Failing wipers - 'real men' solution

Today’s show (1/29/2012) there was a call about a sticking windshield wiper. The car guys recommended a new motor. There is an alternative solution you need to know about. My 1986 Sentra experienced similar problem while i was driving the freeway in the middle of what we call a gully washer. I was essentially blinded by the heavy rain in a split second when my wipers suddenly refused to return from their sweep to the right. I’m the kinda guy who prefers not to ask for directions, so I was surely not going to call AA and wait for a tow. I’m also a runner, so i pulled over in the emergency lane, ran to the trunk and ripped a shoe lace out of a running shoe. I tied one end of the lace to the wiper nearest the driver door, got in the car, wound down the driver window, grabbed the other end of the shoe lace and pulled into traffic. Every sweep of the wiper, i had to tug on the lace to get the wiper past it’s sticking point and sweep back to the left. The rain was still sluicing down and I felt pretty good about this solution, which allowed me to continue the 6 or 7 seven miles to my freeway exit in a cracker-jack of a rainstorm. However, I hadn’t fully thought through the situation, because at the freeway exit the fun really started, as i had to continmue my manual assist of the wipers, signal for turning, change gears (stick shift) and steer. But I got through it. The downside to all this, was the rain was so heavy and the driver window was half open so things were pretty wet inside the car for a while. Next day i went to a junk yard for a replacement wiper motor. Driving in the rain is now not as much fun.

I think old cars from the past used to have manual wipers. The driver had to operate them manually, with some kind of lever from the inside. Anybody remember this?

I think some kind of back-up should be built into cars for things that fail regularly. They should have a manual backup on all cars, a lever the driver can use for windshield wipers, and a hand crank for balky starter motors. That’s my contribution today to modern car design.

The wiper motor failed on a Ford van years ago and I pulled the linkage off the motor, linked a dozen or so rubber bands to the passenger side wiper arm and a shoe lace to the driver’s side. I drove 60 miles home pulling and releasing the shoe lace.

They indeed did; Model A Fords (among others I’m sure) had the beloved vacuum powered wiper, with the motor mounted on the top of the windshield frame. It also had a small lever for hand operation. This particular Model A belonged to a buddy who bought it as a restoration project; the motor was so tired that it couldn’t pull enough vacuum to effectively operate the wiper.

I remember a 1947 Jeep that had a crank operated wiper on the passenger side. The two school buses I rode when I was in elementary school had wipers that had a handle inside the bus to operate the wipers if the vacuum motor failed. One bus was a 1939 model with a Wayne body on a GMC chassis and the other was a 1946 model with a Superior body on a Chevrolet chassis. I don’t think either bus had a vacuum booster section on the fuel pump, because the wipers stalled on the windshield when the driver accelerated.

I taught an upper division/graduate course in computer science. I explained to the students that when they encountered a new piece of software or a new computer language to learn the basics of the software or the language to get it operational. They could then learn the special little features. I made an analogy with driving a car. “I know only four things about running a car”, I explained. “If I turn the steering wheel clockwise, the car goes to the right; if I turn the wheel counterclockwise, the car turns to the left. Pressing the rightmost pedal makes it go and pressing the pedal to the left makes it stop. I have no idea how the heating and air conditioning system works, so my wife roasts me in the winter and freezes me out in the summer. My son has the radio set to blast at 100 decibels and I don’t know how to change it. I have never learned to turn on either the wipers or headlights, but those gadgets are for wimps. However, knowing the four things allows me to get from one place to another in my car”. One graduate student in the class had to see my wife who worked in the graduate school office. He saw my picture on my wife’s desk and said "Let me ask you a question. Does your husband really drive a car without knowing how to work the lights or wipers?"
I never used that analogy after that. I think, though, that I could make the wipers work using Rod Knox’s method.

Luckily, Triedag, I was never encumberred with an academic education. I feel sure that I reached my intellectual limits when I read Erma Bombeck and Jean Shephard. But some of us can recognize our talents and make the best of them. A friend repaired a Mercedes Benz for a doctor who contested the bill saying he wasn’t worth $50 and hour. He asked the doctor why hadn’t done the repair himself. And, BTW, that friend retired last year and cashed in for over $1million. He never finished high school.

Rod Knox–my brother has a Ph.D. in English and taught a couple of years in a small state college. When the president of the college told the faculty in a meeting that faculty were a dime a dozen, my brother wrote out his resignation, took it to the president, gave him a dime and said “Go buy a dozen to replace me”. My brother then started working as a techncal writer. He decided he should know something about the law, so he started taking law courses. That turned into a full blown law degree and he then passed the bar exam. He then worked for a law firm trying social security and auto insurance cases. He found that pretty depressing since someone was always trying to rip off someone else. To get out of this, he and a friend bought a plumbing company and they became plumbers. I was with him one time when he received a call and the person on the other end asked his rates. My brother told him the charge for a service call which included the first hour and the hourly labor charge beyond that. The potential customer replied, “I have a master’s degree and I am a manager in my company and I don’t make that kind of money”. My brother replied, “I have a Ph.D. and have been a college professor. I have a law degree and have practiced law. I am now a plumber. This is what I have to charge. You have three choices: 1) you can pay my rates if you want me to do the job; 2) you can try to find a cheaper plumber; 3) you can do the job yourself. You have thirty seconds to make up your mind as I have another call coming in”.

I have a real appreciation for people who can work with their hands and use tools. I only have two tools on my workbench–a sledge hammer and a propane torch. I “repair” things by either beating it to pieces or burning it up. I don’t mind paying the price for someone who can do a job well that I can’t do,

… I was surely not going to call AA and wait for a tow.
Which of the 12 steps deals with towing stranded motorists?

Good one, jt!
A Freudian slip on the part of the OP, perhaps?


This doesn’t sound too particularly safe to me. Or healthy…if that water molds-up the carpeting.
Calling the auto club and getting a tow is a far better solution IMHO.

Triedaq, I’d love to have seen the guy’s jaw drop when he heard that a PhD/former professor/lawyer was a plumber. It reminds me of the time a doctor needed his plumbing fixed and when presented the bill complained that it was more than he charged his patients. “I know”, replied the plumber. “I used to be a doctor and that’s why I switched fields.”

steve-23 My brother for the last couple of years has been teaching English courses as a part time faculty at a smaller college. He rolls in every morning in his plumbing van wearing a sport coat and tie. He teaches his classes, then goes into a restroom, strips off his sport coat and tie, pulls on his coveralls and runs his service calls. The college where he teaches found out about his law experience and he now teaches one course in sports law. Sports management is a big field and he has 37 in his sports law class.

I’ts good to see I’m not the only one who has resorted to the “shoe lace” trick before! Years ago I had a '72 Chevelle that was notorious for wiper problems! Had them fixed at a garage and felt confident enough to drive in the rain again. Naturally next rain storm I got caught in they did the same thing as the OP’s…went to one side & stopped. Took both shoe strings from my sneakers but I got it home without crashing.

Carry some rainX in the glove box and you won’t need the wipers. For the over educated, it doesn’t really work in the glove box, you have to put it on the windshield.

RainX works well at hiway speeds, but not so well driving in stop & go traffic in town. I actually use Aquapel made by PPG. It’s like RainX on steroids! :slight_smile: