The windshield wiper motor is an electric motor that runs the wipers. It’s usually located under the cowl, attached to the wipers themselves through a linkage arm or two. The different speeds that a wiper motor can work at are managed most often by offset brushes on the motor, which use the same voltage but provide more or less power according to their exact position on the armature. The different speeds can also be managed by inline resistors which drop the voltage to the motor, much as blower motor speed is controlled. Those are usually mounted on the body of the motor itself, so either way that winds up being fixed by replacing the wiper motor.
The wiper motor is usually reasonably easy to get to. Most of the time the wiper arms need to be removed to pull the cowl covering where the motor resides. It can be a little tricky removing the arms without a special tool for it, but one way or another it’s not a lengthy or complicated job.
Costs of Wiper Motor Replacement
On average it costs about $200 to replace a windshield wiper motor on most vehicles.
For some more specific estimates of the costs of wiper motor replacement on common vehicles, using $100 an hour as a labor rate:
For a 2009 Nissan Altima, the labor time to replace the wiper motor is .8 or an hour. A factory part costs about $199, or a Cardone part costs about $75. This makes the job about $279 using OE parts, or about $155 using aftermarket parts.
For a 2006 Honda Accord, the labor time to replace the wiper motor is .8 of an hour. A factory part costs about $174, or a WPM part costs about $68. This makes the job about $254 using OE parts, or about $148 using aftermarket parts.
For a 2013 Dodge Dart, the labor time to replace the wiper motor is .6 of an hour. A factory replacement part costs about $200, or a Cardone replacement costs about $120. This makes the job about $260 using OE parts, or about $180 using aftermarket parts.
What Else Can Cause the Wipers to Not Work?
It’s fairly common in cold areas of the country to try to use the wipers when they are actually frozen to the windshield. Sometimes that leads to the fuse for the wiper motor being blown. Checking the wiper fuse is usually the first try. A way around that problem, by the way, is to pull the wipers into an “upright” position at night so they aren’t touching the windshield and can’t freeze to it. In cold climates and where a vehicle can’t be parked in a heated garage that is a common strategy.
Sometimes for the same reasons the wiper linkage can become disconnected. If the wiper motor can be heard running but the wipers aren’t moving it’s usually because the linkage has come undone. Access usually means undoing the cowl plastic and getting underneath, but most of the time wiper linkage just snaps apart and snaps back together; repair doesn’t often involve replacing parts.
Another weak point on some vehicles is the attachments of the arms to the linkage. Most often it’s a taper-fit pin and a holding nut that locks the arms to the linkage. In many cases, the nut isn’t especially tight, or the pin isn’t knurled or holding very well. If there is resistance to the wipers working (such as the wipers working through heavy snow, or frozen to the windshield) then the pin can pop loose and move independently, without moving the wipers. Tightening the wiper arms down properly in the correct position is then the ordinary remedy.
It is also possible for the wiper switch or the wiring to the wipers to be faulty. Both of those should be checked for, but in practice, they are much less common problems.
The first thing to check is the fuse for the wipers. The second thing would be that the linkage is still all attached. And the third thing is the wiper arm attachments.
In almost all cases it takes less than an hour.
The safe answer is no, as weather and conditions can be unpredictable. Where the wiper motor is covered by a warranty, for instance, a failed wiper motor is generally cause for a rental car if it can’t be repaired right away.