Do I Really Need Washer Fluid?

August 23, 2023
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Our auto glass repair experts at Kryger Glass strive to preserve your windshield. A healthy windshield is imperative for road safety. That’s why washer fluid is important – it helps to keep your windshield free of scratches and streaks and improves its overall lifespan. 

Beyond that, washer fluid is necessary for clear visibility and road safety in both hot and cold weather, for hygienic purposes, and also for lubricating your wipers. If you substitute water for washer fluid, a host of problems can arise that may compromise your car and your health. 

In this post, we will share the benefits of washer fluid, the health risks, and the alternatives. 

What are the Benefits of Windshield Washer Fluid?

  1. Clear Visibility

Washer fluid effectively cleans your windshield of dirt, dust, bugs, and road grime, while allowing you to have clear visibility. Due to the water-repellent nature of washer fluid, in rainy weather, it creates a hydrophobic layer that keeps rain from pooling on the glass. Instead, windshield washer fluid makes the raindrops bead up and roll off. 

  1. Road Safety

Window washer fluid makes driving safer because it provides maximum visibility. Drivers are able to see any road obstructions and react accordingly. If your windshield isn’t streak-free and instead is smattered with bird droppings and grime then accidents may occur. Some states also have legal requirements regarding proper vehicle visibility. 

  1. Seasonal Benefits

The seasonal benefits of washer fluid include automotive antifreeze, good for cleaning frost, sleet, and slush in the winter without freezing and clearing away insects in the summer. However, summer washer fluid should not be used in environments that are intensely cold. Winter washer fluids are formulated to withstand temps as low as -40 degrees without freezing or damaging the washer fluid reservoir and pump. 

  1. Windshield Maintenance

Washer fluid lubricates your wipers and prevents them from scratching the windshield glass. As a result, the wipers continue to operate efficiently for longer. It’s also great at preventing rust from forming since washer fluid is non-corrosive.

  1. Washer Fluid is Hygienic 

The cleaning power of washer fluid comes from its methanol base. The high alcohol content rids your car of unwanted bacteria that could pose severe health risks. 

Can I Use Water Instead of Washer Fluid?

Washer Fluid vs Water

In the debate of washer fluid versus water, the former always comes out on top, largely for the benefits listed earlier but also for the negatives of water used as washer fluid. 

Corrosion

Water is corrosive and as a wiper fluid, it will cause damage, while actual washer fluid contains ethylene glycol that acts as a corrosion inhibitor. That same compound is used in antifreeze and coolants. 

Bacteria Growth

Water also cannot kill the bacteria and mold that grows on the windshield. One particular example is Legionella, a pneumonia bacteria, that can form on the windshield and is a concern for the commercial truck driving industry as reported by the CDC. Inhalation can prove fatal with a survival rate of 5-30%. 

Lack of Visibility

Lack of antifreeze means water will freeze in cold weather. A frozen windshield is never good and is a dangerous safety hazard. Not only from a visibility standpoint but also from a break-ability standpoint, too. 

The Health Risks of Washer Fluid

Ethylene glycol and methanol are the chemicals that make washer fluid a powerful ally to car maintenance, but they can also cause blindness or death. Methanol specifically is so toxic that just ingesting 2 tablespoons can be fatal to a child.

If it gets in your eyes or mouth you should immediately call Poison Control. That includes spilling the fluid onto your skin. Skin absorption may cause a rash or much worse depending on the amount spilled. 

Is Washer Fluid Damaging to the Environment?

The American Chemical Society conducted a study in May of 2023 that suggests windshield wiper fluid may account for a larger amount of vehicle emissions than previously thought. Washer fluid vaporizes and ultimately pollutes the atmosphere.

The ethanol and methanol found in washer fluid just might contribute to pollution twice as much as vehicle exhaust emissions. Further studies need to be conducted to get a broader scope of the issue. 

Windshield Washer Fluid Alternatives

There are DIY washer fluid alternatives that might lessen your impact on the environment and reduce your exposure to toxic ingredients. Still, there is no guarantee they will not cause damage to your vehicle and cost you an excessive amount of money in repairs later on. 

These are some recommended alternatives you can try: 

  • Ammonia and dish soap
  • Vinegar solution
  • Diluted window cleaner

These options require upkeep and proper storage. 

If you damage your windshield glass in the process, then our auto glass experts at Kryger Glass can help. 

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