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The Interesting History Behind Windshield Wipers In Your Car

It is rightly said, necessity is the first step towards discovery. Most of the things in the world were discovered either by accident or were invented because they were needed. The same is the case with a fairly little yet essential component, a windshield wiper. It is often forgotten or ignored. Well, are you aware of what these windshield wipers are capable of? Before that, let’s have a look at how were these invented.

Mary Anderson
Mary Anderson

1903 | Came the Windshield Wipers

History is something the depends upon the written records and proofs. But at times it is a bit sceptical to dig the history. This is where the speculation starts.

Window-Cleaning Device
Window-Cleaning Device
  • To begin with, a windshield wiper was invented back in 1896 by George J. Capewell of Hartford Connecticut.
  • He got his idea of motorized windscreen wipers patented back then, but never got the credit he deserved.
  • Instead, a woman named Mary Anderson is in the books for the person who invented the first operational wiper in 1903.
  • So, sticking to the written facts, Mary was travelling on a stormy night in her carriage. While travelling she had to stop the carriage to wipe the windshield after regular intervals.
  • This led her to think of a machine that wipes the window from the inside. This is when a mechanical wiper came into consideration.

The Manual Windshield Wiper

Manually Operated Windshield Wiper
Manually Operated Windshield Wiper

Mary Anderson is often credited for the first functional window wiper in 1903. This old school windshield wiper later made their presence in the cars of that era. Also, she called her idea “window cleaning device”. Well, the things in those times were pretty straight forward.

  • For you to know, the wipers of those times where hand-operated rather than motorized.
  • A lever on the inside controlled the wipers on the windshield. Initially, this is very easy to manufacture but was not at all convenient and safe.
  • In this type of wiper, a lever is mechanically connected to the wiper via a rod and the handle is operated by hand
  • The driver had to take one hand off the steering wheel limiting the control on the vehicle.

Advancements in Windshield Wiper

Modern Wiper Mechanism
Modern Wiper Mechanism | Image Source (1)

Over the years the technology behind the working of the windshield wipers has changed a ton. There were various mechanisms by which they were operated.

  • The first idea was to make the wipers power operated. The early model of powered windshield wipers ran on the vacuum and was powered by the engine’s manifold. However, this had its flaws.
  • Vaccum in engine manifold varies with speed and throttle input and is negligible under full-throttle. This led to the varying pace of the wipers, at times the wipers stopped moving altogether.
  • But this problem was solved via a booster pump but later were overtaken by hydraulic wipers. The hydraulic pump used for the power steering was used to operate the windshield wipers.
  • But the vehicles nowadays are powered by an electric motor through a series of gears to precisely control the speed.

So, this is how the windshield wiper came into our vehicles.

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Utkarsh Bhardwaj
Utkarsh Bhardwaj
Technical Content Strategist at GoMechanic | Big Time Petrolhead with the passion for building cars and driving those beauties.


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