When road conditions get wet and grimy, the tires on the vehicles in front of you can sling an oily mess onto your windshield. You’re probably familiar with the sludge that quickly develops when that happens. If your wipers leave streaks, the resulting smeared film makes driving dangerous. Even brand-new wiper blades cannot do the job alone. The best windshield washer fluid emulsifies that mess so you can travel safely in those torrid conditions.
Finding the Best Windshield Washer Fluid
Some washer fluids seem to be mostly water. Sure, they get the windshield wet, but they’re really only good for rinsing off dry dust. Sometimes, you need more firepower. Drizzly rain is the worst for getting muck on windshields, because it only moistens the dirt and oil that’s been building on the road since the last good rain. Heavy rains wash all that stuff away. There are other washer fluids for specific purposes, though.
Types of Windshield Washer Fluid
General windshield washer fluid will usually work for most users in most conditions, but switching it up might help in certain situations. In the summertime, insects start to swarm around roads at night, often drawn in by the lights. Their little acidic bodies might resist a normal washer fluid, so you might need a fluid that is specifically engineered to handle bugs if it’s summer where you live.
For others, winter can bring frigid temperatures. If the fluid in your reservoir freezes, it won’t be able to get to your windshield. Winter washer fluids have an additive – typically methanol – that lowers their freezing point. Choosing the best windshield washer fluid is a matter of knowing the conditions where you live.
The Simplest Repair
If you think you are not capable of refilling your windshield washer fluid, you’re wrong. This is a job that anyone can do. If you haven’t found yourself under the hood of a car or truck before, learning how to refill windshield wiper fluid can be your first step into the world of auto mechanics. It really is possibly the easiest fluid refill or change to do on a vehicle.
If you look under your hood, you will find a container with a picture of a windshield and a single wiper blade on it. There will appear to be a fluid stream coming up from the bottom of the picture. If you don’t see it, just check out this “how to” video on YouTube.
If you watched that video, you probably noticed the tech spill fluid on the surface under the hood of the vehicle. Yet he made no effort to clean up the mess. That’s because washer fluid is heavily diluted. Usually it contains a non-toxic cleaning solution, along with a few other additives. The fluid gets all over the vehicle when it’s sprayed, so don’t worry if you spill some. Just get it in the container. But remember to store the leftover fluid safely. Though dilute, may still be poisonous if swallowed (by children or pets usually), especially winter fluids.
The Best Windshield Washer Fluid Products
1. Prestone - Bug Wash
Best Summer Windshield Washer Fluid for Bugs
Products that cause water to bead are popular because they work. Prestone’s Bug Wash is effective at getting those pesky insect bodies off windshields, but it also keeps them from sticking in the first place. It works like a regular washer fluid for cleaning, but it leaves an invisible film behind once it dries. That film acts as a barrier to bugs and water alike, improving visibility in a variety of summer conditions.
- Leaves protective barrier that keeps things from sticking to glass
- Dissolves the sticky mess from insects, oil and other residues
- Protective film causes water to bead and shed off glass
- Pleasant citrus aroma
- No mixing required
- Not as cost-effective as most concentrates
- Some users find the smell too strong
Prestone is a popular name in coolants, but it has a well-deserved reputation for quality windshield washer fluids as well. That rep is built largely on the success of Bug Wash. If you live in a locale that has bugs smacking your windshield all summer long, Bug Wash will keep you seeing clearly.
2. Nextzett – Kristallklar Premium
Best Windshield Wiper Fluid Concentrate
This highly concentrated German product contains enough screen wash concentrate to make 12 gallons of washer fluid. It dissolves oil and grease with ease, and it can even remove waxes and silicone. It also lubricates wiper blades to silence that annoying and distracting squeaking as they slide back and forth. It does all this without streaking or splaying lights. Kristallklar is one of the most effective washer fluids available, and it is priced to compete with anyone.
- Unbeaten cleaning ability in a non-toxic formulation
- Lubricates wiper blades to silence their operation
- Dissolves most types of road grime and insects
- Contains water softener to prevent hard-water clogging
- Packaging facilitates easy measurement for mixing
- Requires added methanol for winter use
- Smell is pleasant, yet noticeable
Nextzett might not be the most well-known brand, but Kristallklar Premium might change that. The Germans clearly like to see well in all conditions, because they put the extra time into engineering a chemical that does its job well. It won’t harm paint or plastics, which is impressive considering its effectiveness.
3. 303 – Instant Windshield Washer Tablets
Best Windshield Washer Fluid Tablets
Don’t let the affordability fool you. Each package of 303 tablets produces 25 gallons (one tablet per gallon) of one of the most effective windshield cleaning fluids on the market. It dissolves all the usual debris that mucks up windshields, though some others handle insects better. It is also an environmentally friendly product, essentially eliminating 25 plastic jugs from landfills. It can also be added to less-effective antifreeze washer fluids for winter use.
- More affordable than most of its competition
- Eliminates packaging from landfills
- Cleans as well as most other fluids
- Add to one gallon water or place directly in reservoir
- Non-toxic and completely biodegradable
- Can leave spots if not used within a month or so
- Not the best for heavy insect problems
The 303 brand is synonymous with these little washer fluid tablets. Convenient to use and to store, they make light work of refilling windshield washer fluid reservoirs. They may not be as effective as some other brands, but they make up for it in affordability and sustainability.
4. McKee’s 37 – Anti-Frost Windshield Washer Fluid
Best Winter Windshield Wiper Fluid
McKee’s 37 is a small, boutique auto care company. It’s anti-frost washer fluid is effective against oily sludge and other dirty road conditions. It cleans without leaving streaks, and it is useful in most winter applications. Not only does it de-ice windshields, but it leaves behind a non-glaring film that prevents snow and ice from sticking to the glass.
- Can be used alone on in addition to any other washer fluid
- Prevents frosting and icing of auto glass
- Use in a spray bottle to treat all the windows of a vehicle
- Non-streaking formulation
- Effectiveness as de-icer continues long after a single use
- Not the most effective cleaner when used alone
- Mixing ratio must be stronger in sub-zero weather, using more product
While not exactly a household name – yet – McKee’s 37 is building a solid reputation in car care circles. Not every antifreeze washer fluid can work in the sub-zero temperatures that this one can, and the fact that it can service the whole car (not just the windshield) is a definite plus.
5. P21S Windshield Wash Booster
Best Windshield Washer Fluid Additive
Even great washer fluids can use a helping hand when things extremely mucky. That’s where an additive like P21S is useful. As its name implies, it is not really useful on its own, but Windshield Washer Booster effectively improves any fluid it is added to. Bugs, grime, salt, snow and other visibility hazards are swept clean, and the resulting surface is protected against hazing and glare. This additive makes selecting your main windshield washer fluid a non-issue.
- Supercharges 16 gallons underperforming washer fluids
- Cleans all the usual windshield messes
- Leaves behind no streaks and prevents future streaking
- Handles oil better than most other products
- Extends the life of expensive wiper blades
- Does not work alone, only boosts other products’ effectiveness
- Though affordable, it still adds to the cost of cheap washer fluids
P21S makes products that do what they claim to do, which is refreshing. Keeping a bottle of this washer fluid supercharger on hand means never having to fret over which fluid you use as your main ingredient. It really does make any old washer fluid that much better.
Best Windshield Washer Fluid 2018
If you find yourself with a smeared windshield in treacherous conditions, the quality of the cleaning will be far more important to you than the price you paid. When the product that works best is also among the most affordable, it’s a win-win. That’s why Nextzett Kristallklar (Crystal Clear) Premium easily wins this competition. It is easy to use and it doesn’t sting the wallet, but it’s effectiveness is its real standout feature. There is nothing that gets on windshields that it can’t handle, and it can accept a winterizing additive for year-round use..