DIY

How to Replace a Windshield Wiper Motor

Reading Time: 5 minutes

One potential cause for inoperative wipers is a faulty windshield wiper motor. But the good news is, usually, replacing a broken wiper motor is relatively easy.

On most vehicles, all you’ll need are basic hand tools, along with knowledge and determination.

car wiper motor
A faulty windshield wiper motor can cause inoperative wipers.

The wiper motor is a multi-speed electric motor that connects to the wiper linkage, which, in turn, connects to the wiper arms and blades. On most newer vehicles, a control module (usually the body control module) operates the wiper motor based on inputs from the wiper switch.

A faulty wiper motor is just one potential cause of inoperative wipers. Circuit problems and mechanical issues can also prevent the wipers from working.

So, before jumping right in, take the time to do some troubleshooting first.

Note: The following are general guidelines for educational and entertainment purposes only. Consult your vehicle’s factory information for specific repair instructions and recommended safety procedures.

How to Diagnose a Faulty Windshield Wiper Motor

It’s a good idea to do some diagnostic work to ensure that the wiper motor is bad.

Start by checking the wiper motor fuse (your owner’s manual specifies the location of the fuse). Replace the fuse if it’s blown. If it continues to blow, the wiper motor linkage may be binding.

Check the linkage, and repair as needed.

If the fuse is intact, you’ll want to remove the cowl (as outlined later in this article) and visually inspect the motor and linkage. Look for issues such as a loose electrical connection or damaged wiper linkage.

Repair any problems that you find and retest the wipers.

Finally, if everything looks okay up to this point, you’ll want to test the wiper motor circuit. You can do so using a digital multimeter (DMM). Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Put on your safety glasses

  2. Consult a repair manual to determine which terminals are which on the wiper motor electrical connector.

  3. Test the power side of the circuit:

    Remove the electrical connector from the wiper motor.

    Turn the vehicle’s ignition switch ON.

    Set your digital multimeter (DMM) to the DC volts setting.

    Turn the wiper switch to the low-speed setting.

    Connect one meter lead to the battery’s negative terminal. Connect the other meter lead to the low-speed terminal on the harness side of the motor connector.

    If you see close to battery voltage, the low-speed portion of the circuit is intact.

    Next, connect one meter lead to the battery’s negative terminal. Connect the other meter lead to the high-speed terminal on the harness side of the motor connector.

    If you see close to battery voltage, the high-speed portion of the circuit is intact.

  4. Test the ground side of the circuit:

    Make sure the Vehicle’s ignition switch is turned OFF.

    Set your digital multimeter (DMM) to the ohms setting.

    Connect one meter lead to the battery’s negative terminal. Connect the other meter lead to the ground terminal on the harness side of the motor connector.

    A reading of anything other than out of limits (OL) indicates the ground side of the circuit is intact.

If you find both sides of the circuit to be okay during testing, the wiper motor is likely faulty and should be replaced.

automotive wiper motor
Circuit problems can prevent your wipers from working properly.

Wiper Motor Replacement Guide

Now we get to the fun part: wiper motor replacement. Are you ready to grab some tools and get dirty? Good.

Tools for Windshield Wiper Motor Replacement:

The tools needed to replace a wiper motor vary, depending on what type of car you have. But, in general, you’ll need:

Generic Wiper Motor Replacement Instructions:

Before we start, keep in mind: all vehicles are different. The information below is generic and for educational purposes only. Be sure to follow the repair information for your specific application.

Repair manuals, such as those from Chilton, are useful, but a subscription to a repair database is even better. ALLDATA and Mitchell 1 both have single-vehicle subscriptions for DIYers that provide detailed factory repair information.

Wiper Motor Removal

  1. Put on your safety glasses.

  2. Open the hood.

  3. Disconnect and isolate the negative battery cable.

  4. Use a small screwdriver or a pick to carefully remove the trim caps from the ends of the wiper arms.

  5. Use a ratchet and socket to remove the nut at the end of each washer arm.

  6. Remove the wiper arms.

    Method #1: Use a special wiper arm removal tool to remove the wiper arms.

    Method #2: If you do not have the special tool, you can press up and down on the hinged portion of the wiper arm to wiggle the arm away from the stud. But be careful; pushing down too hard on the arm can damage the cowl or the windshield.

  7. Remove the cowl retaining fasteners. Then remove the cowl from the vehicle to access the wiper motor.

  8. Disconnect the electrical connector from the wiper motor.

  9. Remove the retaining bolts from the wiper module (the motor and linkage). Then remove the module from the vehicle and set it on a workbench.

    Note: On some vehicles, you may be able to remove the motor without removing the module assembly.

  10. Before disconnecting the motor from the linkage, consult the factory repair information for any alignment marks you need to reference.

    Note: If the motor and linkage are not aligned properly upon installation, the wipers may not work correctly.

  11. Remove the nut(s) or retaining clip(s) attaching the linkage to the motor. Then, detach the linkage from the motor. To do this, you may need to pry up on the linkage with a large flathead screwdriver.

  12. Remove the fasteners from the retaining bracket and remove the motor.
opened car hood
Be sure to follow a repair manual when replacing your wiper motor.

Wiper Motor Installation

  1. Compare the new wiper motor to the old wiper motor to ensure that both are the same design.

  2. Apply multi-purpose grease to the moving parts of the new motor.

  3. Attach the wiper electrical connector to the wiper motor. Then turn both the ignition
    switch and the wiper switch on. The motor should now run (without the linkage attached).

  4. Turn the wiper switch off, then turn off the ignition switch. This will help ensure the motor is in the “park” position when you reattach it to the linkage.

  5. Install the motor in the retaining bracket and use a torque wrench to tighten the retaining fasteners to the manufacturer’s specification.

  6. Reinstall the nut(s) or retaining clip(s) attaching the linkage to the motor. Torque any nuts to the manufacturer’s specification.

  7. Consult the factory repair information for any alignment marks you need to reference to ensure the motor and linkage are correctly aligned.

    Note: If the motor and linkage are not aligned properly upon installation, the wipers may not work correctly.

  8. Reinstall the cowl and the retaining fasteners.

  9. Reinstall the wiper arms and use a torque wrench to tighten the retaining nuts to the manufacturer’s specification.

  10. Reinstall the trim caps onto the wiper arms.

  11. Reconnect the negative battery cable.

  12. Check the wiper arm position and compare it to the manufacturer’s specification. Make adjustments as needed.

Below, you’ll find a couple of helpful videos demonstrating wiper motor replacement:

Windshield Wiper Motor Replacement Cost

Exactly how much it will cost to have a professional replace your wiper motor will vary, depending on the year, make, and model of your vehicle. But on average, you can expect to pay between $300 and $500.

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Author

Mia Bevacqua

Chief Mechanic at CarParts.com

Mia Bevacqua is an automotive expert with over 15 years of industry experience. She holds ASE Master, L1, L2, and L3 Advanced Level Specialist certification, as well as a bachelor's degree in Advanced Automotive Systems.

Throughout her career, Mia has applied her skills toward automotive failure analysis inspections, consulting, diagnostic software development, and of course, freelance writing. Today, she writes for companies around the world, with many well-known clients showcasing her work.

Mia has a passion for math, science, and technology that motivates her to stay on top of the latest industry trends, such as electric vehicles and autonomous systems. At the same time, she has a weakness for fixer-upper oddballs, such as her 1987 Chevy Cavalier Z-24 and 1998 Chevy Astro Van AWD.

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