Spray nozzles are part of the windshield washing system and serve the purpose of spraying water and detergent on a dry, dirty windshield. Evenly spreading washer fluid ensures an efficient cleaning process.
The windshield washing function automatically activates the spray nozzle, generally by operating the multifunctional switch handle on the steering wheel. The pump sprays water onto the windshield as long as the handle is actuated. Simultaneously the wipers move to and fro at a normal speed. As soon as the handle is released, the pump ceases pumping. The wipers swipe a few more times to make the windshield clean and dry again.
Windshield washing system defects
A windshield washing system can show several defects. Typical malfunctions are:
– no washing fluid coming from the spray nozzles
– the water only drips from the nozzle without reaching the windshield
– the water jet shoots over or past the windshield
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These malfunctions can generally be easily remedied.
No cleaning fluid coming from the spray nozzles
No fluid coming from the spray nozzles can have three causes:
- A failing wiper pump produces no water. Furthermore its motor does not run. Operating the wiper switch handle does not engage the motor. In order to identify the malfunction, park the car, switch off the engine and turn the ignition key to “ignition“. Open the bonnet and ask a helper to actuate the wiper switch handle.
This is an effective check of the wiper pump function in high-grade, well-insulated cars. By simply testing it during driving you might not make out the inoperative motor due to all the other engine sounds.
- When the bonnet is open and a helper is present, the washing system hoses can be checked right away. The spray nozzles are connected to simple rubber hoses which might have disconnected due to vibrations. In older cars, the elasticity of the rubber hose gradually deteriorates at its connection point with the nozzle, causing the mouthpiece to widen. The easiest and quickest solution in this case is cutting off the excess piece and re-attach the hose. Ideally, the entire hose is replaced.
If leakages are visible, take special care! Very probably a marten or some other rodent has nested in the engine compartment. A nibbled hose is sound evidence of this.
In this case, all cables and hoses in the engine compartment must be thoroughly checked on further bite marks. If a nibbled water or oil hose remains undetected, you run the risk of excessive engine damage!
The most common windshield washing system malfunction is clogging nozzles. There are three causes for this:
– the washer fluid is frozen
– the washer fluid is polluted
– the spray nozzles have become clogged by an external influence.
- Frozen washer fluid is a result of forgetting to switch to winter mode. The only thing to do now, is thawing the fluid in a warm garage or by a long drive. Subsequently the fluid is completely drained and replaced by fluid with antifreeze. Be careful: If the wiper tank was completely full before freezing, it needs to be thoroughly checked. Water expands 10% when freezing, possibly causing the tank to burst.
- Washing fluid pollution rarely occurs. Occasionally, alien particles might have landed in the wiper tank. Normally this is impossible, although it cannot be totally ruled out. When repairing the windshield washing system, always inspect the purity of the washer fluid. If particles are swimming in it, the tank needs to be thoroughly cleaned.
- Spray nozzles generally clog from the outside. Rain water running down the windshield collects dust and pollen. Part of this can get caught in the spray nozzles, gradually clogging them.
Cleaning the spray nozzles
Until a few years ago windshield wiper spray nozzles were simple balls with drilled holes and could simply be cleaned and adjusted with a needle. Nowadays, new cars are often equipped with fan nozzles and micro sprayers, generating a wider, finer spray jet and reaching a larger area per pumping action. Finer nozzles however tend to clog sooner and cannot be cleaned in the same way. There is a simple trick for that:
- The best cleaning solution for the spray nozzles is pressurised air. Blowing them through from the rear is an efficient way to clean them. This requires removing the nozzles first. Installation of nozzles varies according to car manufacturer.
- Yet, removal requires no tools or maybe a simple one. Generally, they can be pulled off manually. Alternatively, they are fixed with a locking nut, which can be unscrewed. Its connection to the supply hose varies as well.
- This used to be a simple rubber hose, immediately attached to the socket of the spray nozzle. Nowadays, it often has an end piece with a fixing clamp. Both can be loosened easily without a tool.
- When the spray nozzle is removed, it can be effectively blown clean with help of the tyre pressure device at the petrol station.
- Simply press the connecting sleeve in the nozzle of the pressure device until the steel pin opens the supply hose.
- Now switch on the pressurised air. After 3 – 4 seconds the spray nozzle is blown clean. Subsequently place the spray nozzle back in the reversed order of its removal. All in all, checking and maintaining the windshield wiper system shouldn’t take up more than 15 minutes of your time.
Adjusting the spray nozzles
The large ball nozzles are still in use, especially on cheaper cars. Special spray nozzle adjustment equipment exist, although it is generally superfluous. A fine drill, a fine-tune screwdriver or simply a safety pin will do just fine.
The spray nozzle is adjusted in such a way that it sprays onto the area of the driver’s visual range. If it is set too high, too much water is sprayed over the car roof. Setting it too low will cause an insufficient amount of fluid to reach the driver’s visual range. The impact point of the washer fluid should lie in the centre of the windshield’s upper third part. Laterally, the spray nozzles are adjusted symmetrically, so that the entire windshield is evenly sprinkled.
In luxury cars, adjustment of the washer system is slightly more complicated. The wide and fine jet is no longer generated by ball nozzles, but by real high-tech water mist nozzles. They are equipped with an adjusting screw which can be set with a Torx screwdriver.
Limits of the spraying system
The washer system of the front and rear windshield has its technical limits. It is mainly intended for cleaning a slightly soiled or dusty windshield. Large clumps of dirt, bird faeces or hard, clogging insects can often not be simply wiped off. On the contrary: if the wiping system is stressed, the entire windshield can become smeared and the visibility seriously impaired.
This can lead to dangerous situations during driving. The driver is “flying blindly“. If the smearing is too excessive, find the nearest petrol station where a bucket and a hand wiper can be found, removing even the chunkiest dirt from the windshield.
Trick against squeaking
Even the best wiper system can cause a persistent problem: the annoying squeak of the windshield wipers. The squeak develops when the wipers become too old and brittle.
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Cheap wipers are often made of harder rubber which tends to squeak sooner, although high-grade and new wipers can develop this annoying sound as well. In that case, grease residue on the wiper blades is often the cause. The washing system can only partly clean them.
Now, the wipers should be cleaned with a clean cloth and plenty of window cleaner. This should do away with any squeak.
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