There are few things as frustrating, and perhaps, dangerous, as having to pull over on the side of the road to wipe your windshield. Drivers that battle dirt and mud daily usually remember to top up their windshield wiper fluid. But if you forget and absolutely need to put wiper fluid in your car, where does it go?
You should put windshield wiper fluid into the windshield washer fluid tank. The tank is usually white with a brightly colored cap featuring a windshield symbol. In some cars, the cap has the words “washer/wiper fluid only” next to the windshield symbol.
Below, I will explain how to refill washer fluid safely and advise on which type of fluid to use.
How to Refill Windshield Wiper Fluid
No matter how sparingly you use windshield wiper fluid, it will run out and need refilling. Instead of waiting for that eventuality, check the wiper fluid level regularly to determine if you need to top up.
To safely refill windshield wiper fluid, follow these steps:
- Park and locate the wiper fluid tank.
- Open the tank and start refilling.
- Fill to the maximum level.
- Close the tank.
- Test the wiper fluid system.
Let’s look at the following steps in further detail.
1. Park and Locate the Wiper Fluid Tank
To refill the wiper fluid tank effectively, you need to park the car on a level surface, as this reduces the chances of spillage and ensures that you read the correct wiper fluid level. If the car is running, give it a few minutes to cool down.
The wiper fluid tank is located under the hood. So, pop the hood and secure it safely before you start searching for the wiper fluid tank. In most cars, the wiper fluid tank is the biggest one under the hood and is clearly marked.
It is usually white or yellow with a bright cap. The cap will feature a windshield symbol, and in some cars, the words “washer/wiper fluid only.”
Some cars with rear wipers have an extra wiper fluid tank in the trunk. Refer to the owner’s manual to find out if your vehicle has such a reservoir.
2. Open the Tank and Start Refilling
Once you locate the tank, pop the cap to open the tank. In some cars, the lid remains fixed to the spout. In others, the cap comes off completely. If you own such a car, place the cap away from contaminants such as leaves and dirt.
Dirt can clog the wiper fluid system, therefore, the cap must remain free of dirt.
You can refill the tank using a funnel or without one, as it depends on the size of the tank’s mouth. Make sure to refill carefully to avoid spillage and, therefore, wastage.
3. Fill to the Maximum Level
Most car manufacturers mark the recommended maximum level of your wiper fluid. Some might have a dipstick that indicates the level of your wiper fluid. If you check the fluid level and find it to be near the maximum level, you don’t need to refill.
You should refill if it’s nearer to the minimum than it is to the maximum. But what if your car has no maximum fluid level mark?
If the tank has no marks, fill it to about three-quarters full. The space at the top leaves room for fluid expansion when the engine gets too hot.
4. Close the Tank
Before closing, wipe off any spilled fluid and check for cracks in the wiper fluid system or on the cap. Once you are confident that everything is alright, seal the tank with its cap. Before you close the hood, ensure that you’ve put the cap on tight.
Close the hood by releasing it several inches above the hatch, which ensures that the hood closes tightly and protects your fingers from injury.
5. Test the Wiper Fluid Pump
After filling the tank and closing the hood, it’s time to test if the system works. Start the car and press the wash button. The windshield washer should wet the windshield and turn on the wipers to complete the job.
If either or both fail, your wiper fluid system has a problem. You should see a mechanic to decipher the reason behind the failure.
Choose the Correct Wiper Fluid for Your Car
Some car owners insist that you use wiper fluid, while others claim that you can get away with water. Water can do the job, but it won’t offer you the advantages of using wiper fluid.
Let’s explore the benefits of using wiper fluid over water.
Advantages of Using Windshield Wiper Fluid Over Water
If you live in a cold area, forget about using water to clean your windshield. During winter, the water might freeze inside the car, damaging the wash system. It might also freeze on your windshield as you attempt to clear winter mud off the shield, which can reduce your visibility at a time when visibility is usually poor.
Windshield wiper fluid usually contains antifreeze elements that prevent freezing during the winter. It ensures that you get streak-free washes every time you activate the windshield cleaning system.
Some wiper fluids are specially made to remove dead bugs from your windshield, which are perfect for areas with bug problems. You can get away with diluting wiper fluid during summer, spring, and fall.
However, use undiluted wiper fluid during winter.
If your area doesn’t experience severe winter weather, you can get away with using water. It’s cheaper anyway. However, trouble awaits if you travel to a cold area with water in your wiper fluid tank. If you can, use wiper fluid, as it’s safer to do so.
Locating the wiper fluid tank shouldn’t be a problem. Car manufacturers make it easy for you to find it. Look for a white or yellow tank with a bright cap bearing a windshield symbol and fill up to the maximum level.
Refiling your windshield wiper fluid is an easy task, but it can go wrong if you go about it carelessly. Keep checking the wiper fluid level constantly to ensure that you never run out while driving.
You might get away with using water as wiper fluid, but I highly recommend that you use windshield wiper fluid.
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