This sunny morning I was in traffic behind a Nissan Rogue. The Rogue is a fine vehicle for people who
have given up on life generally don’t care too much about their cars. The Rogue is boring dull completely fine vehicle for daily driving. But what irked me about this Rogue is that on this sunny, if slightly chilly morning its rear wiper kept swiping every ten seconds. The rubber dragging across the desert dry rear window was like nails on the chalkboard for me.
This intermittently swiping wiper reminded me that for a long time I’ve had an issue with how the rear wipers are controlled. And it’s not not just one issue, it’s several issues that combine for the poor overall control of the rear wiper. And the issue isn’t limited to just the controls but also to the people controlling, or rather not-controlling the wipers. I’d bet that many of us have witnessed people who had their wipers on hyper-speed setting during a spring drizzle.
The front wipers typically have four settings: off, intermittent, low, and high. The intermittent setting typically has a swipe-frequency adjustment. There are also controls for a sprayer and a single quick swipe. Many new cars have automatic wipers, where the setting previously used for intermittent swipe-frequency adjustment became a fine tuning adjustment to rain sensor. Except for the mentioned hyper-speed-wiper-loving-people, those controls are typically sufficient.
The rear wiper control is much less sophisticated. As seen on the above pictured typical wiper stalk, the rear wiper has three modes: off, intermittent, and on. There is also a sprayer which typically swipes the wiper once or twice and smudges the wet dirt all around the window. And this is where I think people’s problems start.
I haven’t seen a vehicle yet where the rear wiper had any kind of automated control – it’s all strictly manual control. People either use it or they don’t. Or they accidentally put it on the intermittent setting and never notice it randomly swiping on a sunny day because why the hell would anyone care what is behind them when they’re driving, am I right?
From my observation, as someone who is competent and capable of controlling the rear wiper manually, those settings are not great. Even in the intermittent mode, that wiper seems to swipe too frequently for most typical rainy conditions and there is no way to adjust its swiping frequency like the front wipers. In the on position, it is just entirely too fast. I think only once in my life I intentionally left the rear wiper in full on and it was in some kind of a crazy monsoon that flooded the whole region.
Here is my suggestion of this horrible problem can be solved:
- In vehicles that have automated wipers there is a sensor in the windshield and swipe-frequency adjustment. Why not relay the output of that sensor and adjustment setting to the rear wiper? But then we would need to slow it down perhaps by two-thirds – one rear swipe for three front swipes. To get it perfectly dialed in, design engineers could adjust the ratio of the rear-to-front swipes based on the size and angle of the rear window.
- In vehicles with manual wipers, when the rear wiper is in the on position, it should correspond to the swipe frequency of the front wipers but at a similarly reduced rate. I’d still keep the on/off mode because there may be times when you simply just don’t want the rear wiper on.
- And let’s not call it on, let’s call it… active. Active Rear Wipers, or ARW. Marketing people love stuff like that.
- The rear sprayer/smudger feature could remain as is but that too could be improved. My old BMW had high-pressure headlights spray washers. Those sprayers would come on every third (or there about) windshield spray. Why not have the rear sprayer come on after three consecutive sprays of the front windshield sprayer? This would only happen when the rear wiper in active position.
Doing this in either type of vehicle would reduce the rear wiper control stalk only to off on and active positions. It would eliminate much of the guess work on part of those who are smart-stupid, thereby stopping people from driving with the rear wiper on when it’s not needed. And it would relax those of us who are OCD about their wiper speeds.
I am, of course, open to other suggestions.