How to Use the Windscreen Wipers

Your windscreen wipers are one of the auxiliary controls that you’ll need an understanding of early on during the learning to drive process. While driving, you’ll need to know how to use them if it starts raining or if your car’s windscreen needs cleaning. You’ll also need to know how to use them on the practical driving test as part of the Show Me Tell Me questions.

On your car’s steering wheel column, the lever, or ‘stalk’ on the right is often what operates the windscreen wipers. If you’re unsure which lever it is, look for the windscreen wipers symbol Windscreen wipers symbol

The method in which you operate your windscreen wipers varies from car-to-car and may vary depending on your country, but all cars in the UK use a similar method to the one explained here.

Operating the Front Windscreen Wipers

For many cars, you’ll operate the front windscreen wipers by raising the lever. Wipers can operate at different speeds; raise the wiper lever one notch for intermittent wiper speed, often used for a light drizzle of rain. Intermittent wipers have a delay between each wipe of the blades and you may see this labelled as ‘int’ on the wiper lever. On some cars there’ll be a collar that you can rotate to adjust the speed of the intermittent wipers. This is called variable speed wipers.

How to operate the front windscreen wipers tutorial
Raise the lever up to three notches to increase the wiper’s speed

While variable speed wipers may be useful to some, most drivers tend to use the pre-set that you can select by simply lifting or lowering the wipers stalk. There are two notches up for continuous normal speed and up three notches for the fastest speed. To turn off the windscreen wipers, simply push the lever back down to the off position.

During winter, before activating the wipers, ensure that the wiper blades are not frozen in and that any snow or ice on the windscreen (and rear window) is scraped away. Activating frozen in wipers may damage the mechanical wipers system and operating wipers on a frosty / icy windscreen may damage the wiper blade rubber.

Automatic Windscreen Wipers

Some cars have rain sensing wipers, or ‘Auto’ mode. Cars with this feature have a sensor in the windscreen that detects rain and activates the wipers automatically. Cars with auto wipers also have a sensitivity adjustment so that you can set how sensitive the wipers are to detecting moisture. If your car has this feature, you’ll see ‘Auto’ as a selectable option on the wipers stalk.

To avoid damaging the wipers, it’s important to remember to turn off ‘Auto’ wiper mode and to switch off the wipers before entering a car wash.

Using the Front Windscreen Washers

To wash the front windscreen, pull the wiper lever towards you. This will release a spray of washer fluid onto the windscreen and the wipers will automatically activate for around three swipes, then switch off.

How to wash the front windscreen using the windscreen washers
To wash and clean the front windscreen, pull the lever towards you and hold

The spray and wiper operation will continue until you release the lever. You’ll see the front windscreen washer symbol on the stalk Front windscreen washer icon. If the washer does not work, you may need to add washer fluid to the washer fluid reservoir under the bonnet.

To avoid damaging the wiper blade rubber, use plenty of washer fluid when the wipers are cleaning the windscreen. The windscreen must be wet when the windscreen wipers are operating.

Single Wipe

The option to activate the wipers just once is useful for when you drive through a temporary patch of wet or have received spray from another vehicle or have a layer of mist on the outside. As you begin driving, you’ll find that you likely use the single wipe option frequently.

How to operate the front windscreen wipers tutorial
Press down on the wiper stalk for a single wipe of the windscreen wipers

To activate a single wipe, press down on the wiper lever and immediately release. The wiper blades will activate just once, then stop. On some cars, you may see this labelled on the wiper lever as ‘Mist’.

Operating the Rear Windscreen Wipers

Operating the rear wipers varies from car-t0-car, even more so than the front wipers and not all cars have a rear wiper. In most modern cars, the control should be located right-side stalk; the same as the front wiper controls. If you’re not sure where they are, look for the rear wipers symbol Rear windscreen wipers symbol

How to operate the rear windscreen wipers
Controls for the rear windscreen wiper will vary depending on your car

In this instance, to switch on the rear windscreen wipers, twist the end of the lever one notch so that the arrow lines up with the rear wipers symbol Rear windscreen wipers symbol. To activate the rear windscreen washer, twist the lever for a second notch until the arrow lines up with the washer symbol Rear windscreen washers symbol. Hold the lever on the second notch for as long as you want washer fluid to be released. Once you let go, no more fluid will be released.

Based on this tutorial, you should be able to work out how the windscreen wipers and washers work on your car, even if they’re slightly different. Simply look for the symbols on the right steering column stalk. If you’re talking driving lessons with an instructor, friend or family member they will explain how to do this.

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