How to Replace Your Windshield Washer Reservoir

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As the name suggests, the windshield washer reservoir stores the fluid that helps your vehicle’s wipers clean the windshield. While it’s a relatively simple container made from rugged polyethylene plastic, it can eventually develop cracks and start leaking—which means it would have to be replaced as soon as possible.

While most repair or replacement jobs on your vehicle would require professional automotive expertise and extensive experience, the process of replacing the windshield washer reservoir lends itself to DIY-ers and newbies. 

Read on to find out how to swap out the windshield washer reservoir. 

Windshield Washer Reservoir Replacement

Replacing a damaged or worn windshield washer reservoir can be boiled down to a few simple, generic steps. But before you work on your car, make sure to consult a repair manual as replacement instructions may differ depending on the vehicle.

Woman opening cap of windshield water reservoir
As the name suggests, the windshield washer reservoir stores the fluid that helps your vehicle’s wipers clean the windshield.

Take safety measures before performing this DIY car repair job. Park your vehicle in an area with good ventilation and an even, flat surface. Switch off the ignition, shift the transmission into Park, and set the emergency brake. 

Also, don’t forget to put on safety goggles to protect your eyes during this DIY car repair job.

Remove the Old Windshield Washer Fluid Reservoir

  1. Disconnect the battery negative cable and isolate it
  2. Lift the vehicle on a hoist or jack stands
  3. Remove any parts obstructing access to  the windshield washer reservoir
  4. Detach the wiring from the reservoir
  5. Separate the washer hose at the pump and empty the reservoir of its contents
  6. Take off the fasteners holding the reservoir in place
  7. Remove the old reservoir
  8. Take the windshield washer pump out of the reservoir
  9. Install the new reservoir
  10. Reinstall the components

Install the New Windshield Washer Fluid Reservoir

Having gotten the old part out of the way, it’s time to fill the vacancy with the new reservoir.

  1. Fit the windshield washer pump into the reservoir
  2. Install the windshield washer reservoir
  3. Install the fasteners to the reservoir. Use a wrench or ratchet and socket to tighten the fasteners until they’re snug. 
  4. Attach the washer hose to the pump and top off the reservoir with washer fluid
  5. Bring down the vehicle from its hoisted position
  6. Attach the battery negative cable

When to Replace the Windshield Washer Reservoir

Like any car part, the windshield washer reservoir can fail ahead of its designated service life. And when it does, you’ll have to replace it to ensure proper functionality. 

Here are some of the common reasons that may cause the reservoir to go bad and require replacement:

Cracks in the reservoir  – caused by frozen washer fluid, engine vibrations, and shocks from driving over rough surfaces

Problem with the seals – the seals around the connection point between the reservoir and the hoses to the windshield washer pumps have failed

Windshield-washer in action
A warning sign of a bad or failing reservoir is uneven spray of washer fluid.

Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Windshield Washer Fluid Reservoir

It’s easy to notice when the windshield washer reservoir has reached the point where it requires replacement.

The warning signs of a bad or failing reservoir include:

How to Melt Ice in Windshield Washer Reservoir

Aside from replacing the windshield washer reservoir, it helps to learn how to perform simple maintenance like melting ice in the reservoir or draining it dry. 

Let’s start with defrosting a frozen reservoir.

Washer fluid contains a lot of water mixed with a cleaning agent. Unless the brand specifically advertises itself as freeze-resistant, the fluid will freeze in low temperatures.

Windshield washer fluid reservoir in need of replacement.
Like any car part, the windshield washer reservoir can fail ahead of its designated service life. And when it does, you’ll have to replace it to ensure proper functionality.

You have many ways to thaw out a frozen windshield washer reservoir. If you have hours to spare and a heated garage, park your vehicle inside and let it warm. In case you must melt the ice ASAP, direct a hairdryer at the reservoir and hoses or stuff heating pads around the lower half of the reservoir.

As a last resort, you can remove the reservoir through the process detailed earlier. Put the container inside a bucket or pan to prevent spills, then place it near a heater vent or warm space.

Once the frozen windshield wiper fluid melts completely, drain it from the system. Check the windshield washer reservoir for any cracks or leaks before refilling it with a freeze-resistant washer fluid.

How to Drain Washer Fluid Reservoir

The reservoir also requires draining every so often. You’ll need to get rid of old washer fluid before it becomes dirty or replace it with a freeze-resistant product before winter comes.

An effortless way to drain the reservoir involves triggering the windshield washers until the reservoir runs out. If you want to conserve washer fluid, see if you can disconnect the hoses from the washers so that you can spray the fluid into a container.

In case you cannot separate the hoses from the washers, use a hand pump or turkey baster to siphon the contents of the reservoir into a separate container.

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Staff Writers

In the Garage with is an online blog dedicated to bringing DIYers and devoted car enthusiasts up to date with topical automotive news and lifestyle content. Our writers live and breathe automotive, taking the guess work out of car repairs with how-to content that helps owners get back on the road and keep driving.

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