wipper-fluid-200x300-4369226Have you ever run out of windshield wiper fluid without a refill bottle readily available and asked yourself, “Can I refill my wiper fluid with just regular water?” After all, water is so easily available where ever you stop; whether at the gas station when filling up your gas tank, or just grabbing your garden hose and refilling in your own driveway. It may seem logical to just refill with water. However, is plain water acceptable to refill your windshield wiper fluid tank?

Tap Water vs Windshield Wiper Fluid –

If you live in a place where the temperatures do not drop below freezing. There are still risks with using just plain water.

  • Water does not clean as well as washer fluid. It does not have the cleaning power that helps break apart insects and grime and could leave more streaks behind, impeding your visibility.  
  • Water provides a friendly environment for some types of mold and bacteria, posing a health risk to your car and passengers.
  • Water freezes leaving you susceptible to burst lines and a damaged washer pump. Washer fluid, on the other hand, comes designed with a small amount of antifreeze and can withstand colder temperatures.

Also, windshield wiper fluids are specially formulated to ensure that all of the internal parts of the system are protected and lubricated which translates to the life of the system. This means that you can avoid costly repairs by using windshield washer fluid approved for your vehicle.

Windshield Wiper Fluid May Be Better for Your Car but Not on the Environment –

Windshield wiper fluids are specifically made to clean your windshield and are better at cleaning than just general tap water. However, the chemicals used to make the wiper fluid are poisonous for animals and children and are not environmentally friendly. Wiper fluid also usually includes toxins used in antifreeze. These liquids can damage paint finishes as well as some plastic and rubber parts on your car. Due to some of these environmental concerns, some people resort to making their own wiper fluid. Here are a few tips on how to make your own:

  1. Method one generally works best for summers and or warmer weather
    • Add one gallon of distilled water to a clean, empty container. Always use distilled water to prevent mineral deposits from building up in your car’s spray nozzles and pump
    • Add one cup of glass cleaner. Make sure to choose a cleaner that produces minimal (preferably no) suds or streaks. This method is good for everyday use, especially during the summer.
    • Mix well and add the solution to your car. It’s best to test it on your car first. Dab a little onto a rag and wipe a corner of the windshield. Ideally, the cleaner should wipe away without leaving any residue
  2. Method two is recommended for winter months when temperatures are prone to drop below freezing
    • Add one cup rubbing alcohol to one gallon of distilled water if temperatures drop below freezing. If your winters are mild, use 70% rubbing alcohol. If you experience extremely cold weather, use 99% instead.
    • Leave a small bottle of your homemade solution outside overnight. If the fluid freezes, you will need to add another cup of alcohol before testing it again. This step is very important to prevent the fluid from freezing and rupturing your car’s washer fluid hose.
    • Mix the alcohol solution thoroughly. Drain any previous washing fluid before adding the rubbing alcohol cold weather solution. If the alcohol solution is added before the wiper tank is completely empty. It may dilute the alcohol in the cold weather cleaner. If the alcohol is diluted, the solution could freeze.
  3. Method three can also be used in cooler weather
    • Add 12 cups (3/4 gallon) distilled water into a large jug/container Make sure the container’s capacity is a little more than a gallon
    • Add 4 cups white vinegar. Use white vinegar only. Other types of vinegar can leave behind a residue or stain your clothing. White vinegar is the best type of cleaner for removing pollen.
    • Mix the vinegar solution thoroughly. If the temperature is forecasted to dip below freezing. Leave a small cup of the solution outside overnight for a freeze check. If the solution freezes overnight, add another two cups of vinegar and try again. If it still freezes, add one cup of rubbing alcohol and check again.
      • Do not use vinegar in warmer weather. Hot vinegar creates a foul smell.

Despite the toxicity of over-the-counter wiper fluids it can be dangerous to drive without wiper fluid.  Depending on your location, seasonal elements call for the frequent use of your windshield wiper fluid. Regardless if you use over the counter or one of the DIY methods. Sunset North Car Wash is always happy to help clear away the muck!


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