5 Signs of a Bad Windshield Wiper Motor (& Replacement Cost)

The windshield wiper motor is often hidden behind the vehicle’s firewall and most people will never see it. Here's how to tell your windshield wiper motor is bad.

Windshield Wiper Motor

The windshield wipers are a vital part of ensuring maximum on-road visibility. While it’s important to replace the blades often to keep the system in pristine condition, most people don’t give a second thought to the value of the windshield wiper motor.

That all changes when the wipers stop working correctly. We review the symptoms of a bad windshield wiper motor and discuss how much the replacement might cost you. Let’s take a look at the symptoms first:

The most common symptom of a bad windshield wiper motor is slow-moving wipers. If your wipers only work at one speed or stop moving completely, your windshield wiper motor likely is to blame.

While these are not all the signs, it’s the most common ones. Here’s a more detailed list of the most common symptoms of a bad windshield wiper motor:

Bad Windshield Wiper Motor Symptoms

1. Wiper Blades Start Moving Slower

Wipers Car

Your modern vehicle comes equipped with wiper blades that operate at numerous speeds. You can choose the speed and delay that suits your needs the best. 

However, slower moving blades are a sign that something is wrong. If you select the fastest speed and the blades move as if they were on the lowest setting, you might have a bad motor.

However, this same symptom can also be caused by debris or contaminants that have gotten into the system. A visual inspection could clear up minor issues, or you might need a windshield wiper motor replacement. 

3. Wiper Blades Only Move at One Speed

You might also notice trouble when you play with the various settings, but the wipers move at the same speed no matter what you opt for. This is a common problem with the windshield wiper motor, but it could also be the wiper module.

The motor receives directions from the module, so when this part fails, it can look like an issue with the wiper motor. 

4. Wiper Blades Stop Moving Completely

When you turn on the wipers and nothing happens at all, the motor can also be to blame. Listen to see if you hear the motor working. 

The windshield wiper motor might have an electrical fault or be damaged, causing it not to work at all. However, this problem could also be caused by a blown fuse, so you should start there.

If the fuse has burned out, there could be a larger electrical problem occurring. If left unchecked, other components could start going bad too. 

5. Wiper Blades Refuse to Park in the Correct Position

When the wiper blades are turned off, they return to a “Parked” position. In most vehicles, this position is at the bottom of the windshield, where the wipers are essentially locked in place. 

However, if they don’t return to their normal location when turned off, there might be a problem with the windshield wiper motor. While a replacement might be necessary, you may also be able to reset the wiper motor, which is a cheaper alternative. 

6. Humming Noises

If you are experiencing any of the other problems listed above, you want to listen to the motor closely. You might hear a slight humming sound.

This noise indicates that the wiper motor is getting the power it needs but can’t transfer that power to the blades. This problem could also be caused by a bad wiper relay. 

The Function of a Windshield Wiper Motor

Wiper Motor

The windshield wiper blades don’t operate on their own but are just one part of a complete system. The windshield wiper motors are responsible for supplying power to the blades.

When the motor works as it should, the blades move in a systematic, smooth motion. The motor works continuously when turned on to move the wipers back and forth across the windshield.

However, there are linkages and connections within the motor that can go bad over time. If any small component within the motor fails, it can lead to performance issues. It’s not feasible to replace the motor parts, but easier to swap out the entire motor when a problem occurs. 

Windshield Wiper Motor Location

Wiper Mechanism

The windshield wiper motor is located on the vehicle’s firewall. It is mounted between the driving compartment and the car engine. If you can’t find it, look in your service manual to find the location for your make and model. 

Replacing the windshield wiper motor is a simple job because of how easy it is to access. 

Windshield Wiper Motor Replacement Cost

The average windshield wiper motor replacement cost is between $250 and $300. The parts are going to make up the majority of the bill, with a price between $200 and $250. However, the installation is simple on most vehicles, leaving you with a labor cost of only $50 to $100. 

Before you replace the windshield wiper motor, you should look at other lower-cost components that could cause your problem. For example, a blown fuse can cause the wipers to stop working and this only costs a few dollars to replace.

If the windshield wiper motor does need replacement, consider doing it yourself since it is such a simple job. With a few minutes and some basic tools, you can have your wipers working correctly again.

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Written by:

Magnus is the owner and main author of MechanicBase. He has been working as a mechanic for over 10 years, and the majority of them specialized in advanced diagnostics and troubleshooting. Certified Automotive Diagnostic Technician.