Ask anyone what the most important part of their vehicle is, and you’ll hear things like the tires, the engine, the brakes and even the body. The humble old windshield and wipers are often overlooked until you can’t see through it, or the windshield wipers aren’t working. It’s only then you realize clear visibility isn’t just a nice to have, it’s essential.
It also keeps the wind out of your face, along with bugs, dirt and other debris, which means it doesn’t stay clean for very long. Your wipers, while keeping your windshield clear in the rain, can’t work properly in dry weather, which is where windshield washer fluid comes in. With just a few squirts, the washer fluid wets the windshield for the wipers to do their job.
Our Top 5 Windshield Washer Fluid Choices
One of the best options for windshield washer fluid is Rain-X RX11806D. The additive works by adding a protective film that is dirt and bug resistant. It also turns any water that comes into contact with the windshield into tiny beads that are wiped away quickly and effectively.
It’s budget-friendly and can be mixed with water in the reservoir, or it can be added to an existing washer mixture. We need to mention that this on its own won’t stop washer fluid from freezing, but it can be added to a de-icer solution. One of the unique selling points of Rain-X is that you can create different concentrations by changing the mixture with more or less water.
Prestone Bug Wash Windshield Washer fluid is perfect if you’re continually trying to remove dirt and bugs from your windshield. The one-gallon jug is pre-mixed and will remove everything from bird droppings (didn’t think of that, did you?), bugs, grime and even tree sap.
The patented formula has a fresh citrus fragrance and won’t leave any streaks on your windshield. Like Rain-X, it’s not recommended for cold conditions, as it will freeze.
Nextzett Kristall Klar is on our list because it doesn’t only clean your windshield, it also reduces shuddering and skipping of wiper blades. The water softeners in the formula prevent any kind of hard water mineral build-up that can clog the nozzles.
The formula is ammonia and phosphate free and won’t damage the paint, chrome or plastic on your car. It’s also one of the few windshield cleaning fluids that don’t have methanol.
We like that it’s very economical, with an 8.5-ounce bottle making up to 8 gallons of windshield washer fluid, and it has a pleasant citrus fragrance.
The only downside to Nextzett is that it also doesn’t work in extremely cold conditions.
Aqua Charge Windshield Washer concentrate is methanol free and excellent value for money. One bottle will make 55 gallons of windshield washer fluid and gets rid of road grime, tree sap, bugs as well as bird droppings, and it doesn’t leave any streaks on the windshield.
The solution will freeze, but you can add approximately 13 gallons of methanol to prevent this from happening.
Don’t be fooled by the small bottle. The BMW Windshield Washer Fluid is a very effective concentrated liquid that will make a few gallons. It’s made especially for BMW windshields and will get rid of grime and debris as well as bugs, without leaving any streaks or lines.
The specific instructions and mixing chart help you prepare a mixture to suit the particular weather conditions. Water can be added to reduce the freezing point, which means it can be used in colder climates.
What is in Windshield Washer Fluid
Also called wiper fluid, washer solvent or windshield wiper fluid, windshield washer fluid is a mixture of solvents, water, alcohol, and detergents, and is formulated to wash away dirt and also dissolve bugs, grime from the road, pollen and anything else the wind might blow your way.
There are different types of windshield washer fluids available, to suit different driving situations. Some can be added as is to the reservoir, while others need to be diluted. You can choose from the following:
- All-Season windshield washer fluid – this formula will work in most conditions, throughout the year. Depending on the climate you live in, during fall, spring and summer, you can dilute 1:10 with distilled water. And in winter, it’s recommended you use it undiluted to stop it freezing.
- Winter or De-Icer windshield washer fluid – this particular fluid contains more alcohol to reduce the freezing point, which will prevent freezing and keep your windshield free of frost.
- Bug remover windshield washer – bug remover wiper fluid has a higher concentration of detergents and solvents that dissolve dead bugs. If you live in an area where bugs are a real problem, it’s good to know there are bug-specific fluids.
How to Keep Windshield Washer Fluid from Freezing
Unfortunately, extremely cold temperatures mean windshield washer fluid will freeze, but you can prevent this from happening. The best way to do this is to buy the correct wiper fluid that is specially made for these conditions. Look for a winter solution rather than an all-season or summer one.
The ratio for a winter windshield washer fluid is usually 1:1-1 part anti-freeze and 1 part water. A summer blend, for example, is often 1:10-1 part anti-freeze and 10 parts water. There is also anti-freeze solution, which is alcohol based. This type of fluid won’t freeze, and it will melt any ice or frost on your windshield.
How to Thaw Windshield Washer Fluid
If you find yourself in a situation where your windshield washer fluid has frozen, you’re going to need to thaw it. Keep in mind, though, if it freezes once, it’ll do it again. This means you should drain it thoroughly and refill with a solution that’s suitable for your environment. Otherwise, you’ll be thawing it out again in a few days.
Here are a few ways to thaw your windshield washer fluid, and one way you definitely shouldn’t.
We’re going to start off by telling you how you shouldn’t, under any circumstances, try and thaw it.
Don’t ever pour hot water over the nozzles of the windshield wipers to thaw any kind of buildup. The hot water and cold air can crack your windshield.
Now that is out the way, let’s look at what you should try and do.
Park your car in a garage
If you can, park your car in a warm garage to thaw the washer fluid. It might take a bit of time, but it’s not labor intensive, and it works. As soon as it’s back in a liquid state, drain it and refill with a good anti-free windshield wiper fluid.
If you don’t have a garage, you can try the following:
Use heating pads
You can use heating pads to thaw your windshield fluid. Just place a few around and under the reservoir. The heat will warm the fluid enough for you to work it up and out the nozzles. Once you’ve managed to do that, refill with a quality anti-freeze solution.
Use a hairdryer
This is a good option if you’re close to a power outlet or have an extension cord long enough. Point the hairdryer at the windshield wiper reservoir and hoses while it’s on. The hot air circulates around the frozen solution, slowly thawing it.
Don’t forget to clean the entire system out and replace it with the correct solution.
Remove all the parts
The last thing you can do, although we only recommend this if you know what you’re doing, is to remove the reservoir bottle completely and take it inside to warm up near a heater. Or, you can flush the reservoir with hot water, when it has been taken out the car. This will clean the pipes and nozzle.
As soon as you’ve done this, you can refill it with a windshield washer fluid that won’t freeze.
How to Add Windshield Washer Fluid
Okay, let’s assume you’re filling your car with washer fluid for the first time, or are replacing he solution for a better one. Here are five easy steps to follow.
Open the hood of your car
The washer fluid is usually located near the base of the windshield, at the back of the engine bay. The reservoir is clear so you can see whether there is fluid inside.
Check the level of the fluid
There is usually a marker that’ll show how much fluid is in the tank. If it’s less than half, you need to refill it.
Do a quick check
If you don’t get under the hood often, do a quick check to see there aren’t any leaks or cracks in the reservoir.
Fill it up
Then unscrew the lid and add the windshield washer fluid until it reaches the “full” marker. To make it easier, you can use a funnel. Remember to put the cap back on, tighten it and close the hood of the car.
Do a test run
To make sure everything is working, switch your car on and then the windshield wipers and washer; you should see a steady stream of liquid. If not, you might need to clean the pipes and nozzles.
How to Make Homemade Windshield Washer Fluid
There’s a fair amount of concern about some of the ingredients used in commercial windshield washer fluids, which is why some people choose to make their own. It’s still important to remember, homemade solutions should also be kept out of reach of children and animals.
What you’ll need:
- One empty jug (one-gallon)
- One-gallon water
- ½ cup nonsudsing ammonia
- 1 tbs of dish soap
- Food coloring (optional)
If you want to order these ingredients in bulk, it’s best to get them online. Otherwise, your local home store will stock them.
- Pour the ingredients into the empty jug, put the lid on and gently tip the jug a few times to make sure everything is mixed together properly.
- Add the food coloring, Although this is optional, it’s highly recommended. Adding a blue food coloring, for example, will ensure the liquid stands out, with or without a label. This will let people know the jug contains potentially harmful ingredients.
- Before you use the solution, do a check to make sure it doesn’t freeze. Do this by leaving a batch outside in the cold. If it’s frozen or slushy, add a cup of isopropyl alcohol and try again. If you need to wait for the weather to change to do a check, then do so. Windshield washing fluid will react differently in the cold, so it’s important to keep an eye on the mixture.
- Once you’re happy with the solution, pour it into the reservoir for a test.
- Make sure you store your windshield washer fluid in a safe place, away from children and animals.
Whichever windshield washing fluid you choose, store-bought or homemade, it’s essential that the reservoir always has the right amount of solution in it, that there are no cracks and it’s not leaking. Also, if you live in an area with extreme weather conditions, it’s essential that you keep an eye on the fluid to make sure it doesn’t freeze.
A clean windshield and wipers that are in good working order are one of the most simple, yet effective, ways to stay safe on the road, regardless of the weather conditions you drive in.