Car problem: wipers are out of sync

It’s my own stupid fault. It was drizzling when I was driving home from work last night and I had my wipers on. I forgot to turn them off when I parked the car in the driveway, and the drizzle froze overnight. So this morning I was scraping the windows and noticed that the wipers were frozen to the windshield. I knocked the passenger side wiper loose and it started going through it’s wiper motions, so I reached in and turned the wipers off then proceeded to knock the driver side wiper loose.

After the car had defrosted a bit I hit the wipers to clear the windshield, but now the wipers are all messed up. What happens is that the passenger side wiper gets about halfway up the windshield before the driver side wiper starts coming up, then it gets stuck under the passenger side wiper and isn’t able to sweep its full arc.

Is there an easy way to get my wipers back in sync? It’s a 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe if that makes any difference.

Generally this means that you stripped the gears in the tiny transmission that controls the sync. Maybe they are not stripped as much as slipped out of time like a timing belt. Maybe there’s away to easily take it apart and re-time it. I’m certainly not advising this, but in a pinch I would consider restraining that passenger side again briefly until the gear returned to the proper position. This would be iffy and difficult to get right. It could even be that the transmission has an override capability to protect it from damage by slipping so my theory would work without further damage.

Bottom line: Wait for more specific accurate information from others first.

I had this happen to me once. When I turned them off, the park positions were different, i.e. one parked part way up the windshield. With the key off, I grabbed this wiper and forced it back down to the park position.

I don’t know if this will work for you and may end up breaking the gears all together.

In most cars (or at least the ones I am familiar with, but then I’m not a mechanic) there is a single motor which turns a shaft connected to an arrangement of bars which move the wiper arms. I don’t remember there being a timing gear in there anywhere. It could be that one of the bars is bent or one of the linkages is broken. On most cars those are relatively easy to replace.

It’s a good thing that the wipers do at least still move. That means you didn’t burn out the motor, which I had happen when Mrs. Geek accidentally froze her wipers to the windshield. Replacing the motor on many cars can be a royal pain in the backside. I can tell you from experience that on a Dodge Caravan it’s pretty obvious that they put the motor into the vehicle before they install the dash. There’s a procedure to get the motor out without removing the dash, but it’s not a whole lot of fun.

You can at least get to the mechanical linkages without too much difficulty in any car that I’ve had to deal with.

IANAPM (I am not a professional mechanic) but if my google skills are working, the diagram I found online indicates that your Hyundai has a pretty typical setup.

This is the diagram I found, by the way:

It may be possible to just pop the wiper arm off and line it up and pop it back on. I did that on a Dodge pickup I had once.

Not knowing your experience with this, here’s some detail on repositioning the wiper arms.

It’s possible one or both wiper arms have spun on the spindle it attaches to. There’s a fair chance you can solve the problem by loosening, resetting, and retightening the arms.

Here’s a view of the pivot end of a wiper arm. Typically there’s a hinged plastic cover that can be raised to expose the nut.

First just try to move the wiper arms through their arc by hand (wipers turned off). Normally you shouldn’t be able to rotate the arm on its spindle. If you can rotate one (or both), remove the nut(s) and take the arm(s) off the spindle. If you can’t move either one, take them both off.

Note that the wiper arm is spring loaded at its hinge – lift the arm all the way up so it stands perpendicular to the windshield so you don’t have to fight the spring, and if necessary pry it (gently) off of the spindle. (Some arms don’t lift up that high and have to be pried against the spring pressure.)

Then turn the ignition on (no need to actually start the engine), turn the wipers on, and turn the wipers off. The wiper mechanism should stop at its park position, which will place the arms down along the bottom of the windshield. Now turn the ignition off. If you left one arm on and it doesn’t rest in that position, remove it.

Now, with the mechanism and spindles at their park position, reinstall the arm(s) you removed so that both arms are lying at their normal “off” position at the base of the windshield. Lay the arm(s) down flat and press onto the spindle(s) against the spring, then install the nuts. Tighten both nuts snugly (even on an arm that wasn’t taken off). Operate the wipers and see how they do. Some liquid on the windshield will help them move easily across the glass. If they work but aren’t in just the right park position, readjust (loosen the nut, reset the arm, tighten the nut).

Here’s hoping that’s all you need. If this doesn’t do it, then some other part of the mechanism will need repair.

Yea, a later post offers the easiest repair. Just remove that entire arm and reposition it.

Concur. I had to do this numerous times with a Volvo wagon. Kept an allen wrench in the glove compartment for the job.


Fixed! Thanks all. The driver’s side wiper arm just needed to be tightened down. It looks like it is working OK now.

I don’t know why this info way so hard to find, it was.
My wipers quit working, one reason was the
pass. side wiper spindle was siezed in its bushing.
Cleaning that did the trick. The other reason,
a brush inside the motor, there are 3,
was destroyed and the wire broken.
A salvage motor was a cheap fix. That
motor did not come with the “cam”? on the motor
shaft that the transmission hooks to. I had to take
that part off the bad motor.
I just bolted it on and thought the motor would park
After way too many attempts of removing,aligning one wiper
and fighting the wiper sync. I found this out.
Before mounting the motor to anything plug it into the harness,
turn ON the key and turn on the switch for a few seconds.
Make sure the motor has Hi,Low and intermittent.
Next mount the motor on the wiper transmission.
Dont mount it yet. Dont install blades yet.
Run motor again for a few seconds turning off switch and key.
Mount the “CAM” that bolts to the motor shaft, with out disturbing
motor shaft. Align the Long leg of the Cam so it points directly
at the DRIVERS SIDE wiper spindle. plus or minus a degree or two
should be really close. Tighten down Cam nut on motor.
Connect the transmission arms. Dont install yet.
Test motor again, check to see that Cam is aligned
as you installed, and that transmission runs.
Install transmission,motor assembly. Finger tighten bolts for now.
Test motor again make sure in runs smoothly.
Install drivers side wiper, align wiper on Park position.
Test wiper. You may have to remove wiper and fine tune it so it is
parked and so it goes near the edge of the windshield.
Install the pass. side wiper a test operation. If good then remove blades,
tighten transmission assembly, install plastic shroud,weather strip
and blades.

I have done this over and over but wipers still out of sync. I have replace wiper motor and linkage already.

A day after I got the MGB back from the paint shop, there was dew on the windshield. I flipped the wipers on and discovered… They’d put them on backwards. The wipers were trying to wipe the hood (or ‘bonnet’, if you will). Not being one who is good at working on cars, I would have checked the rotation of the capstans before putting the arms back on.

I see the poster got the wiper situation remedied back in 2012.