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1998 Sienna Wiper Control Problem


I have a strange electrical issue in our 1998 Sienna, and I was wondering if someone out there has some insight on how best to investigate this.

Earlier this year the windshield wipers started doing the wrong actions when the control arm is in each position. The fluid and rear wiper controls still work normally, but for the front wipers what should be:
1 - off
2 - intermittent
3 - continuous
4 - fast

is now:
1 - off (stops wipers in current position)
2 - continuous
3 - continuous
4 - off (stops wipers in current position)

And as an added bonus, a change in vehicle angle sometimes stops wipers in mid-sweep for a minute or so.

My first thought was to replace the control arm in the steering column. I did so, but the replacement gives exactly the same behavior. I’m not sure what else to check, but I would welcome any suggestions. I hope it’s something I can simply replace, but I’m out of my element on this.

And FWIW, I have a multimeter but have little understanding how to use it properly (although I can handle most mechanical issues, I bow to those with an understanding of the subtleties of finding electrical issues).

Any thoughts on this?


(1998 Sienna: 260k miles and still going strong)

Hi Spazticus,
My 99 sienna is doing the same thing. Did you ever solve the problem on your 98?

Great timing Key, I was about to post a follow-up.

The short answer: unplug the control connection at the wiper motor, clean all connections, and it’s good to go.

I was about to start on a road trip, so a friend suggested rigging a temporary switch into the dash area to directly control the wipers (until the real issue could be determined). I had visually inspected the connection once before, but apparently I was too lazy to clean the contacts before plugging it back in. So this time, since we checked each wire for continuity with alligator clips, the connections were cleaned enough that it just started working again. I unplugged and properly cleaned the connections to make sure they stay clean, and all is good.

If you find it doesn’t work, consider adding a temporary switch like we were going to do. But I really hope that connector does the trick.