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What's wrong with making my own windshield/windscreen wiper/washer fluid? What do I risk if I try it?


The last time I bought wiper fluid, it was $4/gallon. I don't want to spend $4, and I don't want the leftover 3/4 gallon of wiper fluid kicking around my apartment until I run out of wiper fluid three more times.

My owner's manual, and every other published reference I've seen, warn of the dire and dreadful consequences of using anything but commerically formulated wiper fluid; but they don't say what might happen.

So, if I fill my wiper fluid resevoir with water mixed with a bit of denatured ethanol and a hint of household cleaner, what might happen? Will the wipers cease to work? Will my car explode? Will the earth go spinning off its axis and wind up having to hang out with Pluto and the other Trans-Neptunian Objects?

kevinhannan4 years ago
Lol @ the answers - poor Gorfram! I think common-sense applies here, and you have it by the bucket-load, Gorfram!

For me, sometimes, I need to ask these kinds of questions to get my head out of the 'ibles cloud and back to reality!

Anything corrosive to paint, metal, plastics, rubber (no, not Freud again ;-), etc is a big no-no. I have used good old washing up liquid for years and years without trouble.

People (Usually mechanics who stand to lose money) tell me that it corrodes the rubber, paintwork etc but the rubber wears away anyway and so I replace my wipers about every 3 years.

Paintwork? No problem - my car is heavily waxed and can shrug off acidic bird-crap - also it depends on the paint on your car, newer cars have water-based paints which are less resistant than the old oil-based paints which are now illegal because of the VOC Volatile Organic Compounds they release.

So, keep your bucks to pay for your bangs! ;-)

Use washing -up liquid on your car and not your hair! (Although I did for a week to see what happened - the Ken Dodd look is not pretty...)

p.s. I don't like the "Rich Editor"; when clicked it took all my formatting away so I had to do the job again - thanks, 'ibles :(
Gorfram (author) 4 years ago
Thanks to all for all the answers so far. :)

I really hadn't considered the risks of paint stripping or corrosion, so that was a very useful heads-up. Since there's little or no risk of frost around here until November or so, I'm going to use water with a touch of household/glass cleaner for now and Henry Ford (or, in this case Kiichiro Toyoda) will just have to post-humously cope as best he can.

Once freeze season does come around again, the question of what to use as an anti-freeze ingredient will be tricky:
Alcohol (ethannol, methanol, mineral spirits, et al) may strip waxes & paints; may degrade rubber hoses, gaskets, etc.
Vinegar may be corrosive
Ammonia may also be corrosive

...maybe come November I'll just break down & buy a bottle of wiper/washer fluid already. :)

caarntedd4 years ago
I buy the cheapest possible brand, in the largest possible bottle, of liquid rinse aid (for dishwasher).
A capful in the washer resevoir, and away you go.

A capful of methylated spirits in the mix helps if your extra dirty.
aeray4 years ago
Vinegar and water, baby.
Goodhart4 years ago
I normally use a formula similar to this: one gallon water, 2-12 drops of dish detergent, one cup of rubbing alcohol (denatured alcohol) to help keep it from freezing, but if freezing is not a problem, skip the alcohol
Re-design4 years ago
Just fill it with water. The only time mine gets the special fluid is when I get the oil changed. The only time that's a problem is if you let your windshield get really, really dirty or if it's freezing weather.
kelseymh4 years ago
Henry Ford will climb out of his grave, hitchhike to your home, and pluck the eyeballs out of your head.
Re-design4 years ago
Or the alcohol might attack the hose or the pump.
Might strip the paint off your car !
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