many to come up with nifty ways to save a few bucks一one of which includes making a homemade windshield wiper fluid.

What Are the Ingredients of Homemade Windshield Wiper Fluid?

There are a lot of variations to making homemade washer fluid, but one thing’s for sure一most of the ingredients are in your kitchen.

A common combination of DIY washer fluid includes distilled water, rubbing alcohol, and liquid dish soap. In some cases, a few drops of blue food coloring is thrown into the mix to achieve a look that resembles commercial washer fluids.

Note that if you don’t use distilled water or just add regular tap water to your washer reservoir, you’ll likely have biological organisms growing and gunking up your reservoir and clogging your washer jets. Mixing different types of washer fluid can also cause this kind of thing.

 if you don’t use distilled water or just add regular tap water to your washer reservoir, you’ll likely have biological organisms growing and gunking up your reservoir and clogging your washer jets.

– Richard McCuistian, ASE Certified Master Automobile Technician

Windshield Washer Fluid Alternatives

Some alternatives to the DIY washer fluid combine water, alcohol, and dish soap. These give you plenty of options should you decide to make your own. Ammonia diluted with distilled water is good, too.

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White Vinegar

White vinegar is an all-natural alternative to commercial washer fluid. It doesn’t freeze under cold temperatures and is generally considered an effective glass cleaner.

Vodka

Vodka can be a comparable substitute for isopropyl alcohol. It also works as a de-icer.

Household Glass Cleaner

Glass cleaner isn’t an all-natural alternative to commercial washer fluid, but it’s less harmful than the additives in conventional washer fluid.

However, keep in mind that glass cleaner can only be used under warm temperatures. Also, check whether or not the solution is safe for cars to prevent damaging the tint.

Should You Make Windshield Washer Fluid?

DIY car maintenance projects, like creating a homemade washer fluid, typically meet the goal of saving a couple of bucks.

When made correctly, a DIY windshield washer fluid can work the same way as a commercial washer fluid minus the expensive price tag.

But as with any other DIY project, this one comes with a few drawbacks.

First, creating your own windshield washer fluid is more time-consuming compared to simply driving to your nearest auto supply store to buy a bottle.

You’ll also need to stick to the measurements for each ingredient. Failure to do so can lead to an ineffective solution and might even damage your vehicle.

For example, adding too much dish soap can make it hard for the dispenser nozzles to spray the solution. It could also damage the body paint.

Lastly, some commercial washer fluids contain additives that are suitable for various seasons. In contrast, homemade washer fluids are pretty simple in terms of their composition and might not be able to clean the windshield properly under certain conditions.

Store-Bought Windshield Washer Fluids

Most windshield washer fluids are blue and contain methanol that helps clean the windshield by dissolving bugs. The methanol compound also prevents the washer fluid reservoir from freezing.

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Because of the methanol additive, the solution is corrosive, which means it can harm wirings and other electronic components when it’s spilled.

Types of Commercial Washer Fluids

There are two types of washer fluids that you can buy from your local auto supply store: standard and de-icing washer fluids.

Standard Washer Fluid

Standard washer fluid is also called the “summer windshield washer fluid.” It’s considered a low-end washer fluid that’s ideal for calm temperatures.

De-Icing Washer Fluid

This type is intended for driving in winter weather. Compared to the standard washer fluid, it has a higher concentration of methyl alcohol for a lower freezing point.

de icer windshield washer fluid
A de-icing washer fluid prevents the reservoir contents from freezing under cold conditions.

A de-icing washer fluid prevents the reservoir contents from freezing under cold conditions. Some de-icing washer fluids can melt thin sheets of ice in temperatures as low as -49℃.

A Closer Look at the Windshield Wiper and Washer System

Many later model vehicles have windshield wiper and washer systems that  are computer-controlled. A typical system has the following components:

  • Wiper motor
  • Gearbox
  • Wiper arms and linkage
  • Washer pump
  • Hoses and jets (nozzles)
  • Fluid reservoir
  • Combination switch
  • Wiring and electrical connectors
  • Electronic control module

How Does the Windshield Washer Work?

Most vehicles have a centrifugal-type pump inside the washer reservoir. Some SUVs will have a washer pump that spins one way to send fluid to the windshield, and when it spins the opposite direction, it sends fluid to the rear glass.

The washer has a contact switch that’s usually in the steering column’s combination switch assembly.

Activating the switch energizes the washer pump, causing the nozzles to spray washer fluid onto the windshield. The nozzles are fed through rubber hoses that may come disconnected or be damaged by animals chewing on things under the hood.

What Causes the Windshield Washer to Fail?

The most common reasons why the windshield washer can fail include:

  • Blown fuse or open circuit
  • Empty reservoir
  • Clogged jets or hoses
  • Loose or broken wires
  • Blocked reservoir screen
  • Leaking reservoir
  • Defective pump

Homemade Windshield Washer Fluid FAQs

pouring car windshield washer fluid homemade
It’s relatively easy to make your own windshield washer fluid.

Here are the answers to some of the most common questions related to DIY windshield washer fluids.

Can You Use Tap Water When Making Washer Fluid?

Distilled water is the recommended water for washer fluids. This is because tap water still contains minerals and can grow algae that can clog the nozzles. It can also leave deposits on the glass.

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What Other Additives are in Store-Bought Washer Fluids?

Aside from methanol, commercial washer fluids contain ethylene glycol and antifreeze from methylated spirits.

Can You Put Shampoo in the Fluid Reservoir?

Yes. You can also use a diluted mixture of shampoo and water as a substitute for commercial washer fluid.

Wrapping Up

It’s relatively easy to make your own windshield washer fluid. Using a few household items, you can make an effective cleaning solution that can work like store-bought washer fluids.

Some of the ingredients to make one you can use are vinegar, rubbing alcohol, and glass cleaner.

However, taking the DIY route isn’t for everyone, especially for those who prefer ready-made cleaning products.

It’s also possible that the homemade solution won’t be as effective as store-bought washer fluids, especially under extremely cold temperatures.

Get Reliable Windshield Washer Parts

Various parts ensure that the windshield washer fluid fulfills its role. The washer reservoir stores the fluid, the washer pump moves it out of the container, and the windshield washer nozzle directs it at the glass. When you need dependable replacements for these windshield washer parts, order them from CarParts.com.

CarParts.com helps you find compatible windshield washer parts like washer reservoirs, washer pumps, and windshield washer nozzles. Enjoy how easily you can browse our extensive catalog of reliable parts and accessories. Plug your vehicle information into our website’s integrated vehicle selector, and you’ll get a list of our products that meet your requirements. Once you’ve found what you want, ordering takes only several mouse clicks or screen taps. You don’t have to wait long for your new washer reservoir, washer pump, or windshield washer nozzle. If you live in the continental US and order before noon ET, you can get your order in as fast as two business days.

Get the most out of windshield washer fluid by ensuring that the parts of the windshield washer are running well. View our array of washer reservoirs, washer pumps, and windshield washer nozzles at CarParts.com and order today.

About The Authors
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Reviewed By Technical Reviewer at CarParts.com

Richard McCuistian has worked for nearly 50 years in the automotive field as a professional technician, an instructor, and a freelance automotive writer for Motor Age, ACtion magazine, Power Stroke Registry, and others. Richard is ASE certified for more than 30 years in 10 categories, including L1 Advanced Engine Performance and Light Vehicle Diesel.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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