Car Oils And Fluids

What To Do When Frozen Windshield Wiper Fluid

Mike Cross
Updated Sep 2, 2021
What to check when Frozen Windshield Washer Fluid

Have you ever had tour windshield wiper fluid frozen in the winter? Well, it can be annoying when that happens, but can also cause more damage then your car then you might think.

Since liquid expanse when it freezes, it can cause damage to components under the hood of your car.

Read on to learn about all the things that can get damaged from letting your windshield wiper fluid freeze and also how to prevent it from happening again.

What to check when Frozen Windshield Washer Fluid
What to check when Frozen Windshield Washer Fluid

What to check when Frozen Windshield Washer Fluid

When your windshield fluid freezes, it can cause damage to the system because the fluid takes up more space while frozen.

If you noticed that your fluid froze, then you need to go thru and check the whole system, to make sure that it will still function right and also to make sure it hasn't got damaged.

The first thing that you should check is the reservoir that holds the windshield wiper fluid. You want to make sure the expanding liquid didn't crack the reservoir or else you will have the fluid leaking all over the other parts under your hood. If you do find that it was damaged, then you will have to replace it.

The next thing to check are the tubes that carry the washer fluid to the windshield. Since these tubes are small, it is easy for them to get damaged when the liquid expands.

If they are damaged, then you need to replace them as well. You also want to make sure they are connected to the reservoir tightly and the spray nozzles tightly as well. The expanding of the liquid could cause the tub to get to wide and not fit properly. If it doesn't have a proper fit, then it can leak fluid out or come off completely with the vibration of driving.

Next is to check the spray nozzles by the windshield to see if they had any damage. These are tougher then some of the other parts and are most likely fine, but if you see that the plastic has chipped, then you might want to consider replacing them. They may still function fine with some damage though, so you will want to test them and make sure they still spray well and spray the spray where you need it to go.

Sometimes finding leaks can be hard and since the tubes and nozzles can sometimes be hidden, the best way to find leaks sometimes is just to run the spray. Shoot the spray for 15-30 seconds and see if you see any leaks coming from the different tubes. Even small cracks in the tube can be a problem, so any signs of leaks will mean that you need to replace that part of the tube. The good thing is you can replace that one part with a tub of the same size and some connectors. These connectors and tubes are easily available. Also, while you are running the fluid to check for leaks, you can listen to the washer fluid pump. If it is making any odd sounds, then it may have got damaged.

The washer fluid pump you should be able to hear the motor running. Also, if you go to spray the fluid and nothing comes out, then it means the pump was damaged when the fluid froze. When the fluid freezes if it damages the pump, then the damage will be catastrophic, and the pump will have to be replaced with a new one.

How to Prevent Freezing

How to Prevent Freezing
How to Prevent Freezing

Since your windshield wiper fluid freezing can cause so much damage, it is important to prevent it.

The best way to prevent it is to use the right fluid for cold months.

In the summer you can get away with using a cheap fluid that is mostly water, but in the winter you want to make sure you use good fluid. Summer fluid is normally one part anti-freeze to ten parts water. In the winter though you want the ratio to be one to one so it is one part anti-freeze to one part water. This will make sure that the fluid doesn't freeze.

In the winter you can also be extra cautious and not use water-based cleaning fluid at all. You can buy a washer fluid that is alcohol based, and this will not freeze.

Another good thing about the alcohol based cleaning fluid is that it will help melt the snow and ice off your windshield easier. Due to these benefits of not having to worry about damage from freezing and being able to melt stuff faster, it is normally worth it to buy the better washing fluid in the winter.

On top of this though and preventing the freezing, you need to make sure your switch to the winter mix as soon as it starts to get cold. You don't want to forget to switch if you are using the cheap stuff in the summer because if you forget, then it only takes one time of freezing to damage the system.

Also, if you are using the good stuff all year, then you still want to make sure that it is good when winter comes around. Even the good washing fluid will break down over time.

The summer heat and heat from your engine can cause the good stuff to be come less effective against freezing. This is especially true if you still aren't using alcohol based because the heat can turn the other good cleaning fluid into a mostly water mixture anyways.

The whole point of good cleaning fluid for the winter is to reduce the amount of water in it because it is the water that freezes and causes the damage.


Freezing washer fluid can cause more damage to your car then you might think. It isn't just an annoying thing of not having fluid to use, but can also cause you to need to change the reservoir, tubs, or worst of all the washer fluid pump.

The best thing to do is prevent your windshield wiper fluid from freezing and to do this you need to use a ratio of one part anti-freeze to one part water or buy the good washer fluid that is alcohol based. This will save you all kinds of hassle and trouble in the long run, just by being proactive and using the right cleaner fluid.

Mike Cross
Life is too short to drive with stock audio

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One comment on “What To Do When Frozen Windshield Wiper Fluid”

  1. Hi, I’m afraid I put the wrong fluid in last week, (the summer type) and we’re having an early freeze this week. Maybe 30 degrees. Can I add plain alcohol or vinegar to the existing fluid that’s already in the vehicle’s reservoir?

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