As seen on:

SMH Logo News Logo

Call 1300 303 181

Australia’s Best New Car News, Reviews and Buying Advice

Windscreen Washing Fluid DIY

windshield-wipersOne of the many signs on the dashboard of my Volvo is flickering on and off at the moment, but I probably don’t need to worry about it. This is because I do know the real meaning (rather than the silly meanings ) of my dashboard lights and the thing that’s showing is the one for the windscreen wiper fluid. It’s only showing when I go up or down slopes, suggesting that the liquid is slopping up and down, leaving the sensor high and dry momentarily.

Of course, no light on your dashboard should be ignored indefinitely and all the fluids need to be kept topped up. The last thing I want is to have my vision obscured by a lot of moth residue or a collection of marks created by (1) a bird sitting on or just above the car, (2) the cat sneaking up on said bird by way of the car roof and (3) the mess left by the bird as it takes off with the cat leaping at it. So it’s going to be top-up time very soon.  The choice then will be what to use to fill the tank of window washing fluid up. And there are a lot of options!

Option #1: Proprietary Windscreen Washing Fluid

This is the easy option that a lot of us opt for.  You whip down to the local automotive supplies shop and pick up a bottle of something designed for washing windscreens. Follow the instructions on the packet and there we go. The advantage of this method is that it will do the job properly and get the bugs and dirt off your windscreen with minimal effort or streaking. The disadvantage is that it’s the costliest option.

Option #2: Ordinary Window Cleaning Fluid

If you already have a bottle of fluid designed for cleaning windows and glass around your house, you can use this for topping up your windscreen washer fluid.  Your windscreen is glass, isn’t it? You don’t need to use this at full strength, as this will prove rather costly.  Dilute it with ordinary water at a ratio of one part window cleaning fluid to two parts water. Shake well and put it into your reservoir. The advantage of this is that it will clean without streaking and it’s probably cheaper than using “proper” windscreen fluid (although it’s probably chemically identical). You can also use what you have around the home or what you can pick up at the supermarket without making a special trip to the automotive supplies shop (although there goes your excuse for paying a visit there!).

Option #3: Dishwashing Liquid

This is the real El Cheapo option for those who don’t want to spend more on their cars than they have to – or who want to keep their car care budget for more exciting items. This is also what gets used by those petrol stations that helpfully provide a bucket of something slightly bubbly and a squeegee (a cross between a scrubbing brush and a wiper blade). It’s also used by those annoying roving windscreen washers who lie in wait at traffic lights trying to get a few dollars off you. It’s cheap and it washes off the bugs but it’s likely to leave a bit of streaking. Use a wee squirt of dishwashing liquid to a litre of water – just a few drops for your reservoir or you will get a windscreen covered in bubbles, which is a real nuisance.

Option #4: Vinegar

Vinegar is for the greenies out there who want to use something from a sustainable source that doesn’t produce nasty toxins. You probably don’t want to use vinegar straight, but it’s best mixed at a one-to-one ratio with water.  Cheap and doesn’t streak, but may not be the most effective at cleaning off bugs, as it needs a bit more elbow grease or wiper action to work.

Option #5: Vodka Or Rubbing Alcohol

Another one for the green minded. Mixed at a one-to-one ratio with water, it’s pretty good at dissolving off dirt, and it evaporates without any streaking.  Might be a bit on the pricey side and many people might think it’s a waste of vodka. It may also get you some funny looks from the boys and girls in blue if you go through a checkpoint shortly after applying it to your windscreen, as it will leave a rather strong alcoholic smell. (“Honestly, officer, it’s the windscreen washer fluid you can smell. I haven’t been drinking.  No, seriously.  Hey!!! I WANT MY LAWYER!”)

Option #6: Just Plain Water

The cheapest and the greenest option of them all.  It also doesn’t streak. The only problem is that it’s not super-efficient at removing gunk off your windscreen, especially if there’s a bit of gunk or grease involved.  A bit more wiper action will be needed to shift the remains of the flies if you opt for just water. In colder parts of the world, it can also freeze up.  If you are in a hard water area or somewhere where the local council dumps heaps of chlorine in your tap water, you can also be left with deposits building up in the system and blocking the pipes, which results in an expensive fix.

So what will I be doing?  I’m still trying to decide whether I’ll use vinegar, ordinary window cleaner or dishwashing liquid, with the vinegar and the ordinary window cleaner being the two most attractive, as streaking can be a visibility hazard at the beginning and end of the day, when I’m most likely to be behind the wheel.

Safe and happy driving,