Richard McCuistian, ASE Certified Master Automobile Technician
Technical Reviewer at mslsec.com
Written by mslsec.com Staff Writers – Updated on July 13th, 2021
The windshield washer reservoir obviously stores windshield washer fluid. You might say “Duh!” Well, while it’s a relatively simple container made from polyethylene plastic, sometimes the reservoir can develop cracks and leaks—which means that if you want to have an operational windshield washer, you’ll need to either replace it yourself or have it replaced.
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While it’s a different procedure on every vehicle, replacing the windshield washer reservoir lends itself to DIY-ers and newbies, but only those with a lot of patience that see it as a labor of love, so to speak. If you’re easily frustrated, you’ll need to learn patience to replace some windshield washers.
Windshield Washer Reservoir Replacement
Just to give you an idea of what it’s like to replace the windshield washer reservoir, let’s look at one Asian vehicle and one U.S. Domestic make. But realize that your vehicle may be easier OR harder than either of the two outlined below, so know what you’re getting into before you start:
This is the shop manual procedure on a 2018 Nissan Altima:
Drain the washer fluid (you decide how)Remove the front under cover. Remove the right front tire and fender protector (RH). Disconnect the harness connectors from the washer motor and washer fluid level switch.Disconnect the front washer tube from the washer motor.Remove the washer tank bolts, then remove the washer tank.Replace the fender protector and the right front tire.Replace the front under cover.
As you can see, there are six steps listed for the 2018 Altima, but steps 2 and 3 have sub-steps that need to be considered – you have to remove the “under cover,” the right front tire, and the “fender protector” to gain access. Removing those covers sounds easier than it is on most vehicles, and make sure you know how the fasteners work if they’re plastic. When it’s over, you have to reinstall those parts you removed to gain access.
Okay, let’s have a look at a 2016 Chevy Silverado HD:
Aside from replacing the windshield washer reservoir, it helps to learn how to perform simple maintenance like melting ice in the reservoir or draining it dry.
Take note, however, that removing the reservoir may not be a good idea, since the plastic will be very brittle when the fluid inside is frozen and you may crack the reservoir. It’s best not to remove the reservoir to deal with frozen fluid. If, of course, the fluid has frozen to the point that it has expanded (9% by volume, as water does), it may already have cracked the reservoir, particularly if the reservoir is old and brittle to begin with.
How to Drain Washer Fluid Reservoir
The reservoir also requires draining every so often. You’ll need to get rid of old washer fluid before it becomes dirty or replace it with a freeze-resistant product before winter comes.
An effortless way to drain the reservoir involves triggering the windshield washers until the reservoir runs out. If you want to conserve washer fluid, see if you can disconnect the hoses from the washers so that you can spray the fluid into a container.
In case you cannot separate the hoses from the washers, use a hand pump or turkey baster to siphon the contents of the reservoir into a separate container.
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