How to Choose a Windshield Wiper Motor

The wiper motor is a crucial part. During bad weather, it moves the wipers to clean the windshield. The motor is usually built to last a lifetime and rarely goes bad. When it does, your car becomes unsafe to drive. It’s important to replace a worn or blown wiper motor, but how do you tell type that your car needs or one that suits your preferences? That’s what this article will talk about and make buying a car wiper motor easy. Let’s start by understanding the motor and its purpose.

What is the Function of a Wiper Motor?

The wiper motor is the small electric motor that powers the wiper system or mechanism. In other words, it’s the part that your car wipers depend on to work. Without it, the wipers would not move an inch. The wiper motor ensures a clear windshield when driving in the rain or snowy conditions, when mud lands on the windshield, when the windshield becomes covered by dirt, and more.

Windshield wiper motors are designed to offer two main advantages: high torque and low speed. These two advantages are made possible by using a gear reduction mechanism called worm gear. The setup essentially consists of a spiral gear on the motor’s shaft and a gear wheel. The combination multiplies torque by up to 50 times while also reducing the speed of rotation.

The motor assembly is a simple brushed, direct current motor consisting of a stator coil rotating inside a magnetic field. The magnetic field is usually produced by permanent magnets. Some wiper motors, especially those used in older vehicles, may have field magnets instead of permanent magnets. However, the wiper motor gearbox remains similar in most wiper motors.

The wiper motor transfers motion to the wiper linkages via a crank. As the motors shaft rotates the gears, the crank moves the wiper transmission or mechanism in a back and forth motion. This helps to accelerate the wiper arms and blades across your car’s windshield.

Another important aspect of wiper motors is their ability to park the wipers. To enable that, a park mechanism or circuit is incorporated. In some types of the wiper system, the parking mechanism is operated by an electronic control unit or module.

Wiper motors are normally mounted to the firewall. This location allows the motor to operate the wiper linkages which are found in the space between the windshield and the hood, popularly known as the wiper cowl. Some cars such have wipers to clean the rear window and a rear wiper motor to power the mechanism.

Types of Wiper Motors

different types of wiper motors as used in the history of the wiper system

There are various types of the wiper motor. It’s important that you’re aware of them especially when looking to buy a replacement wiper motor for your car. It will help you to choose the right type of the motor based on your type of car; and preference if considering an upgrade. The types of windshield wiper motors are listed below.

Based on Voltage Rating

  • 6V wiper motor- these are mostly used or found in older cars. Because of the low voltage, the motors draw a lot of current to achieve enough torque to move the wipers
  • 12V wiper motor- this is the most common wiper motor voltage. The one in your car is likely to be this type
  • 24V wiper motor- there are also wiper motors that run off a 12- volt power source. They’re considered energy efficient since they draw less current to produce the same torque as the other motors.

Based on Location

  • Front windshield wiper motor- the front wiper motor is the most common. It’s normally installed in the engine bay under the wiper cowl. The front motor powers front wipers.
  • Rear windshield wiper motor- the rear wiper motor is usually mounted in the rear window and powers the rear wipers. It’s only used in vehicles that have a rear wiper installed such as hunchbacks and station wagons.

Based on Type of Magnet

  • Permanent magnet wiper motor- modern wiper motors are this type. Permanent magnets are used to produce the magnetic field that causes rotation. These types of magnets are more efficient.
  • Field-wound magnet wiper motor- these are the older types of wiper motors and not popular anymore. Instead of permanent magnets, they depend on an electromagnet to work.

Other types of the wiper motor on the market include the OEM and aftermarket types. The OEM types are vehicle specific and usually built to match exact features and specifications of the manufacturer. Aftermarket wiper motors are less specific with the features and may be designed to offer extra features.

There’s also the universal windshield wiper motor. This is the name given to the type of wiper motor that’s built to fit a wide range of motor vehicles. It usually comes as a kit and an aftermarket type. Their advantage lies in compatibility, which is often the problem with owners of older model cars or those looking to upgrade.

wiper motor replacement ensures clear wipers and a car that’s safe to drive

Why Replace a Wiper Motor?

It’s important that you replace a worn or blown wiper motor. When it has failed, your windshield wipers will not work. That means you cannot drive your car in certain conditions or when dirt covers the windshield while on the road.

Wiper motors fail in many ways. Most often, parts will wear down, break, or burn out. These include components of the wiper motor transmission assembly such as gears, wiper park switch, and crank. There are also situations where the motor burns out, usually due to shorting or situations that cause current to increase. Examples of such situations are such jammed wiper linkages, using the wipers in freezing weather or on a dry windshield, and more.

There are also wiper motor problems that do not require replacing the motor. These include fuse or relay issues and bad connectors or cables. A faulty wiper motor module, too, or clogged parts. It’s always important to determine the source of problem before deciding whether to fix the wipers or change the motor.

Symptoms that show a possibly damaged motor include the wipers not working or moving too slowly than normal, inability to change the wiper speed settings, and noisy wiper motor. You should change bad motor as soon as it shows signs of damage. But before that, you need to test it or do a visual inspection. A simple wiper motor test is show in this video.

a front windshield wiper motor

How to choose the Best Wiper Motor for Your Car

Now that you know what a wiper motor does and how it fails, let’s see how you go about selecting the best type for your car. Choosing a wiper motor requires you to understand a few things. Although the motor appears similar for different models, there are specific features that are meant for particular vehicles and wipers systems. For that reason, here are the questions to ask yourself when buying one.

Front or Rear Windshield Wiper Motor?

Wiper motors are available as either rear or front windshield types. If replacing a front wiper motor, you need to buy a front wiper motor. The same applies to the rear wiper motor. Each type is designed differently for specific torque and motion transmission, or what’s commonly called the gearbox. The rear motor usually operates a single wiper arm, for example, unlike the front wiper motor that has to power a complex mechanism.

12 Volts or 24 Volts?

Wiper motors are usually rated 12 or 24 volts, sometimes even 6 volts. In most cases, you need to decide between 12V and 24V. Check the voltage rating of your stock motor. This will help you determine the kind of motor that suits your wiper system. It’s advisable to use a motor whose voltage matches with the one you’re replacing. Doing so helps to ensure the motor performance in terms of torque, power requirements, and more.

Motor or Motor and Wiper Assembly?

The wiper motor comes as either motor assembly or together with the wiper linkages and, at times, with the washer pump included. Your choice will depend on whether you have a working wiper transmission or if both the wiper mechanism and motor are damaged. In most cases, you only need to replace the motor. Ensure you know what you need to avoid unnecessary costs when you buy the two wiper system parts separately.

Other Factors

Other factors to take into account when buying a wiper motor include price, whether the motor is an OEM model or aftermarket, and the specific features. Wipers motors cost different amounts depending on whether the motor is an OEM or aftermarket model. Different manufacturers also offer different price tags and the brand that you choose can be expensive or cheap. Most of the time, popular brands cost more than relatively unknown brands.

One of the most common dilemmas when selecting a car wiper motor is choosing between an OEM and aftermarket model. To make a wise choice, you need to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each. OEM parts offer assurance when it comes to fitment and quality. However, they are pricier and may cost several times more than the aftermarket types. That said, there are quality aftermarket parts that offer superior features.

Wiper motors are also not built come with identical features. When selecting yours, check the specific qualities that make the motor to stand out. These include special coatings to prevent corrosion, fewer plastic parts to improve lifespan, and similar characteristics. There are also features such as low noise and high torque that make a wiper motor better in terms of performance.


The best wiper motor for your car means two things: a clean we windshield always and over a long time before you need to replace the motor. When buying one, consider the factors mentioned here. You will not only find the right model of the motor for your car but also find the buying process easier. Remember, a working wiper motor is crucial to safety when on the road, especially in bad weather. You do not want to take chances when buying this critical component of the wiper system.

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