Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

When did windshield washers come out?

Were they an option at first?
Do not recall that my first car, 1961 Volvo 544, had windshield washers.
Very thankful - recently wenthroughalf a reservoir of windshield washer fluid on.e trip.

Thank you.

They showed up on some cars before they were federally mandated. My 1965 Opel Kadett Wagon had one - a rubber squeeze bulb to the far left of the clutch pedal.


Have you never heard of Google ? There are lots of articles on the web about wipers and washers.

1 Like

No. I ain’t.


IIRC, they were federally-mandated as of the '66 model year, but it is possible that the mandate took place one year earlier. My father’s '66 Galaxie 500 was the first car he owned with windshield washers, and I was excited to use them. Unfortunately, the “reservoir” was a vinyl bag hanging from the inner fender, and it held only 1 qt.

Also, the spray nozzles were so badly designed that the spray was poorly dispersed/directed.
I can recall going through the entire qt of WW fluid in only a few hours in the aftermath of a snowstorm, when the amount of moist salt residue/mist flying around was really heavy.

My brother’s '64 VW bug had a windshield washer, but instead of being powered by an electric pump, it used air pressure from the spare tire. You needed to keep the spare pumped-up to much higher pressure than one would use on a “road tire” in order to power the washers. The biggest problem was that the WW tanks were not able to withstand the air pressure for very long. When the first one in his car sprang a leak, my brother was able to have it replaced under warranty. When the replacement tank sprang a leak, the warranty had expired, so he opted to go without windshield washers at that point.

When I purchased my 1965 Dodge Dart, they were still an option, as were variable speed wipers.

They may have been standard on some luxury cars at that time, but I recall shortly after that they were legislated in by the feds.

Here’s a reverse question-what cars did you drive that didn’t have washers? I don’t remember any, back to '62.

A family friend bought a 1947 DeSoto and it had factory installed windshield washers. My dad had a 1954 Buick and it had factory installed windshield washers.
However, my 1965 Rambler Classic 550 did not have windshield washers. I had the dealer install a windshield washer and also backup lights that weren’t standard. The windshield washer had a little foot pedal that drew the fluid in from a reservoir bag into a bellows with a check valve and then squirted the fluid on the windshield. I still prefer this to an electric pump.
A right side windshield wiper wasn’t standard on the Ford pickup trucks at least as late as 1950.

1 Like

While our '65 ('64 1/2) Mustang came with washers, we did have to add a backup light (it was a $10.70 option, manual foot-operated washers were standard).

My Grandmothers 41 Studebaker had washers, the bag on the fender said Trico so iy could have been aftermarket. Her 52 Plymouth had them, My 52 Plymouth did not.

According to Wikipedia aftermarket washers came out in 36.

1 Like

Radios, heaters, turn signals, backup lights, vent windows, carpeting, white wall tires, even a second tail-brake light on the right side and side view mirrors all were options before about 1950. Not on upscale lines, but on the “big three” Chevys, Fords and Plymouths. When you bought a Hudson, DeSoto or a Buick you got those things because you were buying up market. GM and Ford didn’t have electric windshield wipers as standard until about then; before that they were run by vacuum and your wipers stopped going uphill. And maybe you only had one, for the driver. The defroster on my 46 Chevy pickup was a crank that opened out the whole windshield along the bottom edge.

1 Like

My Dad’s 69 VW had a washer…but only if you had air in the spare tire.

1 Like

All car’s from day one had windshield washer’s when ever it rained the question should have been when did driver operated windshield washer’s come out. Sorry my resistence level is low today.


Luxury cars undoubtedly had them as standard equipment, going back–possibly–to the late '50s. However, as mandated standard equipment, they were not present on “popular” price cars until 1966.

All cars used to be equipped with interval wipers. These vacuum wipers only operated when the driver let up on the accelerator pedal. O remember riding the school bus in a heavy rain. The driver would have to let up on the accelerator every few seconds to so that the wipers would move.
Some cars with vacuum wipers had a vacuum booster section on the fuel pump. This did make the wipers move steadily. I could never understand why the bottom of the line cars had vacuum wipers with the vacuum booster section on the fuel pump while the upper lines had electric wipers and didn’t have it need the more complicated fuel pump. I would have thought electric wipers would have been cheaper. I had a 1968 AMC Javelin and it had vacuum wipers.

While we are on the topic of windshield washers, I am going to rant and rave a bit. I don’t understand the advantage of an electric pump windshield washer system over a self powered dome shaped bulb that one stepped on to wash the windshield. On my 1978 Oldsmobile the washer pump was built into the windshield wiper motor. The washer section went bad. Rather than buy a new wiper motor, I bought a universal washer fluid pump for $6.50 at Walmart and bypassed the pump on the wiper motor. It worked perfectly. I suppose today the windshield washer pump has to be operated through the body control module. Why is this an improvement over just a simple driver powered pump that is completely independent of the electrical system or powered by engine vacuum as it was on my 1954 Buick?
From reading other posts, if the electrical power is lost on a certain four wheel drive vehicle, a controller module has to be replaced. On some VW models, some functions of the vehicle are controlled through the audio system. I just read a post about battery replacement on a BMW where the charging system has to be tuned to match the battery. I would think reliability in a vehicle would be to keep the systems as independent as possible. At least on the old VW the worst thing that could happen with continued use of the windshield washer would be a flat spare tire.
In the computer world, many institutions have gone from a big main frame to distributed processing so that all activities don’t depend on the main frame being up. It seems the systems in vehicles should be less interdependent.


One good feature of the squeeze bulb was that, depending on the force and speed of the squeeze, you could control where on the windshield the spray went. Kinda fun, too.

1 Like

@shanonia. My wife was able to drive the car after breaking her foot. When she couldn’t get the clutch depressed with one crutch, she used both crutches. That is called double crutching. She drove me crazy at night when she was driving and I was trying to sleep. I would be awakened by a tap-a-tap click-click and 10 seconds later another tap-a-tap click-click. She was operating the dimmer switch with her crutch. Every so often I would hear a tap-a-tap swish-swish. She was depressing the windshield washer bulb with her crutch. When she could do all of these functions with a broken foot, I don’t understand all these complicated ways of squirting washer fluid on a windshield.


@wentwest. I don’t think electric wipers became a standard until the early 1960s. I have speculated that the reason electric wipers weren’t adopted sooner by more manufacturers was that alternator didn’t start replacing the generator until 1960. Chrysler products did have higher output generators back then than other makes and were the choice of ham radio operators who had mobile equipment. The vacuum tube radios and communication equipment drew a lot of power. Electric wipers would just add to the load.
The school bus I rode in my elementary school days didn’t have the high mounted stop lights or turning signals. The school buses back then were on truck chassis with 6 volt electric systems. There wasn’t a lot of electrical power.
As far as cars are concerned, often buyers had heaters and radios installed by Sears, Montgomery Ward, Western Auto, Firestone and other companies. If you really wanted to keep warm, you had a Stewart Warner Southwind gasoline heater installed.
My dad’s 1939 Chevrolet had a heater made by the Harrison division of General Motors and came from the factory with that unit, but there was no ductwork leading up to the defroster slots. Many prewar cars didn’t have provisions to defrost or defog the windshield. A fan that clamped on the steering column with the air stream aimed at the windshield was a common accessory. My first car, a 1947 Pontiac, did not have turn signals. I bought a turn signal kit and spent the better part of a day installing the kit. I believe turn signals weren’t mandatory until 1956.


My '62 Olds Jetfire had no washers.