Deep down inside, what I really love to do is solve problems. Being a software developer is just one way that I get to do that. There are a number of others including carpentry, household repairs and construction, my motorcycles, and sometimes a little car repair.
A week or so ago, we had a pretty good spring snowstorm. Nice heavy, wet snow. My wife had my car that afternoon and to get the snow off the windshield, she turned on the wipers….
And something went, “crunch crunch crunch” and the wipers stopped halfway up.
So yesterday I finally got under the hood to figure out what was going on. I popped the hood and then turned on the wipers. They came up about a third of the way and started the crunching/grinding noise. If I grabbed them and pulled them up a couple of inches they finished the cycle, went back to the bottom and then started back up again. And then they stopped a third of the way up again.
So at least it was a consistent bug. That helps.
The next thing I decided to do was to figure out where the grinding was coming from. I turned them back on and climbed under the hood. At the back, behind the engine, bolted to the firewall was what looked like a motor and a small gearbox. The sound was unquestionably coming from the gearbox.
I’ve never done anything with wipers before on a car, so I wasn’t quite sure how to proceed. The motor seemed to be bolted on with 4 bolts, so I decided to take them off. Now I had the motor disconnected and I could see that its shaft was connected to some kind of linkage, but there was no way I was going to get a spanner in there.
So I pinged a friend of mine who grew up working in a garage (he is now one of the best young coders I know). He suggested that I look for an access panel at the top because there should be a way to get in there.
So I went back outside and tried to find the access panel. There was a plastic cover/grating thing that goes across the front of the car just below the windshield. If there is an access panel, I thought, it had to be under there. I pried that off and sure enough there was a panel there. Popped that open and I was able to get a socket wrench in there and get the nut off the shaft.
But I couldn’t get the motor disconnected from the linkage. My dad taught me when I was a kid, “If you have to apply enough force that you think you might break it, then you are probably doing it wrong.” So I stopped. It was jammed on there somehow and I wasn’t sure how to get it off. So I sprayed some WD-40 on it, hoping it would penetrate and loosen the connection, and then I called it a night.
This afternoon I went back under the hood. This time I didn’t have to apply as much pressure and it popped right off. Sweet!
Just to be sure, I plugged it back into the electrical system and fired up the wipers. Sure enough the grinding was coming out of the gearbox in my hand. Just for the hell of it, I brought it into the house and opened it up… gear teeth everywhere. The main gear was stripped for about a third of its circumference.
It being Sunday, I was very concerned about being able to find a replacement. After a few calls, it turned out the a Napa in Northglenn had one. So I ran up, got it, drove home and put it in.
It is amazing how when you don’t know how something works, it taked you hours longer that it should because you aren’t sure what to do and in what order. When I was trying to get the motor disconnected from the linkage, I didn’t know there was an access panel. _place_holder;But when it came time to put it all back together, it took half the time ‘cause I knew where it all went.
When I was done I had to do a few adjustments to get the wipers in the right place, but that was easy. It was done. For less than half what the dealer or a mechanic would have charged me. And it was a BLAST to do.