Wipers

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We all have daydreams about taking the E30 for a swift blast down a twisty road in the summer sunshine. Unfortunately, the weather usually has other ideas in the form of rain. No matter whether it's a drizzle or a downpour, you need some way of keeping the windows clear, which is why you need Wipers.

Overview

All E30s were fitted with a windscreen wiper system, which uses two blades to sweep across the screen, powered by a single electric motor. The system also included a washer function, which pumped cleaning fluid from a tank onto the glass via washer jets mounted on the bonnet. All these features were operated by a control stalk on the steering column, and are standard across the E30 range.

Touring models also featured a rear wash-wipe system, built into the tailgate. For that model, the motor, washer jet and wiper are a one-piece unit, fed by a pump and tank in the rear left bootwell and operated from a switch on the dashboard.

A fancy optional extra was a headlight wiper system, which unsurprisingly let you wipe clean the headlights.

Components

Windscreen Wipers

The windscreen wipers use a single motor to power a reciprocating mechanism that rocks the wipers back and forth. All this electro-mechanical complexity is housed in a space between the bulkhead and the scuttle, and can be accessed by removing either the plastic scuttle grilles or the bulkhead access panel in the engine bay.

Wipers

The standard front wiper blades are 20" (510mm) for both driver and passenger, although it is possible to fit 21" (530mm) for a better sweep.

The wiper arms are a standard design across all E30s, and are bolted to the mechanism with a single 13mm nut each.

Motor

The wiper motor bolts directly to the wiper mechanism, and is a particularly troublesome unit. Being housed in a relatively damp location, it will succumb to rust over time and start to seize up. While it is possible to disassemble and lubricate the wiper motor to extend its working life, most people consider it a better investment to fit a new motor.

When fitting a new motor, alignment is the key since you need your motor to start and stop your wipers in the correct place. To do this:

1. Take out old motor. 2. Fit new motor. 3. Remove wiper arms. 4. Run motor until it stops in the park position. 5. Refit wipers in park position. 6. If further adjustment is needed undo the nut on the motor and move the wipers.

Mechanism

The wiper mechanism is what coverts the motor's rotary spinning into the rocking motion needed to wipe your windscreen. It also splits the movement to power two wipers from a single motor.

The mechanism is different between LHD and RHD cars, but the principle is the same. The mechanism bolts up to pre-drilled holes on the bulkhead, and two spindles protrude through the scuttle to carry the wiper arms. All E30s have three spindle holes, with the unused hole covered by the plastic scuttle grille on that side.

The mechanism is a relatively maintenance-free item, although its joints would benefit from period lubrication.

Washer Jets

Heated washer jets were fitted as part of the Heated package. Learn more about retrofitting heated washer jets.

Tank

A fluid reservoir is fitted to all E30s to hold washer fluid for cleaning the windscreen. The standard factory position for this tank is behind the right-hand headlight, with a mounting bracket on the inner wing. One standard tank was fitted to all pre- and facelift vehicles, although two other tanks are available. For those cars fitted with headlight wipers, an enlarged tank was fitted with a secondary reservoir for that system, and for vehicles with battery-in-boot, it was possible to relocate the tank to the front battery tray against the bulkhead.

Pump

A simple 12V pump is used to pressurise the washer system. It is mounted inside the tank and is a simple push-fit design.

Control Stalk

Operating the windscreen wash-wipe system is done via a control stalk mounted on the steering column. The control stalk offers three speeds (intermittent, standard and fast) plus an off position. Pulling the stalk towards you will pump washer fluid onto the screen, and the wipers will automatically wipe three times.

Relay

To control the timing of the wipers, a dedicated relay is fitted within the fuse box.

Rear Wash-Wipe

Main article: Touring Rear Wiper

Wiper

The Touring's single rear wiper is an 18" (450mm) blade.

Rear Motor

The motor assembly is a one-piece unit that bolts onto the inside of the Tailgate. It is accessible after removing the tailgate interior trim, and is held on with three bolts.

Pipes

The pipework for the rear wash-wipe is relatively simple. Fluid is poured into an access nozzle on the bottom left corner of the rear hatch (just above the rear lights) to fill the tank. From there, the pipework runs from the tank via the pump up the inside of the D-pillar, over and through the left tailgate hinge, around the left side of the tailgate side to the wiper motor.

It is very common for the section of pipe above the tailgate hinge to split, causing a leak into the headlining every time the rear wash-wipe system is used.

Rear Tank

The tank for the rear wash-wipe system is mounted at the bottom of the left cubby hole in the boot of each Touring model.

Rear Pump

Just like the front pump, the rear pump is a simple push-fit 12V unit that sits in the wiper tank.

Switch

The system is controlled by two switches, offering a wash or a timed wipe setting. Cleaning fluid is sprayed from a nozzle mounted to the wiper arm, and will only operate when the wiper is moving; therefore, pressing the wash button should make the wiper sweep three times.

Headlight Wipers

The headlamp washers are an automatic system, controlled by a switch inside one of the headlamp wiper motors. If the wipers are in their park position at the end of their sequence, then the washers can't operate. Once started, the wipers run for a number of wipes, set by a switch and reduction gear inside the wiper motors. The headlamp wash/wipe system should operate every fifth time the screen washers are operated when the lights are on.

If you want this system, learn more about retrofitting headlight washers.

Control Module

Fastens to the side of the washer reservoir.

Motors

Two motors exist, one for each headlight. The right hand motor is responsible for controlling the washer system.

Washer Jets

The washer jets, or nozzles, are twin-jet systems so that two nozzles can spray fluid onto four lights. Each nozzle clips into the front grille, above and between each pair of headlights.

Common Problems

"Fluid Empty" on Check Panel

Aside from the odd occasions when you have really run out of fluid, this problem is almost always the fault of the level sensor inside the tank. It's a basic float design that can twist out of position, sending a false reading to the Check Panel. All you need to do is twist the sensor back into position.

No Wash Function

No water is probably a dud pump, a leak in the pipework (especially the white non return valves), or the control relay mounted on the washer bottles. It's very rarely clogged nozzles, except on the rear wash-wipe. In the case of the headlight washers, a failed right-hand washer motor will disable the wash system.

Stuttering Wipers

Main article: Intermittent Wiper Faults

Wipers Not Working

Before jumping to conclusions about a failed motor, it's important to do some tests.

Pull K10 relay in the Fuse Box, and with a piece of wire, apply 12V+ from the battery, preferably via a fuse, to pins 53 and 53b, one at a time, and with another bit of wire, connect pin F1 to earth. This should make the wipers work at normal speed and fast speed, depending on whether you are linking 53 or 53b. If it only works on the fast speed, then the motor is probably dud (normal speed brush stuck or worn out), or there is a problem with its plug and socket. If it works on both speeds the problem is most likely the switch. Check by replacing the wiper relay, and earthing the black/red wire at the switch plug/socket. If the switch works, then open up the relay and look for cracked solder joints

If you go on a scrapyard search for a motor, then check for wear in the spindle. The RH drive E30 has the spindle positioned where it collects a lot of water and dirt, and wears badly.

On a couple of occasions E30 motors have been replaced with ones from either an Audi or VW, which are identical apart from the connector (so get the plug and a few inches of wire as well).

Rear Wash-Wipe Not Working

Due to internal corrosion of the motor, the system will no longer be able to move the wiper arm. And since the wiper arm is needed to allow the pump to work, a seized motor will kill the rear wash-wipe system.

The actual corrosion occurs on the steel disc in the motor gearbox, similar to that which afflicts the intermittent and park functions of the front wipers. If your wash system isn't working, pull out the switch, connect an earthed wire to the black/purple on pin 6, and try it then. This should bypass the internal motor switch and drive the pump directly; if so, then your motor is at fault. If not, then it's likely to be the pump.

Another area to check for issues is the rear wash wipe relay, mounted in the left hand side boot locker.

Headlight Wipers Not Working

Basically, the shafts the the wipers are mounted on have seized in the long bushes that they go through. Repair involves removing the wiper units, dismantling them, cleaning up, greasing and reassembly.

Remember when working on the headlamp wash/wipe that it only works with the lights on, and then only every tenth application of the screen washers. The easiest way to sort the system is to unplug the wipers and washer pump, and to power them one at a time with a fused lead from the battery, then deal with the control system last.

No Wipe Function

The most common fault of the headlamp wash-wipe system is that it doesn't wipe. This is down to internal corrosion of the mechanisms. The cure is to remove the motors, strip them down completely, clean then out, re grease and reassemble, fitting new rubber seals to the front of the output shafts. They'll be good for another twenty years then.

Washers Stuck On

The headlamp washers aren't dependent on the headlamp wipers working. i.e. water should still be sprayed onto the headlamps, even if the (probably seized) wiper motors don't work.

Upgrades

Single Wiper

Really? You want that?