Your vehicle’s windshield wiper fluid should be checked and maintained frequently, and luckily this task couldn’t be much easier. Here we’ll talk about where to put windshield wiper fluid, how to check it and what kind you should be using.
Why You Should Care — and Check Often
If you live somewhere that’s always sunny and wash your car every week, maybe you don’t ever use your windshield wipers much. For the rest of us, though, dirt, dust and brief rainstorms can be enough to make our vehicles filthy. Even following another vehicle down dusty, muddy or slushy road can have us reaching for the washer function on our windshield wipers year-round.
That kind of frequent use can drain a windshield washer fluid reservoir before you know it, so checking and topping yours off regularly is a smart practice. Windshield washer fluid can easily be taken for granted until your view suddenly becomes obstructed and you can’t clear what’s blocking it, so take care to avoid potentially dangerous situations by checking your fluid often.
Where to Put Windshield Wiper Fluid
Automakers figured out quickly that windshield washer fluid reservoirs should be transparent, clearly marked and large. Most hold at least a gallon of fluid, and some are even bigger, especially in vehicles with both front and rear wiper and washers.
As a result, the biggest plastic container of liquid under your hood is usually the windshield washer fluid reservoir. On newer cars, the lid is bright plastic (often blue) with a pictograph of a windshield, a wiper and spraying fluid.
Some reservoirs have a marking for the “fill line” that you shouldn’t go over when you’re refilling. Most newer cars seem to be moving away from that now and relying on common sense. Because the container is clear, you can see when the fluid is getting close to the neck of the opening, at which point you’ll want to stop pouring so you don’t waste any.
What Kind of Windshield Washer Fluid Should You Use?
There are different kinds of windshield washer fluid to consider. If you live or travel in a climate where the temperature drops to near or below freezing, you’ll want one with a low freezing point like 25 degrees below zero. That should keep it from freezing solid in the tank, in the washer lines or on your windshield as soon as it hits the cold glass.
Drivers from warm regions who take their vehicles to cold-weather homes should beware. The old washer fluid may not have anti-freezing properties, and when these formulas suddenly freeze on your windshield, they can turn it nearly opaque and block your view entirely — a scary and dangerous scenario. You can avoid this by using a de-icing washer fluid, which will accelerate the melting of the ice and frost on your windshield.
If you live in an area where insects or tree sap are major issues, there are also windshield washer formulations for removing bug guts and sticky saps.
The bottom line is that your garage should absolutely have a spare gallon or two of windshield washer fluid. On a long road trip, it might also be worth having one in your trunk. Check the level often, and top it off anytime you see it get to a quarter of a tank. Knowing you’ve got plenty of the right kind of washer fluid on hand means having peace of mind with the knowledge that this critical fluid won’t run out when you need it most.
Check out all the oils, chemicals and fluids available on NAPA Online, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on windshield washer fluid, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photos courtesy of Mike Hagerty.
Mike Hagerty is an automotive journalist whose work has been featured on radio, TV, in print and online since 1997. He's the Publisher and Editor of MikeHagertyCars.com, and contributes car reviews to the Los Altos Town Crier and losaltosonline.com. Previous outlets have included KFBK and KFBK.com in Sacramento, California, the ABC television affiliates and Hearst-Argyle and Emmis radio stations in Phoenix, Arizona; AAA magazines for Arizona, Oklahoma, Northwest Ohio, South Dakota and the Mountain West and BBCCars.com.