Windshield Wiper Fluid Freezes

I just got my oil changed and they filled the wiper fluid with the stuff that works fine in warmer temps. Ba-da-bing, it’s cold out now and the stuff is frozen.

Is there anything I can add to it to make it unfreezable?

('99 Subaru Legacy, in case that matters)

Yes. “Winter mix” windshield washer fluid. You may have to wait for a warm day when the line thaws to purge what’s in there.

To make it unfreezable, either add rubb1ng alcohol (isopropanol) OR just empty out the plain water (might need a turkey baster or a siphon) and replace it with somee commercial washer fluid. I think the commercial fluid is cheap enough that I would choose that option.

However, either option requires that the water be unfrozen. If your weather stays so cold that the water stays frozen, then you will have to park in a heated garage for a day or get some external heat source. External source might be a few hours with a hair dryer with a heavy duty extension cord (if you can get close enough to an electric outlet) OR a light bulb (60W to 100W) with a LITTLE insulation (a LOOSELY wrapped blanket) around the reservoir/pump and the bulb. But remember, after you get the reservoir/pump thawed and replaced the water with washer fluid, you would still have to thaw the tubing from there to the spray nozzles. So hope that the weather warms enough to let you do it the easy way.

Your experience is yet another reason why you have to monitor quick lube places very closely if you dare to use them.

Yeah, add some warm weather, and when it thaws, pump it all out. I’m assuming you don’t have a garage (that’s above freezing) to park it in. If you’re looking for something to pour into the reservoir that will melt ice, I’ve never seen anything you can purchase OTC. I suspect anything that will melt a rock hard chunk of ice will be pretty toxic and you probably wouldn’t want to handle it without a hazmat suit on. I know the stuff you spray from a can on your windshield does a fine job of melting the ice on your windshield, but that is a thin layer and you’re talking about melting a big block of ice. If it were me, I’d try to get a light into your reservoir. If you have access to a plug in, and some kind of light like a C7 christmas light or something that puts out heat, you might melt the ice with sticking the bulb into the top of the reservoir filler hole (ensuring it doesn’t melt the plastic), wrap towels or something to seal off the cold air and hold in the heat, and come back in 8 hours and see if that helps. Otherwise ???

You’re all really helpful, thank you. No garage, and my car is parked very far from any electrical source. I think my only option is to pray for a warm day, drain it and refill with winter fluid.

It isn’t doing any damage to the wiper system meanwhile, is it?

I’ve never seen it damage a system.

You could just try leaving the engine running for an hour or so and seeing if that builds up enough heat under the hood to thaw everything out. Is the reservoir frozen solid, or can you tell?

Remember to get the washer fluid with the most dire warning you can find. Skull and crossbones are a plus! I’m astounded that here in cold country some places still sell the 20 above fluid all year.

LOL-- that’s a pretty funny description of the kind to get. I’ll do my best with what I can find on the shelves (Maryland).

If you’re in Maryland the oil change place (you really shouldn’t patronize them, you know) probably used plain water. I’ve been using commercially available windshield washer solutions from auto parts stores, grocery stores, etc, for years in PA and I’ve never had frozen washer lines.

If you allow the engine to idle for a while it should generate enough heat under the hood to thaw the lines. The washer reservoir probably hasn’t frozen solid yet, but the lines freeze quickly because they are so small.

It should have been warm enough today to thaw it out.

If you are in the Western MD mountains it’ll be just barely warm enough tomorrow (Wednesday). Rest of the state should be OK, but you better get on it. You can probably wait for the rain to stop.

Do you think it’ll thaw enough by driving?

When the freezing is in the lines, an hour of driving generally takes care of the problem. At that point, start squirting and using the old stuff, then re-fill with the good -25 degree stuff and keep working the old stuff out as much as you can. I have never drained and refilled, but if you keep up the topping off, you generally eliminate the problem.

Thank you so much-- I really appreciate your help!

I live where the -20 washer fluid sometimes freezes an have found that adding pure isopropyl alchol quickly unfreezes things.

I’ve had this happen a few times over the years. Many times when you get an oil change, the mechanic or tech will top off the wiper fluid with a very diluted solution (sometimes I think it’s just water w/blue coloring) and this tends to freeze very easily.

In my past cars, in the dead of winter it wont melt from just driving it. I’ve always purchased the best winter wiper fluid I can find and simply top the reservoir (which is occasionally a block of ice) off with it. That’s typically enough to at least turn the existing fluid to slush, which will eventually melt from the engine heat. From there, I just use it like would normally, topping it off each time with the winter fluid.

If you can get it thawed once, perhaps you could add some windshield washer concentrate (normally mixed with water in the right proportion). I haven’t noticed any concentrate in my local parts stores in a while, but from a quick web search it appears that Honda makes one, if you have a dealer nearby.

On another tack, if “they” truly did this (and they admit to it), then this should be their problem to fix. Could you leave the car in their garage overnight, which would let it thaw?

By the way, if this is a quick-lube place (which most people here will warn you against using), I’d tell them not to touch any other fluids. I hear too many stories about incorrect generic fluids being used.

This “Summer Formula” washer fluid is a scam. You’re buying blue water during the summer. I ONLY buy the washer fluid that’s year round. The last thing I need to care about is changing my washer fluid in the fall. You should do what it takes to get that blue water out of your system ASAP. If it freezes solid, it may crack your washer fluid reservoir, damage your pump, or crack the plastic fittings in the washer lines.

“Do you think it’ll thaw enough by driving?”

It is a sure thing if you drive to the Florida Keys.

If this happened to me I would park the car in an underground garage, such as in an office building or hotel, for the day. At the end of the day add concentrated washer fluid, run the engine and start squirting.

It will cost you $10-$15 or so, but you can go shopping during that time.

I think the only problem with thawing it while driving is that the windchill might keep the nozzles and the lines near the hood frozen. Plus it might not be safe to drive without working washers.