Strange wiper be­hav­ior gets the brush-off from dealer

Star-Telegram - - Drive - BY RAY MAGLIOZZI Got a ques­tion about cars? Write to Ray in care of King Fea­tures, 628 Vir­ginia Drive, Or­lando, FL 32803, or email by vis­it­ing the Car Talk web­site at

Dear Car Talk:

I know my car in­ti­mately. We’re on a first­name ba­sis, and I am quite fa­mil­iar with what is work­ing cor­rectly and what is out of whack. So when I took my Ford Fu­sion to the dealer, telling him that there was some­thing wrong with the tim­ing of my in­ter­mit­tent wipers, of course he found noth­ing amiss. I told him that it didn’t hap­pen ev­ery time I turned the wipers on, but ev­ery now and then the tim­ing of the wipes was weird.

That was three years ago. It’s only got­ten grad­u­ally worse since then. Now, when I turn off the wipers, they some­times stop mid-wipe, in the cen­ter of the wind­shield. That’s not good. Also, some­times the in­ter­mit­tent set­ting works, and some­times the wipers just keep wip­ing con­tin­u­ously re­gard­less of the set­ting. — Marge

Ray: We be­lieve you, Marge. The prob­lem is most likely a bad wiper mo­tor. The wiper mo­tor con­tains the cir­cuitry that’s sup­posed to make the wipers fin­ish their cur­rent wipe, and park them­selves at the bot­tom of the wind­shield, no mat­ter where they are when you turn them off. But it also could be a bad wiper switch. The switch (the mul­ti­pur­pose switch on the steer­ing wheel stalk) sends a cur­rent to the mo­tor. And if the cur­rent is in­con­sis­tent, that could cause strange wiper be­hav­ior.

The best way to test the switch is to have the wipers mis­be­have when the me­chanic has the car at the shop. That way, he can test the cur­rent at the wiper mo­tor. If the cur­rent doesn’t change while the wipers mis­be­have, then the switch is fine. That means it’s al­most cer­tainly a bad wiper mo­tor. Ei­ther way, it’s go­ing to “wipe” a few hun­dred bucks out of your check­ing ac­count, Marge.

And you may want to con­sider search­ing for a me­chanic who is more in­clined to be­lieve you. While a wiper mo­tor might not be a life-or­death is­sue, you’d like to know that if you came in com­plain­ing of some­thing po­ten­tially se­ri­ous, your me­chanic wouldn’t brush you off as “that wacky Marge who’s on a first­name ba­sis with her car.” You want him to say: “Oh, that’s wacky Marge. She’s on a first-name ba­sis with her car, but she knows what she’s talk­ing about.”

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