Have you ever been driving down the road and get too close to the car in front of you? Many times, that car or truck sprays you with road muck. It can happen during any season, but spring and winter are usually the worst. You hit the button to spray windshield wiper fluid on the glass, but nothing happens. You’ve run out of fluid and wondered what to do next. The best thing to do in this situation is to go to a local gas station and clean the mess off the windshield. However, while you’re there, you wonder if you should pick up more windshield wiper fluid and put it in the reservoir in case it happens again. This is also the time where you wonder if you need a particular fluid or if plain tap water can be poured into the reservoir and work just as well.
Fluid Versus Water
While most experts recommend using windshield wiper fluid, you can get away with using plain water if you live in an area where the temperatures always stay above freezing (even at night). However, even if you don’t have to worry about the water freezing up, plain tap water doesn’t have the same cleaning powers as windshield wiper fluid. It is designed to remove bird droppings, bugs, road dirt, and all the rest of the gunk that collects on your windshield. Many times, the fluid also contains an anti-streak formulation, which means you don’t get annoying streaks that can make it dangerous to drive.
Windshield wiper fluid usually has methanol or other alcohols, such as ethylene glycol. They can also contain a little antifreeze and ethanol to ensure that the product doesn’t freeze during winter. All of these ingredients work together to provide you with a clean windshield without streaks, regardless of the weather.
Of course, the primary benefit of water is that it is cheap and suitable for the environment. The problem is that it doesn’t contain appropriate cleaning detergents and solvents to remove unwanted grime. Plus, it does freeze below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, which means your system is useless when the weather turns cold. Therefore, even if you live in a warm climate, any trips you take to the northern states can cause problems, such as the fact that you could get stuck in a snowstorm and can’t clean the slush and grime that collects on the windshield.
Windshield Wiper Fluid is Better
Most experts believe that windshield wiper fluid is the best choice, even though it costs more money. These fluids are specially formulated to clean windshields and do so better than water. However, you should be aware that these fluids do have methanol and/or ethanol, which can be poisonous to animals and people. It’s also bad for the environment. In most cases, an entire bottle of fluid can last you for many years, depending on how often you use it. You may also not have to use a lot of the fluid each time, which means the impact on the environment is lessened.
You should also be aware that some windshield wiper fluids contain ethylene glycol, which can damage your paint finish, as well as rubber and plastic parts. Most mechanics recommend that you test the fluid sprayer and make sure that it sprays directly onto the windshield and nowhere else. You may need a mechanic to adjust the sprayer so that it doesn’t spray the paint and other parts that could be damaged. You may want to try using homemade windshield cleaner or may decide that it’s best to just purchase a product designed for cleaning windshields.