How to Replace Chrysler Wiper Bushings
I have a 1990 Dodge Caravan. The windshield wipers had been a little noisy for a year or two, and during a recent rainstorm the passenger side wiper suddenly stopped working altogether. It didn't take much looking to find that the wiper assembly's two link rods, which are located beneath the cowl at the bottom edge of the windshield, had separated one from the other. It didn't take much research to find that the reason was probably failure of the old bushings that once held them together.
Sure enough, when I took a closer look, that was the problem. Those bushings had given me good service for nineteen years, so they owed me nothing. I owed them a decent burial.
Searching my Chilton repair manual and the Internet, however, I was surprised to find very little, nothing in detail with pictures, on how to go about fixing the problem, so I pretty much had to figure that out on my own. I hope recording the procedure here will save others the trouble. A great many Chrysler models made since the seventies use a wiper system similar to the one in my old Caravan, so this applies to a lot of vehicles, not just the model in my possession.
The tools you need are simple ones you already have laying around. A #2 Philips stub screwdriver, a set of socket wrenches, a few other things found in just about everyone's garage. This is not a difficult fix once you know how to go about it. I got all the parts I needed for $12. Having my repair shop do it would have cost me $150 or so, and they would not have done as good a job.
Step 1: Remove the wipers.
Mine are attached with a hex nut located beneath a plastic cover on the pivot end of the wiper arm. Just remove the nut, pull off any washer tubes from their fittings on the cowl or pivots, relieve the spring pressure holding the wiper onto its shaft, and pull it straight up and off. Set the wipers aside in a safe place.
Step 2: Remove the cowl.
Unscrew the fasteners. This Caravan has six, three on the outside and three more beneath the hood. It takes a short screwdriver to get to the latter ones. When they are all out, put them in something so they will not be misplaced, lower the car's hood, and slip the cowl back and out, pulling any rubber washer tubes off it as you do. If you try to remove the cowl with the hood open on my Caravan you will scratch the paint. I'm not going to tell you how I found that out, so don't ask.
Step 3: Remove the screen.
Beneath the cowl you will find a plastic screen. Chrysler has improved them since, but on this older Caravan it isn't much of a screen, just serving to keep large birds, really big spitballs, and that sort of thing out of the drain box. Take it off. Mine is held on simply with plastic clips molded onto the screen itself. Gently pull them up, and then slip the screen forward and off.
Step 4: Diagram the wiper assembly, and take it out.
Under the cowl and screen, inside the drain box, you will now see the wiper linkage exposed. It has a long rod, a short rod, two pivots (the protruding shafts from which you removed the wipers themselves), and a very short actuator rod attached to the wiper motor shaft. Stop. Do nothing more until you have sketched and noted the position of each of those things. There is no way you'll remember it all when the time to reassemble comes. Well, there's no way I would, anyhow, so play it safe and make notes complete enough to allow you to reposition everything just as it should be.
Now that's done, remove the screws holding on the two pivots. There are three to each. Next, remove the hex nut holding the actuator rod onto the motor shaft. It isn't easy to get to it without lacerating your hand on the sharp ends of the body screws Chrysler so thoughtfully left protruding into the drain box, but with enough disinfectant and BandAids you can do it. Gently pry the actuator off the shaft, and once everything is free maneuver the entire assembly out of the drain box.
Step 5: Clean everything up.
It's a lot easier to work on things if you can see them beneath all the grime, so get rid of it. Clean the wiper linkage assembly. Clean the lower edge of the windshield, the cowl, and the screen. Remove the accumulation of leaves and other trash that probably is clogging your drain box, and clean it, too. A pressure washer is invaluable in all this, just make sure you use the low pressure nozzle that came with it so you don't strip off any of your paint. Keep washing the drain box until water runs freely through its scuppers onto the ground. You don't have to do that just for this wiper job, but while the cowl and screen are off is a great time to get it out of the way, so do it anyhow.
Let the wiper assembly dry. That goes quickly if you have a vacuum cleaner or a leaf blower that will put a stream of forced air over it (it took me about three minutes using a Shop Vac).
Step 6: Disassemble the rods and pivots.
Before you do, double check your diagram and notes. Look at the assembled position of every part. Once you're sure you have it right, pry the pieces apart. A small prybar & nail puller works well. Remove the old plastic bushings, the culprits in all this, and throw them away. You can get them out of their holes with a pair of pliers, though if yours are in better condition than mine were you may have to run a 3/8" drill bit through them first to loosen them up. If there is rust on your linkage rods, this is a good time to paint them. A spray can of RustOleum will do the trick, and you can use it on any rust you find in your drain box, too.
Once everything is clean and touched up, and the new paint is dry, lay it out in assembly order so you can keep it straight. All right, all right, so I can keep it all straight. Sheesh.
Some car parts are marked 'L' and 'R,' which stand reasonably enough for Left and Right. My rods are so marked. It helps to know that the convention for those marks is as if you were sitting at the wheel, facing forward. L then is the driver's side, and R the passenger's. That helps you get the rods laid out in their correct positions.
Now get out those brand spanking new plastic bushings you got. There are four of them, three in a cap design and one with a hole all the way through. I found the caps at an aftermarket auto parts store, but I had to go to the local Chrysler dealer's parts department for the other one. They charged me more for that one piece than I paid for all the rest, but it's still a lot cheaper than having a car repairman do the work for you.
Step 7: Install the new bushings, and reassemble the wiper linkage.
Push new bushings into all four of the rod holes requiring them, which is to say put one into the hole in each end of each rod. One of those holes, the one on the L end of the shorter of the two rods, is larger than the others. That helps keep you (me) from putting the one odd bushing into the wrong hole. The cap bushing for the R end of the short rod goes in with its cap on the back side of the rod; the caps on the long rod both face the front.
Some people say you can hammer the bushings into the holes as long as you're careful about it, but I say you're going to damage them if you try. Instead, push them in using a pair of pliers, a socket big enough to straddle the inserted end of the bushing, and something (I used a piece of plastic) to protect the bushing from your pliers. Be careful to check your diagram and notes here; one of the cap bushings, the one for the R end of the short rod, goes in from the side opposite the others.
Once all four bushings are in their respective holes in the rods, you can use the same gentle pressing technique to push them onto their pivot pins. Note that one of the wiper pivots, the L one, has a longer pin than the other. That one accepts two of the bushings. First put on the short rod's larger bushing, the one holed all the way through. It snaps into the groove you see near the bottom of the pin. Then put on the L end of the long rod. It snaps into place with its cap bushing at the top of the pin. The R pivot goes into the long rod's R end, and the motor actuator's pin goes into the short rod's R end.
When putting on the actuator, pay attention once more to your diagram and notes. It is a small bent piece of metal with a rectangular hole that slips over the machined end of the wiper motor shaft inside the drain box, and its bend must be toward the front of the car. That is why its bushing has to go in from the side of the rod opposite the others.
Step 8: Put everything back onto the car.
Maneuver the wiper assembly back into the drain box, slipping the pivots up through their respective holes and the actuator back onto the motor shaft. Check your diagram and notes again to make sure the actuator is positioned exactly as it was when you first looked at it in the open drain box; if you put it on 180 degrees opposite that, which you can do with a little effort, your wipers will try to go down instead of up when you turn them on. I won't tell you how I know that, either.
Replace the screws holding the pivots, and put on the nut holding the actuator onto the motor shaft. Once everything is snug and looks right according to your diagram, turn on the wipers and observe how the pivot shafts turn. Do they move in the right direction, imitating the action of the wipers when you're driving the car? If so, you got it right, and you're all but done.
Put the screen and cowl back on, securing each, and reconnecting the rubber windshield washer tubes, in the reverse order you used when you took them off. Put the wipers back onto their pivot shafts, positioning them as you want them when turned off. Test your work by switching them on, try the windshield washer to make sure no tubing is kinked, and if it works correctly ...
Congratulations on a job well done, and a good deal of money saved!